Editor’s Note: Through the Entrusted & Sent initiative, Providence is partnering with IllumiNations and Pioneer Bible Translators to fund a translation of the New Testament in the Tenebre language. Tenebre is a pseudonym, used for the security of the people working on this project.
As the stories go, the Tenebre people come from a proud and hardworking heritage. Having been granted large portions of land by kings many years ago, they were the night watchers—their name even means “people of darkness.” To this day, this people group is known for its innate knowledge of nature; they use this knowledge to hunt dangerous snakes and rats for the wealthier groups who live around them. Men, women, and children of a family all work together equally, sharing the load of provision. Over the years, this humble and easy-going people group has been oppressed and denied their rights. Through government control and changing laws, the Tenebre people have had their land and rights stripped from them, and consequently, their livelihood. This group is now forced to live in sparsely populated areas, settling on beaches, sandy dunes, and other undesirable (and therefore unclaimed) areas. They face monsoons and common flooding, and many hamlets and villages are without electricity and toilets. Due in large part to their place at the bottom of the caste system, the Tenebre have no land, no rights, few jobs, and very little hope. They are in darkness and in desperate need of light.
The Tenebre are isolated and are some of the most lowly people in India. Their religion is a confusing one: they worship a few of the Hindu gods (Shiva and Vishnu) but are pantheistic, believing in spirits that inhabit people and nature. They believe you can ask these “ancestral spirits” that roam in creation for help. Less than 0.4% of the Tenebre are Christian, with little to no indigenous community of believing Christians; they are thus categorized as an unreached people group.
Though the Tenebre make up a small portion of the massive population of India and have almost no influence in their country, they are people made in God’s image and created for a kingdom purpose. We, as believers, are accountable to the biblical mandate to go forth and make disciples of all nations and must therefore focus our efforts on every tongue, tribe, and nation. This is why Providence Church has committed to fund the translation of the New Testament into the Tenebre language. Although a large majority of this people is illiterate, it is necessary and beneficial to translate the Holy Scriptures into their mother tongue. The Tenebre are storytelling people, and a written translation is the first step toward being able to widely disseminate the gospel through culturally relevant oral stories in their heart language. It is Providence’s prayer that the Lord will woo the Tenebre people to himself as we are obedient and faithful to share the gospel. We hope to see this marginalized and overlooked population come to understand that they are invited by the Creator of the universe into a relationship with him and to enjoy the benefits of knowing him. As they learn through stories of Scripture, we pray the Tenebre see God as Creator, the rightful Lord of all, who is concerned for the social, economic, and spiritual well-being of his people. May the Tenebre see Christ as an advocate for them before God. Their hope must be in Christ, the Light of the World.
How can we possibly relate to this rat-catching, snake-charming, essentially homeless group of people on the other side of the world? We must realize that without Jesus we are the same—without hope. We are all dependent on God to open our eyes to the person and work of Christ, to show us a better way of living not for ourselves, but for God with a kingdom mindset. Just as the Tenebre have very little to offer, we bring very little to the Lord. Despite this, when he gave us his son in death on the cross, he gave him freely with a generous heart that cares for us. We are all offered hope of a relationship and growth through Jesus’ resurrection. Revelation 5 tells us that one day there will be people for God from every tribe and language and nation worshiping at the Throne of the Lamb. May we meet our Tenebre brothers and sister at the Throne on that day!
Our God has created us for a global purpose: to know him and to share his vision with others so that he might receive all glory. The same Jesus who gave his life for you gave his life for the Tenebre people. Thank you for your part in giving to this vision to see the gospel go forth to every tongue, tribe, and nation. Pray with us for the Tenebre, the people of darkness, to hear scripture and see it fulfilled.
For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Eph. 5:8)