Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
Around 10,000 Tong people live in areas north of Saravan city in Saravan Province of southern Laos. A few Tong also spill over into Vapi District.
Research into the Tong is hampered by the fact they are known by several different names, including. Ong, and Hantong. These different appellations refer to the same group. Some Western mission organizations have listed the Tong under the name of Lower Ta Oi. While it is true the Tong are ethno-historically related to the Ta Oi, the languages of the two groups are now mutually unintelligible. The Tong language is closest to Ir, which is spoken by a group of people in the same general area. Wurm and Hattori, editors of the Language Atlas of the Pacific Area, stated there were a combined total of 10,000 Ir and Tong speakers in 1981.
The Tong are animists. Since time immemorial they have worshipped certain deities and spirit-beings that they believe control the world. Animism often gains such a foothold in the hearts and minds of tribal people in Laos, that few are able to comprehend their need for the Gospel, should it be presented to them.
Lillian Johnson Curtis, a missionary in the late 1800's and early 1900's, had this to say about the power of animism: "Spirit-worship, as existing among the Laos, is not reduced to a system as is Buddhism. It has no temples, but it is enshrined in the heart of every man, women, and child in the country . It acknowledges no god, but gods many, both good and bad, more numerous and varied than those of the ancient Greeks. But little thought is given to the good spirits, if any such exists, but the bad ones have to be propitiated constantly; so constantly that it is just to term this people devil-worshippers. All the mon-asteries, shrines, and sacred bo trees of the land cannot soothe the heart of Laos-land that is trembling 'neath the scourge of demon fear . All unusual occurrences are accounted for as being super-natural; or in other words, they account for all workings of nature outside of the most ordinary by referring to some spirit. If a house is blown down in a storm, the owner never thinks it was poorly built or that its posts are beginning to decay, but he cries: 'The spirits, the spirits, what have I done to anger the spirits? What must I do to propitiate them? . Let us hasten to appease them!'"
* Pray they will follow after Christ rather than worshiping spirits.
* Ask God to plant His church in the midst of the Tong people.
* Pray they will be freed from fear of spirits to repent and find peace and security in the Rock of Jesus Christ.