The Lu of Laos
Laos is a small country located in southeastern Asia, just south of China. It is entirely within the tropics and occupies a rugged strip of the Indochinese peninsula. The Lu inhabit many villages of northwestern Laos in the Nam U Valley, and along the Tha and Beng Rivers. Their tonal language belongs to the southwestern group of Tai languages.
China is their original homeland, but many have migrated south due to pressure from the Chinese. During World War II, when the establishment of a communist regime ended the Lu kingdom, they fled to Burma and Northern Thailand. The Lu made their homes along the Mekong River, but found themselves in the landlocked country of Laos, completely dependent on others to survive. After years of invasions, a series of land wars, and possession by the French, Laos has finally entered into good relations with all of its neighbors.
What are their lives like?
The Lu have preserved their traditional way of life almost exactly as it was before their expansion into Indochina. Most are farmers living in river valleys where they grow wet rice for both consumption and sale. They still use primitive, wooden equipment drawn by buffalo. They are also good fishermen and clever silver smiths. The men fabricate the famous Lu swords, and the women's specialties include weaving and embroidery.
The Lu men are bigger, taller, and stronger than the Shan or Northern Thai. They traditionally dress in blue coats; dark blue bell trousers with bands of red, yellow, or white; and large white turbans. The men are known for their unusual and picturesque sword dances. The women wear light blue embroidered jackets that are adorned with small pieces of silver. They also wear red or scarlet skirts and turbans.
Their homes contain ancestral shrines that are used during marriage ceremonies and for the control of sexual behavior. Premarital sexual relations seem to be accepted among the Lu. Once a couple is married, their living arrangements are decided according to which household most needs the services of the couple.
Lu villages are located either on raised ground surrounded by rice fields, or on high ground on either side of a road or pathway. Their houses are the characteristic Thai "pile" dwellings, with floors made of split bamboo and straw thatched roofs. Each village is headed by a chief whose task is to choose the right place to sow rice. Rather than a strict form of social control, there is evidence that witchcraft is used to keep the people oppressed.
Since World War II, their tribal communities have been much more directly penetrated by lowlanders, and tribesmen have been more involved with the lowland societies. They have even been involved in the civil wars of Laos.
What are their beliefs?
Eighty percent of the Lu practice ethnic religions. Thervada Buddhism is often mixed with folk animism. They believe that non-human objects have spirits, and that people have multiple souls. They also believe that there are "territorial spirits," which are identified with different levels of society. In addition, they practice ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors for guidance). They live in fear of their gods and constantly strive to appease them with religious chants, rituals, and sacrifices.
The Lu put great emphasis on reincarnation, believing that if they live a good life they will be reborn into a higher social order. If they are wicked, however, they will be reborn as degraded animals.
What are their needs?
The Lu have been tremendously affected by the fighting and bloodshed of the past. They need healing and new spiritual hope. They also need a full current translation of the Bible, since their only copies of the New Testament are from a 1933 translation in which they can no longer read.
There is currently only one missions agencies targeting the Lu, and progress has been slow. Today, there are only 625 known Lu believers in Laos.
- Take authority over spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Lu bound for many generations.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Lu towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will call out prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask God to raise up long-term workers to live among the Lu.
- Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of believers.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will complete the work begun in their hearts through adequate discipleship.
- Pray that the Bible and other Christian literature will be translated into a language understood by the Lu.
- Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Lu of Laos by the year 2000.
See also the following Lu groups:
The Lu of China;
The Lu of Myanmar;
The Lu of Thailand.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Lu
- Country: Laos
- Their language: Lu
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 1.8%
- Church members: 625
- Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 1
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 10,000 (29%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 24,700 (71%)
- Country: Laos
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 8
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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