Children's Book Takes Us to a Dong Village

"I remember the first time I looked around and noticed that every woman in the village had purple hands. That will certainly catch your attention. My curiosity opened my eyes. I started observing: 'Where are they going?' 'What is that bundle in her hands?' 'Wait, that hammering noise is coming from another blue-handed woman.'" What a fascinating process, and the answer is equally fascinating.

DongTeam learned about the children's book, Purple Hands, along with the paper about Dong religious ceremonies, because they have, as you might noticed, written by the same author. They certainly do not have the same intended audience, though. This book would be a great way to introduce a child (and probably yourself) to a practice that has not been a part of most of our cultures for the past century or more. It is a way to step into a Dong village and experience the curiosity of a child, and through it to step into another's shoes and learn something about them.

You can purchase the book Purple Hands online. Grab and copy and enjoy.


Sa Worship among the Dong - the "Jie Sa" Sacrifice Ceremony

It can be hard to step out of our own worldview and begin to try to understand somebody else's. This paper, which looks quite in depth at Dong religious practice, is such a helpful tool to begin to understand how Dong people think, how they see religion, and how they interpret the world around them.


Luke's Great Commission

"Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." That is the evangelistic core of Jesus's final words to his disciples in the book of Luke.

Then we start wondering how the disciples could even start to understand that message. Sure, we hear plenty in Paul's letters about Jesus as God's sacrifice for sin and the call to tell that good news to everybody, everywhere, but Jesus has not really been preaching a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; that was John. And as for their readiness, just last chapter, the disciples were scared and scattered. How could they possibly be ready?


Remember Me

What an incredibly touching and intimate conversation we have the privelege to view between Jesus and the thief on the cross. The two thieves had come face to face with their wrongs and with death itself. One mocks out of his pride; the other humbly finds Christ.

The thief speaking with Jesus is dying. He has lived a life deserving his punishment on the cross, but certainly never expected to be crucified next to someone like Jesus. He realizes Jesus is innocent, and the more we look into the face of Jesus and see a glimpse of his holiness, the more we realize our sinfulness and feel a need to ask his mercy for our own sins.

"Remember me when you come into your kingdom." He is not striving for some last ditch effort to save himself. He is not asking for a sign like Herod did. He asks only that Jesus would remember him. That is enough.


Among You As What?

It was not a trick question. The difficulty is that so much of what Jesus says goes against conventional wisdom and our earthly habits: love your enemies, the first shall be last, or Sabbath being made for man.

The disciples know Jesus's mission is about to hit the climax, and their minds are still stuck on who of the twelve is going to be the second in command. This is the Last Supper. Jesus is not trying to be cute, pithy, or even wise. This is his last chance to drive home, yet again, the real meat of his message, even though the disciples keep missing the point.

"For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table?" They have been trying to figure out the answer to this question for the past few weeks, and Jesus finally gives them some kind of an answer. There is just one problem: "But I am among you as the one who serves."


The Testimony of Persecution

On no other point is the Chinese church and the Western church more different than the theology of persecution. The Chinese house church has even asked the Western church not to pray for an end to persecution, because it is the purifying fire of the Lord.

They have a point, actually. Not only do we see Jesus here in Luke 21 preparing the disciples for persecution to come, but within a few months it was already starting, and we see Peter and the apostles "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name" (Acts 5:41). Not only is it purifying fire, as the Chinese church states, but Jesus says here that persecution "will be your opportunity to bear witness".

Persecution is far from the minds of most of us. We struggle to even know how to approach the topic. Yet, many of the Dong are "hated for my name's sake". How can we pray for them? If we do not pray for an end to persecution, what do we pray for? Jesus himself gives some prayer pointers.


By What Authority

Mankind is all the same. We all strive to set up our own earthly laws because God's law is too much for us. We write our own set of rules so the game will go our way.

The chief priests strived to apply their rules to Jesus in asking him by what authority he spoke. If he says "by God's authority", they have him, because they know that they are the official priests of God's covenant on earth and some country rabbi cannot possibly supercede that.

In yet another witty and knowledgeable answer, Jesus not only confirms that God speaks through all kinds of people, but also establishes the true foundation of the priests' authority. Jesus brings up the example of John the Baptist, who was widely accepted as a prophet of God, yet was just some crazy guy in the desert. If the priests dared say he was not from God, the people would have mobbed them.

So, on what authority do the priests really speak if they fear the people's response? It is a dangerous game assuming God is on our side or that we have ascertained the mind of God. Mankind loves to set up little kingdoms, as if God was going to share some of his power and dominion with us.


When the Impossible Happens

In the last chapter, we heard Jesus say that it is next to impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. The rich man walked away rich but lost. In this chapter, the same story comes to a different conclusion.

The chief tax collector, rich on other people's money, seems to have a complete change of heart. Before he even talks to Jesus, before he hears any wise or challenging words, the short man who everybody hates completely forgets himself and climbs a tree just to sneak a glimpse of Jesus.

Then, for some unknown reason, Jesus pays attention to him and says he wants to visit his house. Unlike the previous rich man story, Zacchaeus was not hunting for a free ticket to heaven. Jesus did not need to talk about the commandments or give any teaching at all.


Rules or Relationship

"What do I do to get eternal life?" The rich man is asking the same question all of us ask. What do we DO? How do we earn heaven? How good of a person do I need to be? We want easy answers, a step-by-step process, or a procedure to follow.

Jesus first tells the man to follow the commandments, to which he replies that he has followed them from birth. The rich man thinks of the commandments as a set of rules, but the Ten Commandments (and all the Law) are really about relationship. Just take a look; every one of the Ten Commandments speaks to relationship, whether with God, our parents, our wife, or neighbors.


Pay Attention to Yourselves

The way of the world, and the easiest way indeed, is to keep a very accurate record of everybody's sins but our own. We tend to downplay our own faults, but talk through every detail of everybody else's.

In verses three and four of chapter 17, Jesus keeps our involvement in other people's sins to a bare minimum. "If your brother sins, rebuke him". He spends many more words and explanation on forgiving. The opening phrase to these two verses sums up the key thought, "Pay attention to yourselves!"