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An amazing mission opportunity: Grace—Hmong outreach in Vietnam

WELS has been given the opportunity to take the gospel to the Hmong people living in the country of Vietnam. Not only has the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC) asked WELS to teach and train its pastors in Lutheran doctrine and practice, but WELS has also been invited by the Vietnamese government to establish a theological training facility in Hanoi.

On Dec. 1, 2018, WELS launched a special synodwide offering to support Hmong outreach in Vietnam. Through this opportunity, God’s grace can be shared with the more than 100,000 members who make up the HFC and the 2 million Hmong living in Vietnam and the surrounding countries. The goal of the “Grace—Hmong outreach in Vietnam” offering is to receive gifts totaling $2 million by June 30, 2019, to fund the land purchase, building construction, and the first two years of operational costs for the theological training facility in Hanoi.

Promotional resources have been created for use in congregations, schools, and other church groups. Learn more about this opportunity in the December 2018 WELS Connection and through a special brochure that was mailed to each WELS congregation. Schools can participate by designating mission offerings to “Grace—Hmong outreach in Vietnam.”

Many other resources are currently available for download or will be made available during the month of December. These resources include:

  • PowerPoint presentation with notes
  • Promotional poster
  • Bulletin inserts
  • Informational text to copy and paste into church bulletins as well as church and school newsletters
  • Online version of the December 2018 WELS Connection, featuring Hmong outreach in Vietnam
  • “Grace—Hmong outreach in Vietnam” logos
  • Digital display and PowerPoint graphic
  • Digital files of various print pieces: eight-page congregational brochure, four-page informational flyer, and a larger eight-page congregational brochure

Progress updates about the work in Vietnam will be shared through Together newsletter stories, weekly Missions blogs, and through WELS social media accounts. Follow the WELS and WELS Missions pages on Facebook to stay up-to-date.

To learn more about this mission opportunity, visit wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach.

Unprecedented opportunities in Vietnam

“You have brought us the truth—and that has changed our lives.” 

Until a few short years ago, Chonghoua Vang, a pastor in the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC) in Vietnam, lived by the law. And he taught the law. “I treated people with contempt. If I saw a member committing sin, I hated them. If they had addictions, I hated them. Now, as I look back, I see that I was a Pharisee at that time.” 

It was what he saw growing up as a Christian and what he was taught in his studies as a pastor. “Looking back, I see that while we talked about Jesus as our Savior, we didn’t understand law and gospel and we promoted a lot of work righteousness.” 

Vang began to understand grace when he started attending training sessions conducted by Bounkeo Lor, Hmong Asia ministry coordinator, in 2015. The church leadership had invited Lor to Vietnam in 2013 to train them after they saw sermons he had posted online. Lor and members of the Pastoral Studies Institute have made more than 24 training trips since then to train 60 HFC leaders. 

“Now I see Christ at the center of the Bible and the center of everything that is taught,” says Vang. “I truly believe that salvation comes through faith alone, through Christ alone, through Scripture alone. This foundation has made me confident as a Christian and confident in my salvation.” 

And this is something he shares with his 140-member congregation and the 12 additional congregations he oversees. “Before the training, so many others were just like me. My members were just like me. But now we have compassion and love. And now we have joy.” 

Members and leaders don’t only have joy; they have unity. Tsavxwm Ham, HFC chairman, says that in the past the HFC pastors interpreted the Bible based on their own ideas or from what they had learned from other church bodies. “Now we have both physical and spiritual unity. The Lutheran doctrine has brought peace and harmony to the people in the villages—and as a result, our members are sharing their faith and our churches are multiplying.” In the years WELS has provided training, the HFC has grown from 65,000 to 100,000 members and formed 53 new churches. 

The changes are so visible that the Communist government has noticed. And it likes what it is seeing, so much so that it is offering WELS an opportunity to build a permanent facility in Hanoi for theological training. 

“WELS is being given a priority that other [foreign] church bodies don’t have,” says Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions. “It’s an unprecedented, unique door that God is opening up for us.” 

Schlomer and Sean Young, director of WELS Missions Operations, traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam, in June to meet with leaders of the HFC and the Vietnamese Fellowship Church (VFC) to discuss the possibilities. The HFC is a subset of the Vietnamese Fellowship Church, a Protestant church body that is officially recognized by the government. WELS will need to work closely with the VFC to build a training facility because foreign church bodies can’t legally own land in Vietnam. 

While the VFC has its own government-approved training facility in Ho Chi Minh City, the facility is not big enough to train all the Hmong pastors. Lessons also are taught in Vietnamese, which many of the Hmong do not understand. “They want us to build a training facility for the ethnic minorities, and there is a clear understanding that we will teach Lutheran doctrine,” says Schlomer.  

Building a new facility will allow the HFC more autonomy to set its own schedule for training; will give students from the hill country outside Hanoi a place to stay when attending classes; and will provide worship space for local Hmong to attend services.  

Schlomer and Young plan to return to Vietnam in the fall to work out more details. 

Says Young, “This opening in communist Vietnam is an incredible gift from God. There are tens of thousands of Hmong people who are thirsty for the Word, and this opportunity is ready to go.” 


Learn more about opportunities in Vietnam at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 8
Issue: August 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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From the mountains to the skies: The story of Hue Thao

Bounkeo Lor 

I knew Hue Thao and his story before the Lord took him home. I hope he will forgive me for putting words in his mouth so he can tell you his story in his own words. Hue Thao would tell you the following:  

“The oceans belong to the fish;
The sky belongs to the birds,
The mountains belong to the Hmong.” (Hmong saying) 

My story begins in the mountains of Laos. That’s where the Lord gave me life, although I didn’t come to know him until many years later. I grew up and developed a love of learning. I was one of the few fortunate enough to attend college. I became a school teacher in the village of Nammoung, Laos.  

Because of dangerous conditions in Laos following the Vietnam War, I fled to Thailand in 1988, and I stayed in the Ban Vinai refugee camp, not far from the Mekong River, for many years. I studied medicine and became a physician’s assistant. I met Bounkeo Lor, but he was just an acquaintance at that time.  

Then I had the opportunity to come to the United States. I settled in Fresno, California, and drove truck, ran a laundromat, and did other things to earn a living.  

Something marvelous 

A few years later I moved to Kansas City. That’s where something marvelous happened. The Holy Spirit brought me to Jesus. I had known a few Hmong Christians over the years. I knew a little bit about the religion, but nothing clicked. Then I met Bounkeo Lor again. Now he was the pastor of Grace Hmong Lutheran Church.  

A relative of mine is married to his sister, and we both happened to be at their house one day. We got to talking, and he invited me to his church. I attended a worship service, and he invited me to meet with him later that week. We sat down, and he presented the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had never really heard God’s grace explained to me before. If I had heard this earlier, I might have become a Christian years ago! But this was the time God chose to work in my heart and lead me to faith. My wife, Mai Vue, and I were baptized at Grace on Jan. 5, 2012. 

Something exciting 

The Holy Spirit kept up his work. I was excited to learn more about Jesus, to study his Word, and to bring the good news to my people who are still under the power of Satan. The Lord gave me opportunities to do all this. I also started theological studies in the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) run by professors from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. 

In the fall of 2016, I was called to be an evangelist at Grace Hmong Lutheran Church. I was excited to go and make contacts with the Hmong community. I enjoy talking and building relationships. I also continued my studies with the PSI. It was a one-year call, and I was looking forward to serving another one-year call as a pastoral vicar. I was hoping to hear in February if I would be asked to do this.  

I also started helping Pastor Lor with his work in various ways. I often served as his much-needed chauffeur. On one occasion I drove him and two visitors from Vietnam to meet Synod President Mark Schroeder in Wisconsin. I also served as a driver when we met some contacts in Laos two years ago.  

Pastor Lor invited me to go with him to Asia on several trips. While I was not ready to do any preaching or teaching myself, except for parts of Luther’s Small Catechism, I was part of his support team. I was hopeful that in the future I would be able to help with the preaching and teaching as well. 

The Lord gave me a love of music, and I wanted to use this talent in the Lord’s service as well. My wife, Mai, is frequently asked to sing at various events in the Hmong community, and we have put together several CDs with Hmong songs. Recently we were working on a CD with Christian music. I was hoping to use this CD to bring the gospel to more Hmong people.  

Something unexpected 

Then something unexpected happened. Early in the morning of Feb. 18, 2018, the Lord called me home. It was a bit of a surprise, because I was not suffering from any major illness.  

And so my story ends, or should I say, begins, in the skies. Could I have reached more souls if I had lived longer? Our loving Lord in his wisdom had other plans, and his plans are always the best. But there are still many more souls to reach. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth workers into the harvest field.


Bounkeo Lor is the Hmong Asia ministry coordinator for WELS.  


Hue Thao’s funeral 

Bounkeo Lor 

Hue Thao’s funeral was an interesting hybrid of Hmong customs and Christian doctrine. Hmong funerals last for days, and many in the Hmong community come to the funeral, even if they do not know the deceased personally. The custom is to serve big meals for everyone who attends.  

According to Hmong custom, the coffin is made out of wood, not metal. Hmong traditional religion teaches that after death the soul director guides the soul to its birthplace to retrieve the placenta with which it was born because it is considered as the person’s original clothes. Then the soul director sends the soul to hell. The Christian teaching is much different. The Holy Spirit works through Baptism to clothe the soul with Jesus. He has directed the soul to the one thing needful: faith in Jesus. In other words, the Soul Director guides the soul of the believer to heaven to be with Jesus.  

Hue’s funeral started with a worship service on Saturday, April 14, followed, of course, by a meal. Another worship service followed on Sunday. This service lasted almost three hours! There was a sermonette in English, followed by a full sermon in Hmong. Hmong choirs from Grace Hmong Lutheran Church sang songs of comfort and hope. Then there was a meal with about 250 people in attendance. Many of these people were not Christian. The worship service was a great opportunity to present the gospel of Jesus Christ and to invite the people to worship at Grace. After the sermons on Sunday evening, a family in Hue Thao’s relation brought two of their sons to me to ask for theological training. They wanted to follow their Uncle Hue’s footsteps to serve the Lord.  

One pastor chose the words of Jesus for his sermonette: “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4,5). Hue’s early death is a reminder that our time is short. We need to use it wisely, to get to know Jesus better through his Word, and to share him with others.  


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Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Bounkeo Lor
Volume 105, Number 8
Issue: August 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Update on an amazing opportunity in Vietnam

The Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC), a Christian church body in Vietnam that had been without trained pastors for 50 years, has become an unexpected and amazing opportunity for the spread of the gospel. In 2013, leaders of the HFC heard a grace-filled sermon from WELS Pastor Bounkeo Lor over the Internet. They were intrigued and invited Rev. Lor to come to Vietnam to train church leaders. The pastors of the HFC recognized that, for the first time, they were learning biblical truth and the true meaning of the gospel. They asked for more training, wanting their church body to be fully instructed in Lutheran doctrine. Rev. Lor, who now serves as the Hmong Asia Ministry coordinator, has made repeated trips to Vietnam in the years since, training over 60 leaders of the HFC.

That was amazing enough. Since instruction began, the HFC has grown from 65,000 to 100,000 members. And even more amazing, the communist government of Vietnam has expressed its approval and support for this training. One government official has commented that, of all the Christian churches working in Vietnam, WELS is the only one that is teaching what the Bible says. The government has invited our synod to construct a building that can serve as the center for this expanded training.

“WELS is being given a priority that other [foreign] church bodies don’t have,” says Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions. “It’s an unprecedented, unique door that God is opening up for us.”

Building a new facility will allow the HFC more freedom to schedule training for its leaders. It will give students, who live mainly in rural areas far from Hanoi, a place to stay when attending classes. And it will provide worship space for local Hmong to attend services.

Representatives of the Board for World Missions are working diligently to iron out the details of the property acquisition and the construction of the training center. While we recognize that there is risk in making this commitment, there is full agreement that this is a God-given opportunity that should be seized.

Learn more about opportunities in Vietnam and how you can support the effort at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach.

 

 

 

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Faces of Faith – Tsavxue Ham

Brothers and sisters in Christ – I’d like you to meet my friend Tsavxue Ham, a pastor and chairman of the the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC) in Vietnam. The HFC is a church body of more than 100,000 members seeking training from WELS and requesting fellowship.

Tsavxue Ham on the left, Pastor Lor on the right, examining a patient

This past March I had the chance to visit Ham’s village near the border of Laos and Vietnam. He runs a micro-hospital there. Ham is skilled in both herbal medicine and modern medicine. Since the age of 7, he’s been learning about herbal medicine from his elders. When we arrived at his village, there were more than 30 patients waiting for Ham because he had spent the last three weeks attending WELS pastoral training in Hanoi. People seek Ham’s help first because it takes more than two days to travel to the big city to receive medical treatment. Because so many patients were waiting for Ham, who is also busy supporting his family as a farmer, I offered to help examine some of his patients – I too have a background in medicine. But for me, the most miraculous thing was the opportunity to share the Word of God and to pray for the sick. We spent two days at Ham’s village. We had many opportunities to share the Word with his members and the community.

Ham’s medical knowledge has opened a door for the mission work in his area. Through his micro-hospital, he has the opportunity to share the Word of God with many people who come from far and near. Many patients travel for days to receive treatment from him. Some prominent people in the city and country have received treatment from him. Most of his patients first sought help from shamans, but the shamans couldn’t cure their sickness. Once they arrive at Ham’s micro-hospital, he gives them treatment, prays for them, and shares the Word with them. After a few days or weeks, they leave his place with joy and happiness in Christ, not only because they were cured from their diseases but also because they’ve learned that their sins are forgiven in our Lord Jesus Christ. As soon as they return home, they share their joy and happiness in Christ with many others, just like the Samaritan woman who had received forgiveness from Christ at the well of Jacob (John 4:1-42).

Tsavxue Ham (far left) with other leaders of the Hmong Fellowship Church

Even though Ham lives in a region with a lot of religious persecution, the Holy Spirit has worked through the Word preached by Ham to add more than 25 congregations to the HFC in the last two years. He is a strong leader not only in the church but also in the community as well. Many prominent doctors in Vietnam admire his medical knowledge.

Currently Ham’s hospital only has room for 15 patients. He has to send many patients home after their visit due to the limited space. Ham does not charge his patients for their services. Instead, he and his wife work very hard on their farm to provide food and medicine to the sick. Ham said, “We are poor, but there is nothing more precious than sharing Jesus with others. My wife and I work hard on our farm to make sure we can provide three meals per day and shelter for our patients because we want to seize the opportunity to share Jesus to our poor patients during their stay with us.” Ham’s wife, Ntxawm Muas, said, “My daughters and sons-in-law are also willing to work hard on their farm to support their father’s work, to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.” Being poor is not an obstacle for Ham and his family to serve Christ and his patients.

Ham and his wife have three daughters and three sons. All of them are married except the youngest son. Two of his sons are studying medicine in Hanoi, Vietnam. They plan to return to the village to help in their father’s micro-hospital so that their father may have more time for the church. Not only do Ham and his wife work hard for the work of the Lord, but the entire family is working hard on their farm to make sure that they can provide meals, medicine, and shelter for the sick. Ham’s daughters help his wife prepare three meals per day for his patients. Sometimes Ham has to go up to the mountains for days or weeks just to collect herbs to help his patients.

In my entire life, with the exception of my grand-uncle, I have never seen a person as dedicated to the work of the Lord as Ham in the Hmong community. He has been a Christian since 1997 and has been serving the church and his patients for 20 years. Ham heard the gospel through my grand-uncle, Pastor Ntsuabvas Lor, who was murdered in 1999 because of his faith in Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters, please keep Ham and his family in your prayers!

Written by: Pastor Bounkeo Lor, Hmong Asia Ministry Coordinator

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The Lord Blesses Hmong Outreach in Vietnam

It all started when a leader within the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC) in Vietnam viewed an online sermon by Rev. Bounkeo Lor. The message of pure grace through Jesus Christ was something he had never heard before – and he wanted to learn more. He invited Rev. Lor to come to Vietnam to train himself and others in the truth of the gospel, and the Lord has allowed this opportunity to blossom since.

HFC leaders gather for training in January 2018

With every visit Rev. Lor has made to conduct training in Hanoi, approximately 60 church leaders have attended to learn more about the truths of the Bible. These same 60 leaders have been taking the message back to their congregations, and the gospel message is accomplishing its purpose. The HFC was a church body of 65,000 members when their leader first reached out to WELS. In the years WELS has provided training, the HFC has grown from 65,000 to 100,000 members and formed 53 new churches. Rev. Lor has been called to serve as Hmong Asia Ministry Coordinator, and the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) and Multi-Language Publications teams have been brought in to offer support and additional resources for this expanding ministry.

Not only is this church body is growing, but the communist Vietnamese government has also noticed a positive change. The HFC has a strong history of legalism, which had caused conflict as to which rules are God-pleasing and which are not. The message of free grace received from Jesus Christ has replaced their old law-based preaching and leadership styles, and church leadership has stabilized as a result.

HFC leaders take photos of illustrated Bible stories to take back to their congregations

The gospel can work even in the most difficult of circumstances, and sometimes in ways we cannot expect. The Lord has blessed this outreach, and the Vietnamese government has invited WELS to build a theological training facility in the capital city of Hanoi. WELS is currently the only protestant church with official governmental permission to work with the Hmong in Vietnam. WELS Missions representatives will be visiting Hanoi, Vietnam in June to evaluate and explore this opportunity further, and efforts to secure funding for land acquisition, construction costs, and initial operation costs have begun.

In a letter from the HFC to WELS, church leaders wrote:

“We thank you for the WELS training for the past three years. Now, we believe that we have salvation. Without that, today we would still be living in the darkness of Satan. We believe that God already answered our prayers through the WELS.”

As the HFC and WELS work together to establish a theological training facility, the focus remains on the future – the future of their church body, the future pastors and lay leaders that will be trained in confessional Lutheran doctrine, and ultimately the future that awaits them in heaven.

 

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Exciting ministry opportunity in Vietnam

Since 2015, WELS has consistently been sending members of the Global Hmong Committee and the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) to train leaders of the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC) in Vietnam in sound, Lutheran doctrine. While much needs to be done before fellowship can be declared with this church body, its leaders have expressed a desire to learn Lutheran doctrine and to become a confessional Lutheran church body. Rev. Bounkeo Lor, Hmong Asia Ministry coordinator, has been leading these efforts, making multiple training visits per year.

In the three years WELS has provided training, the Hmong Fellowship Church has grown from 65,000 to 100,000 members and formed 53 new churches. The message of free grace received from Jesus Christ has replaced their old law-based preaching and leadership, and their churches are expanding as a result. Church leadership has stabilized, and the communist government in Vietnam has noticed this positive change.

Thanks to the Lord’s ever-guiding hand and blessing, the Vietnamese government has invited WELS to build a theological training facility in the capital city of Hanoi. This is an amazing and unexpected opportunity for our synod. As the HFC looks to the future of their church body, they realize the importance of equipping the next generation of pastors with the truth of the gospel. WELS will continue to provide HFC leaders with theological instruction and pastoral training.

This opportunity for further gospel ministry is great, as WELS is currently the only protestant church with official governmental permission to work with the Hmong in Vietnam. Our Home and World Missions team, the Synodical Council, and the Conference of Presidents are working tirelessly to fully evaluate and explore this opportunity, in addition to securing the funds needed for land acquisition, construction costs, and initial operating costs of the training facility. Watch for additional updates about this effort in the coming weeks and months.

As this opportunity lies before us, you may want to support Hmong ministry in Vietnam with a gift that will help to purchase land and build a training center in Hanoi. You can also continue to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters across the globe as they learn more about the freedom that comes through God’s grace. Pray for continued blessings on the training that Rev. Lor and the PSI team are providing to the church leaders of the HFC.

You can donate online to support this effort. Select “Vietnam-Hmong Outreach” from the drop down menu.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

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