The Lembak of Indonesia
The 54,600 Lembak are located in the Padang Ulak Tanding sub-district of the Rejang-Lebong Regency in the Bengkulu Province. This area consists mainly of the eastern Bukit Barisan foothills. It also contains the gentle, rolling lowlands through which tributaries of the Rawas and Musi Rivers flow.
The Lembak who live in the highlands regard themselves as the original or "pure" Lembak. The lowland Lembak originated in the highlands, then migrated to the Bengkulu coastlands. There, they intermarried with the Serawai and Bengkulu Malays. Although some scholars have linked the Lembak to the Pasemah or the Rejang, it is clear that they are a distinct group.
What are their lives like?
Farming is the primary occupation of the Lembak, with about 80% of all employment being in agriculture. Rubber is the main cash crop, but coffee and rice are also grown. Wet-rice plots are worked by hoeing, or by plowing with oxen or water buffalo. Planting and harvesting are usually done by either hired mixed-sex work groups or by the extended family members. Farmers often use tractors in cultivating their crops. A farmer will usually set aside a portion of the proceeds from his harvests for several years, and then buy a tractor from the government.
Since most of the people make their living from farming, major ceremonies are usually held immediately following harvest. These events include marriages, circumcisions, and hair cutting rituals. Every family in the village participates in such activities because of the strong feeling of community.
Lembak families do not usually live together as extended families. Instead, each family tries to have their own separate home. Newlywed couples may temporarily live with their parents, but they prefer to have their own homes as soon as possible.
Women wear cotton sarongs (loose skirts made of long strips of cloth wrapped around the body) with long-sleeved cotton blouses. They also wear jackets, scarves, and skirts over their trousers; they do not wear veils. Men wear western-style cotton shirts and slacks.
What are their beliefs?
In rural areas, the Lembak have also preserved some of their animistic beliefs (belief that non-human objects have spirits) in spirits of the soil and jungle. Traditional medications are widely used, and shamans (medicine men) are frequently consulted for physical, mental, and spiritual ailments and diseases.
What are their needs?
Very few of the Lembak have ever heard the Gospel. There is currently one missions agency working among this people group; however, there are no known Lembak believers.
At the present time, the Lembak are without any portion of the Scriptures, the Jesus film, or Christian radio broadcasts in their own language. Committed Christian missionaries, Bible translators, and media personnel are greatly needed if the Lembak are to hear the Good News that Jesus loves them.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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