Bhutan Believers Closed Off to Communication
Listeners to The Tide® Radio Program in Bhutan Are Hesitant to Even Write Letters to the Ministry Out of Fear of Retribution
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa.—The Tide® (www.thetide.org) global radio ministry often hears from listeners from around the world who are uplifted because of the gospel programming broadcast in their own language.
But this is rarely the case when it comes to the nation of Bhutan. Listeners and believers there, says The Tide Director Don Shenk, don’t often correspond with the ministry out of fear of punishment for their faith in Christ.
Bhutan sits at No. 33 on the 2019 World Watch List from Open Doors USA and is one of the least evangelized nations in the world, The Tide ministry reports. This Buddhist stronghold is also heavily influenced by animistic spirit worship.
“Bhutan is essentially closed to outside influence, and any attempt to convert people from the state religion is illegal,” Shenk said. “The Bhutanese constitution officially allows for religious freedom, but people who embrace Christianity and publicly practice their faith risk losing the basic benefits of citizenship and often face discrimination—so much so that we rarely receive letters, emails or other correspondence from listeners in Bhutan.”
One pastor in Bhutan did report to The Tide ministry that the radio program is impacting a Buddhist couple.
“A cook and his wife listen to the radio program in their language,” the pastor shared. “Slowly they want to believe in the Lord and (are) also interested (in) baptism. Please uphold them in your prayers.”
The Tide ministry began broadcasting a weekly radio program into Bhutan in the Dzongkha language in 2012. Called “Lamtheam,” which means “Show the True Way,” the program is headed by a Bhutanese Christian pastor with nearly two decades of ministry experience. As a native, he can travel freely throughout Bhutan to encourage people who listen to The Tide program, as well as meet with listeners in this country where it is difficult for foreigners to gain access.
“Having someone who can discreetly move about in Bhutan is vital, as Christians there face discrimination and persecution, and listeners are hesitant to enter into written correspondence because they fear that their mail will be screened by government agents looking for indications of religious or spiritual influence,” Shenk added.
The Tide ministry has been broadcasting Bible messages over the radio since 1946 and today operates in eight countries on three continents while sharing the gospel in 25 languages. Besides Bhutan, The Tide ministry works in three other nations on this year’s World Watch List: India (No. 10), Nigeria (No. 12) and Nepal (No. 32), along with multiple regions of Albania, Kosovo, Thailand and Zimbabwe, making it possible for multiple people groups to hear the gospel in the languages they were born to speak.
For more information about The Tide broadcast projects, history, radio programs around the world, the “Every Knee, Every Tongue” campaign, the “Have You Heard?” initiative, the weekly Global Update radio features or other news, visit its web site at www.thetide.org or its Facebook page. Read more about The Tide ministry and Don Shenk here.