“Our God is the God of all nations”: the Eastern Cham New Testament opens the way for church growth

On the 4 March, after close to nine years of dedicated work, a decision to publish the Eastern Cham New Testament was granted. 

The Eastern Cham New Testament translation project was initiated in 2015 and completed by December 2021, with the years since spent waiting for funding and publication. 

This minority ethnic group live in the eastern part of central Vietnam. Although population estimates range from 100,000 to 150,000, recent growth may account for differences in reported figures. Many of the Cham people still speak the Cham language but do not have a written version of the language. 

The primary religion among the Cham people is Islam. However, a significant percentage of the people practice Hinduism or some form of it, particularly Brahmanism. The Eastern Cham people also have traditional solid beliefs in ancestor worship and animism, contributing to their history and identity as a people group.  

The Cham community first heard the Gospel in 1957, but even 67 years later, there are only a few tiny house churches with around 500 believers. The importance of ancestor worship in their history and cultural identity makes it difficult for Cham individuals to accept Christianity, as doing so may result in their expulsion from the community.  

One of the main reasons for the slow growth of the Church is believed to be the use of the Vietnamese language Bibles, which many Cham people find difficult to understand. While the Eastern Cham people read, write, and speak Vietnamese, they mainly communicate in the Cham language when speaking and listening. 

To overcome this challenge, the Evangelical Church of Vietnam and some house churches approached Bible Society Vietnam to help translate the Bible into the Cham language. From 2015, this project sought to provide the minority ethnic group in Vietnam with a Bible in their language, to help in evangelism efforts.  

In March 2024, Pastor Daniel* and his small church received the newly printed copies of the Cham New Testament. 

“When I received these newly printed copies of the New Testament in Cham, I felt overwhelmingly grateful and praised God … we prayed fervently for a Bible in the Cham language.”

Pastor Daniel has been sharing the word of God in the Cham language since his church formed. “In those days,” he remembers, “I translated some passages in the Bible into Cham and used the translation in church services. I witnessed the fruitfulness of sharing the Bible in our heart language.”

God answered the prayers of Cham believers when the Bible translation project began in 2015, with the support of Bible Society Vietnam. Moved, Pastor Daniel says, “After many years … I now hold a copy of the New Testament in Cham!”

Pastor Daniel and other Christians in Vietnam are confident the New Testament in Cham will give Cham churches new energy and vitality, thanks to a deeper understanding of the word of God.  

“Not very long ago, Cham people often thought that Christianity was a foreign religion that was not meant for them,” Pastor Daniel explains. “But the truth is our God is the God of all nations. We are so proud of our heart language; we pray in Cham and feel God so close to us.” 

Pastor Daniel is excited that Cham believers can now keep a copy of the New Testament in their language and study the Bible at home or church. He says, “In Bible study groups, people can read the word of God together and have their lives touched differently. They will grow in the Christian faith.” 

As Cham believers grow in their faith, it is expected they will be more confident to share the gospel with their neighbours and witness for Christ. Pastor Daniel declares, “I believe the Cham church will grow in number in the coming years.” 

“We are excited to see the New Testament in the Eastern Cham language serving as a powerful tool of evangelism to the Eastern Cham community,” says the Translation Project Coordinator from Bible Society Vietnan. “We look forward to the growth of the church as Cham Christians are empowered to read and study the Bible in their very own mother tongue.” 

Pastor Daniel’s prayer is that “God will help us have the complete Bible in Cham, including the Old and New Testament. That would be wonderful.”   

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