Great River People

  • Pre-Entry
  • Pre-Evangelism
  • Evangelism
  • Discipleship
  • Phase-Out
  • Completed

About the People

About 230,000 Great River People border the Mekong River and live near Southeastern Asia’s major cities, such as Phnom Penh. Extremely poor, they survive by farming, fishing, building boats, metalwork and light commerce. Their bamboo homes are elevated to protect against flooding, and their diet consists of fish, rice and vegetables. Because so many men were killed in the 1970s, the Great River People’s line of descent is now traced through the women. The rural Great River People practice folk Islam, mixing veneration of the dead with magic and Muslim tradition (a blend of Animism and Islam). Outside efforts to promote Islam have stepped up recently, and the Great River People define themselves more by their religion than their historical origins. There are no known churches or scriptures among this people group.

The Great River People are an unreached Muslim people group in Southeast Asia, numbering around half a million. The opportunity for them to hear about the Savior and His truth for these last days is now! Muslim missionaries from overseas are seeking to make them more orthodox.

About the Project

Since the first millennium A.D., when advanced civilizations of the present-day country in Southeast Asia populated the area, this Asian country has had a checkered history. A protectorate of France for nearly 100 years and a monarchy on and off since 1953, this Southeast Asia region has been decimated by decades of civil war and corruption. An estimated 1.5 to 3 million were killed during Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge reign when money, medicine, religion and education all but disappeared.

Bordered by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and the Gulf of Thailand, the nearly 70,000 square-mile country is 95 percent Buddhist (mostly Khmer people), three percent Islam (mostly Great River People), and only two percent are Christian. Textiles and tourism provide most of the hard currency. This region’s temperatures range from 50-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The wet season (May-October) and dry season (November-March) are both ushered in by tropical monsoons.

As our missionaries convey that we are people of faith—through simple prayer ministry, spiritual conversations and kindness—they gain people’s confidence and, by God’s grace, win their hearts for Jesus. The goal is to plant groups of believers who can spread this message throughout the entire people group.

One of the keys to reaching the Great River people is health ministry. By using simple health remedies, assisting the sick to find organizations able to help, and through the work of short-term medical teams, AFM missionaries have won many people’s confidence and hope to begin a small health clinic to meet the overwhelming need better. The Great River people have a tremendous desire to learn English, and teaching English to elementary-age students is an avenue to reach these people. Plans include expanding classes for older learners in the future.

People-Group Facts

  • Population: 230,000
  • Trade Language: Khmer
  • Religion: 88% Islam, 10% Hindu.

Frontier Stories


How she has survived these past five years despite never having a minute to care for her own needs is a true testament to the love of a mother and the sustenance of God.

By: Carly Tirado
October 01 2023, 11:00 am | Comments 0

Being Neighborly

We are in their social systems, part of their families. Pray that we will be in tune with the Holy Spirit when He is providing the opportunity to share Jesus with them.

By: Josh Lewis
October 01 2023, 10:58 am | Comments 0

Tractor Man

Over and over, Madu and Asli thanked us profusely. Shortly after, Madu came unannounced with his big tractor, mowed thick brush on our property for several hours, and refused payment. I could not believe it was the same Tractor Man. We could not believe how God was answering our prayers.

By: Josh Lewis
August 01 2023, 11:14 am | Comments 0

Smoothies and the Prophet Elijah

Sometimes we can be so paralyzed, wanting to do things perfectly, that we don’t do anything at all. Please join me in praying that Hana and her friends encounter Jesus, the true God, whenever they enter our home.

By: Carly Tirado
July 01 2023, 11:07 am | Comments 0

Simon Still Carries the Cross, Part 2

Please pray the hearts of Simon’s people will be touched and that his dream of a Christian community of Great River People in his area will be realized.

By: As told to Joshua Lewis
May 01 2023, 9:37 am | Comments 0

Simon Still Carries the Cross,Part 1

“I thought my cousin Moses was terribly sinful. Yet, all the while, I was smoking, gambling, drinking, and singing karaoke. We sparred over religion all the time. I went with Moses to church, too. At church, I met a Khmer ASAP church planter named Sovanak, and started wanting to learn more.”

By: As Told to Joshua Lewis
April 01 2023, 2:42 pm | Comments 0


Oh, how I look forward to when I can relax in the embrace of my Heavenly Father, “all cozy-up,” and finally be truly “home-home.”

By: Carly Tirado
April 01 2023, 2:40 pm | Comments 0

Lun Bi Ktok-oh

Today is the first time we have sung it in their language. Simon worked hard, getting the syllables to fit the tune and not to be a tongue twister. He taught it to us. He was so proud. You would have been, too.

By: Joshua Lewis
March 01 2023, 11:28 am | Comments 0

Srey Neang and Son

“I have left him too long. Thank you for coming,” she said with a tired smile.

By: Carly Tirado
March 01 2023, 9:53 am | Comments 0

A Breakfast Blessing

He is confirming His love and care for us, even by providing a free meal (or two) and a chance to practice our language skills while we are on furlough.

By: Carly Tirado
March 01 2023, 9:22 am | Comments 0

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