Entering the Land of the Dragon

The kingdom of Bhutan is tucked into a corner of the eastern Himalayas, between China and India. Known in the local language as Land of the Dragon, the country was closed to foreign visitors until the mid-70s, and television sets only arrived in 1999. Today, Bhutan draws attention for coining the term Gross National Happiness and possessing national wonders such as the cliffside monastery Tiger’s Nest, among others.

Although the population is small – less than 750,000 people – it encompasses 16 ethnic groups. Buddhism is deeply ingrained, and an anti-conversion law strictly limits Christians’ ability to worship openly. There are more than a dozen small Adventist congregations in Bhutan, but they must meet discreetly in homes or isolated areas. The Adventist leader assigned to the territory lives in another country, and makes short trips across the border to minister to the members. Many times, he must walk 10 hours “up the riverbanks” to reach communities.

“We have long wanted to start producing programs for Bhutan,” says AWR president Dowell Chow. “The conditions in the region are tenuous, to say the least. Workers labor in very dire conditions, surrounded with violence and unrest. Sharing the gospel freely through radio is a classic illustration of AWR’s slogan, ‘No walls – no borders – no limits.’”

After a long search, a group of potential producers was finally assembled. Out of a dozen volunteer producers and technicians, two are native-born Bhutanese who speak the official national language, Dzongkha. Others are Hindi- or Nepali-speaking gospel workers. Some live in Bhutan itself, while others reside in nearby locations.

AWR provided all of the studio equipment, installation, and training for the young team members, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s. They will be able to draw on a large collection of scripts by a seasoned producer in Nepal, and their fledgling programs will be broadcast through shortwave and online.

“These very young people have an interest in radio because they feel that it’s a tremendous way to reach into Bhutan, which they cannot do from the inside,” Chow says. “There is an enormous need for family-life topics, advice on marital relations, child rearing, health, all kinds of social topics, and obviously religious and devotional talks. I am incredibly encouraged by this breakthrough.”

Surachet Insom, AWR’s Asia/Pacific region director, adds, “God loves and cares for the Bhutanese, even though they are small in number and despite Satan’s obstruction. Please remember the new Bhutanese studio in your prayers, and in your financial gifts to AWR.”

Mother and child listening to radio in front of simple home.

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