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

Friend of Muslims?

If only my grandma knew that my job is to turn her enemies into her friends!

By: Joshua Lewis
November 01 2021, 8:28 am | Comments 0

Time With Chiruh

With tears in her eyes, she has thanked me for all I have done so far. She is ashamed she has nothing to give back to me, though I assure her I need nothing in return. I am on a journey with Chiruh, and I do not know where it is going. But I hope to point her to Jesus along the way as much as I can.

By: Carly Tirado
October 01 2021, 4:18 pm | Comments 0

Seeking You as a Precious Jewel

Will I remember that the next time someone steals my honey or overcharges me because I am a foreigner? Yes, if I continue feeding my soul with God’s word.
Let us be so changed that we feel selfish if we do not share the Gospel by living it before others.

By: Joshua Lewis
October 01 2021, 3:37 pm | Comments 0


As a new mom, I understand and enjoy the bonds which can form between new mothers. I am grateful that God has answered my prayer for opportunities to minister to women through prenatal and postpartum care.

By: Carly Tirado
September 01 2021, 10:22 am | Comments 0

Three Years in Paradise

Soty continues to grow closer to Jesus. He has pushed me to learn more than ever about both Islam and Christianity through his earnest questioning.

By: Joshua Lewis
August 01 2021, 8:53 am | Comments 0

Balancing Mother’s Day 

Sometimes it is a conflicting, heart-breaking balance, meeting the needs of your family while trying to be an example of Jesus to others. 

By: Joshua Lewis
July 01 2021, 8:04 am | Comments 0


Apparently, I’m caring for a patient who is hated by many in our neighborhood. Will this taint my reputation? Will others refuse to associate with me because I’ve been helping Chiruh?

By: Carly Tirado
July 01 2021, 7:55 am | Comments 0

Good Morning, Gecko!

I’m glad God made my gecko friends. I see His loving care in every one of his little creatures. What is one way you can see that God cares about you?

By: Carly Tirado
June 01 2021, 10:26 am | Comments 0

Between Two Worlds

Soty is caught in the middle of two faiths, and often the struggle brings hot tears.

By: Joshua Lewis
May 01 2021, 1:47 pm | Comments 0

Don’t Get Lost, My Love!

I thought that my biggest God moments during my student-missionary year would come during direct ministry to the unreached, but God shows up whenever we call on Him.

By: Ryan Bell
April 01 2021, 8:10 am | Comments 0

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