Introduction / History In 1995, the national census of Laos listed a population of 23,193 Mal people. This figure was substantially higher than a 1985 figure of 13,977. Their communities are located wholly within the Phiang District of Xaignabouri Province, west of the Mekong River.
Between 3,000 to 4,000 Mal live across the border in Thailand. In addition, a small Mal refugee community exists in northern California in the United States.
Mal or Madi is the self-name of this group. The Thais and Lao commonly call them Htin or Tin, but this name is not used among themselves. The Mal are related to the Phai ethnic group of Phongsali Province, further to the north. The Phai are believed to speak the same language as the Htin in Thailand, whereas the Mal language in Laos is different.
The Mal are a poverty-stricken people. Their crops usually yield a poor harvest because of their slash-and-burn agricultural technique. When they come to some new land, Mal families combine to clear the land of rocks and burn down the trees. After one year the soil is depleted, so the Mal move on and find some new land, where they repeat the process. They will not return to land they have already used until it has been left fallow for ten years.
The Mal prefer to marry within their own village, so often they marry their first cousins. This has led to some inbreeding. Couples live with the family of the bride until they have several children, at which time they move into their own house.
The Mal are animists. Many villages have a resident shaman who conducts animistic ceremonies. There is also some Buddhist influence among the Mal in Laos.
Christian missionaries such as Don and Sally Durling and Dave and Fran Jordan have ministered among the Mal in Thailand for many years. In 1992, a breakthrough occurred when a shaman named Bpan followed Christ. More than 100 Mal refugees from Laos followed Bpan's decision and were baptized.
In late 1993, about 300 Mal believers were among 1,200 Mal repatriated back into Laos by the Thai government.
Prayer Points * Pray the Mal believers in Laos would remain strong and continue to share their faith in the face of opposition.
* Ask God to bless the work of missionaries among the Mal people.
* Pray the Mal New Testament would be fully used among the Mal in both Laos and Thailand. * Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people.