Introduction / History
The Vai live in northwestern Liberia and southeastern Sierra Leone, two neighboring countries in West Africa. They are attractive people of average height, and their skin ranges in color from light brown to coal black. They are well proportioned and intelligent. They speak Vai, which is a Niger-Congo language.
Sierra Leone was founded by the Portuguese in the 1400's. Sierra Leone is a Portuguese phrase that means "Lion Mountain." Sierra Leone is a tropical mountain region with heavy rainfall, high humidity, lush forests, and fertile soil. The Vai who live along the coast are surrounded by sandbars, lagoons, and swamps; while those living northwest of the coast dwell in the thick forested areas. Hippopotamuses and alligators inhabit the rivers, and large game animals live in the tropical forest regions. Unfortunately, disease-carrying mosquitoes and tsetse flies are also abundant in the area, spreading malaria and other diseases.
What are their lives like?
Most Vai make their living by farming the fertile land. Rice is their staple crop and can be cultivated with other vegetables on upland plots of cleared land. In addition to rice, crops such as cotton, corn, pumpkins, bananas, ginger, coffee, and cocoa are raised. The Vai also gather various nuts and berries from the forests. The palm tree is an important commodity to the Vai. Nuts, butter, wine, fuel, soap, and baskets are among its many derivatives.
In many aspects, the Vai are a unique African tribe. Many believe that the region inhabited by the Vai is the original home of the Poro, a male secret society known throughout West Africa. The Vai are also quite musical. They play many instruments and perform dances on special occasions. They are known as the only tribe in West Africa that has a written language. Their hair texture ranges from short and curly, to long and wavy, and their noses are not flat and broad like the noses of many other African tribesmen.
The Vai have three types of schooling. The first is the "bush school," where the children learn traditional Vai socialization skills, important survival skills, and other traits of village life for four to five years. Some then attend English schools to learn the English language. Finally, those who attend the Quianic schools are taught the Arabic language under the guidance of the village iman (local Muslim religious leader).
What are their beliefs?
The Vai are predominantly Muslim, but many traditional beliefs are still practiced. For instance, the alligator is believed to be connected with evil spirits, since it destroys life. A supreme god is thought to be the controller of Earth and everything in it, since they believe he created everything. The Vai believe that this god manifests himself through spirits and nature. They also believe that this god is too distant to serve or worship directly, so they use a spirit medium.
Most of the Vai are very superstitious and some practice witchcraft. They consider themselves to be surrounded by spirits that can change into living creatures or objects. These spirits are believed to have the power to do evil to individuals or to the whole tribe. The Vai perform ceremonies for the dead in which they leave articles of clothing and food near the graves of the deceased.
What are their needs?
Though some of the Vai have heard the Gospel and a few have accepted Christ, there has been little impact on the Vai tribe as a whole. This is partly because the few Vai who do know Christ have moved away from the Vai villages, leaving the villagers with no Christian witness among them. Most of the Vai have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. They have been given no opportunity to receive Jesus Christ into their hearts as Savior.
More laborers and additional evangelistic tools are needed. There are no Christian broadcasts available in their language at this time. Prayer is the first step towards reaching them with the Gospel.
Prayer PointsView Vai, Vey in all countries.
* Ask the Lord to grant wisdom and favor missions agencies currently focusing on the Vai.
* Ask the Lord to raise up medical missionaries to go to Sierra Leone and work among the Vai.
* Ask God to give the Vai believers a burden to return to their villages and share Christ with their friends and families.
* Pray that God will open the hearts of Sierra Leone's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Vai.