Thai, Isan in United States

Thai, Isan
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People Name: Thai, Isan
Country: United States
10/40 Window: No
Population: 87,000
World Population: 19,112,000
Primary Language: Thai, Northeastern
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 2.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.10 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Thai
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

he Northeastern Thai, also known as the Lao Isan, are dispersed throughout 17 provinces in northeastern Thailand. This area takes up nearly one third of Thailand's total land mass. It is basically a flat arid plain known as the Khorat Plateau with infrequent rainfall and few natural resources. The region is noted for its archeological relics and monuments dating back to Khmer influence under the Angkor wat regime.
Many of the present-day residents of the Khorat Plateau were forcibly relocated to this hostile region over a period of 100 years from the Lan Chang Kingdom in what is now Laos. Later the people, the region and their language was labeled by Siamese kings as Isan, meaning "northeast." Even though this region is now fully incorporated into Thailand and all residents are Thai, the Lao Isan language, unique diet, rituals and culture continues to thrive among this people group.

Where Are they Located?

In the US, ethnic groups from Thailand tend to stick together. There is a large Thai community in Greater Los Angeles, and the Northeastern Thai are among them.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Northeastern Thai Issan people work hard at restaurants and as students. They are not as prosperous as some Asian immigrants to the US, but they are much more prosperous than they were in Thailand. Their social interactions are mainly with Thai people, not Western Americans.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Northeastern Thai Issan are Theravada Buddhist. They follow the teachings of Gautama Buddha and seek to eliminate suffering and improve their future by gaining merit in their present lives. Ultimately, they are in pursuit of nirvana, or perfect peace. They believe that merit can be acquired through feeding monks, donating to temples, and frequently worshiping in the temples. They also practice traditional ethnic religions, but this is less likely for those who live in the West.

What Are Their Needs?

The Northeastern Thai Issan people need to have the opportunity to give Jesus a chance to change their lives. Unless someone clearly shows them the difference, they will continue to believe that Buddhism is for them and Christianity is for Westerners.

Prayer Points

Pray for Northeastern Thai Isan people in the US to put their worth in God, not in the world system.
Pray for a movement to Christ among the Northeastern Thai Isan people, both in North America and in Thailand.
Pray that God will call forth teams of long term missionaries and intercessors who will commit to seeing Thai Isan people in the US begin their own disciple making movement.

Text Source:   Keith Carey