God’s grace is demonstrated through the miraculous gift of salvation to all people through the perfect life and death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. That same baby, God in human flesh born in Bethlehem so many years ago, is an undeserved gift to me, to you, and to all people. It is this grace that has opened doors to an unprecedented mission opportunity for us, my fellow WELS members, to share the gift of Jesus with the people of communist Vietnam.
In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace (Colossians 1:6).
I need to tell you about Pastor Ham. He served as an elder in the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC) in Vietnam from 1996 until 2003, when he began studying to become a pastor. Ham became a pastor in 2006 and was appointed chairman of the HFC in 2007. Today he is working to share the good news with as many people as possible. It was God’s strength that helped him learn more about the gospel in order to bring more people to Jesus.
FROM SHAMAN TO CHAIRMAN
Earlier in his life, Tsavxwm (pronounced similarly to “Chauncey”) Ham was a shaman and fortune-teller, educated in Hmong traditions. People came to him for help, but he had only his shaman lies to give them. He was frustrated, because he sincerely wanted to help.
Then he heard a Christian radio broadcast and asked for some Christian materials from a nearby village that had already become Christian. The Lord in his grace brought Tsavxwm to Jesus, and he left his shaman life behind. Now he had the truth, something worthwhile to give to those who came to him for help.
The Lord often uses hardship to strengthen his people, and he certainly strengthened Tsavxwm. Thanks to God, the door for mission work in his area is open much wider than it was many years ago. As Tsavxwm took on more responsibility in the Christian community, he realized that the Hmong pastors needed more training. They had received training from a variety of sources—Vietnamese churches, Korean missionaries, even Hmong pastors from the U.S.—but few, if any, brought the clear teaching that sinners are saved by grace. All they learned were rules to follow and good works to be done to earn salvation. Not much was different from the rules and traditions he followed as a shaman. The training left him confused, with little grounds for hope.
This changed when he started to attend the WELS gospel-based training I held in Hanoi. Tsavxwm noted the difference: “I used to use the law to motivate my members. That was how I showed my authority. But since receiving this training, I now understand that the law won’t help the members. I started to share the gospel . . . What I have noticed is that now my members respect me even more than they ever did when I only used the law, rules, and traditions to lead them.” The Lord’s grace at work in Tsavxwm was now at work in his members as well.
Tsavxwm came to the recent training held this October, but he had to leave early. He was having problems with high blood pressure, no doubt due in part to his heavy responsibilities (pastor, chairman, medical practitioner, and farmer). He also left to defend some Christians in his area who had some problems with local authorities because of their faith. So, I didn’t have an opportunity to interview him further. Nevertheless, he spoke eloquently in a previous interview:
I don’t have anything to send to my WELS brothers and sisters to even begin to show our gratitude or appreciation [for the training conducted] . . . We trust that in the future the training will continue to equip leaders so that the gospel will spread to many more throughout Vietnam.
God has opened doors to extraordinary possibilities:
- Since WELS has started providing training, the Holy Spirit has increased the Hmong Fellowship Church from 55,000 to more than 100,000 members.
- The communist government in Vietnam gave us permission to purchase land and invited us to build a theological training center that will strengthen pastors for sharing the saving message of God’s grace to their people.
- We will supply all the startup necessities for teaching and training.
- We will send these well-equipped brothers out into the fields and hills to their many rural churches to spread the message of God’s grace. We pray that God will use these efforts to eventually reach up to two million Hmong in Vietnam and neighboring countries.
Please join with me during this season of Christmas joy as we thank our heavenly Father for sending his Son, Jesus Christ, with the gift of grace for all people. Thank you for your faithful prayers and past generous support, through your congregations or directly to the synod, of the many people we serve through WELS World Missions.
There are so many people who are hungry to hear the truth of God’s grace. Will you help share the good news of God’s grace with the people of Vietnam? Will you offer a gift today? Together, let us pray that God continues to bless the church and his people as we boldly share God’s grace here at home and throughout the world.
Serving together to share God’s grace,
Rev. Bounkeo Lor
WELS Hmong Asia Ministry Coordinator
P.S. To learn more about this unprecedented mission opportunity, go to wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach. Watch for updates as the building progresses and classes begin.