People group ministry

Dear Friend,

We call it “people group ministry.” Immigrants who have joined our fellowship in the U.S. and Canada take the gospel back to friends and family in their countries of origin. We praise God for so many opportunities!

This month’s WELS Connection shares the story of Dr. Paul contacting WELS for ministry resources for Pakistan. Eventually God brought Dr. Paul to the U.S. where he became a WELS pastor. He now plants International Friendship Centers that reach out to the local South Asian population through fellowship, educational, and faith-related activities.

Maybe you’ve heard of the opportunity God has given us in Vietnam. When the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC) found online sermons posted by WELS Hmong pastors, which clarified their understanding of law and grace, they asked WELS for training. WELS began working with them and, by God’s grace, their church body has grown from 55,000 to 100,000. The HFC hopes to eventually reach as many as two million Hmong in the greater area!

Here are some other examples of “people group ministry”:

  • More than a hundred WELS churches serve a Hispanic population and are working with the Latin American missions team to bring the gospel to Latin American countries.
  • Eight WELS congregations have assisted South Sudanese refugees, which has led to outreach to refugee camps in Ethiopia, Kenya (pictured), and Uganda.
  • Various WELS congregations provide devotional materials to East Asian members to share with family and friends locally and back in East Asia.
  • Two Liberian refugees (in Las Vegas, Nev.; and New Hope, Minn.) are training to become WELS pastors. These men lead congregations in the U.S. and have strong connections to congregations in Liberia, Africa.
  • Two WELS congregations serving Korean members are partnering with WELS’ sister synod in South Korea as people reach back to their home country.
  • A congregation in the Boise, Idaho, area serving Vietnamese immigrants is sending individuals to Vietnam to teach English and share the gospel while also assisting students in the country with coming to the U.S. to study at our schools.
  • We have been contacted by a Detroit-based immigrant from a predominantly Muslim country in Asia who has become a WELS member. He has experience instructing Muslim refugees in the Christian faith. He operates three Christian schools in Asia and is looking for doctrinal guidance.

Funding for these efforts comes primarily from the WELS Missions Endowment Fund. Member gifts of cash, appreciated assets, and planned gifts (through a will, trust, beneficiary designation on a retirement account, or insurance proceeds) go into this permanent fund designed to make steady annual distributions that increase as the fund grows.

At this point the WELS Missions Endowment Fund distributes about $480,000 each year. I am asking you to give to this endowment to increase these annual distributions so that we can keep up with the amazing people group ministry opportunities our Savior is providing.

Chenna was reached through the International Friendship Center when Dr. Paul and his wife saw him unloading luggage from a U-Haul and offered to help, introduced themselves, and invited his family for dinner. This kindness led Chenna to Bible study and then confirmation. Chenna is an example of the ultimate goal—reaching souls with the good news of Jesus. Please pray for these efforts and consider a gift today to fund people group ministry through the WELS Missions Endowment.

Cordially in Christ,
Rev. Paul T. Prange
Chairman, WELS Joint Mission Council

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Work in Vietnam continues – help us reach our goal!

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Lord continues to hold the door open as we share the saving message of grace in Christ Jesus with the Hmong people in Vietnam. Rev. Bounkeo Lor (pictured) recently accepted the call to serve as permanent Hmong Asia Ministry Coordinator. Pastor Lor will continue to oversee the education program that he and members of the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) are currently developing and implementing.

As calls are being made and finalized to staff the theological education center in Hanoi, WELS leaders traveled to Vietnam in June to work through details regarding the building and construction plans. Land has been purchased and cleared, and bids are being gathered for the construction project. Construction should begin later this year.

We are also pleased to report that WELS members and congregations have contributed more than $1.34 million in offerings toward our $2 million goal for this special mission opportunity. We praise our Savior and thank you for your faithful prayers and generous support!

There are more than 120,000 members of the Hmong Fellowship Church and 2 million Hmong people throughout Southeast Asia who are hungry to hear the truth of God’s grace. Will you help share the good news of Jesus with the Hmong people of Vietnam? Will you offer a gift today to help us meet our $2 million goal for the land purchase, construction, and the initial two years of operational costs? Together, let us pray that our Lord continues to bless the church and his people as we boldly share his grace here at home and throughout the world.

Walking together in God’s grace,
Rev. Larry Schlomer
WELS World Missions Administrator

P.S. Rev. Bounkeo Lor will be commissioned at the Taste of Missions worship service at 4 p.m. on July 13. Join us for this special celebration via livestream.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Gospel Seeds Continue to Multiply

Ger Yang was one of the first Hmong men home missionary Rev. Loren Steele met in St. Paul, Minn. in 1988. Ger Yang and Loren Steele worked together to share the message of salvation with the Hmong in the Twin Cities area.

Ger Yang (left) at Village 9 in Thailand

After Ger Yang was trained to be a pastor, he went to Thailand for mission a trip in village 9, Tak, Thailand, where he unexpectedly passed away. After Ger Yang died in December 1995, the Lord brought me to study in the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) program. I was ordained on October 16, 1999, and was called by the Minnesota district to serve Immanuel Hmong Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn.

The seed of the gospel is still working at Immanuel Hmong today! Immanuel Hmong was started by two strong missionaries: Ger Yang and Loren Steele (both of whom are now in heaven). After I was ordained two decades ago, Immanuel Hmong started off with only a few orphans and widows. From then on, the Lord has continued to bless his church to grow to over two hundred members. The Lord is kind and he took care of his church. Today, Immanuel Hmong’s worship attendance every week is around 110 with 200 souls in our membership. Our congregation is working hard to reach out to one of the largest Hmong populations in the United States. More than 70,000 Hmong people live in the Twin Cities area.

Although Immanuel Hmong is a mission church itself, we have a heart for mission work even outside of our own community. Immanuel Hmong continues to reach out to Thailand, following the footsteps of Ger Yang, to Village 9 and many other villages throughout Thailand where Hmong people can be found. Village 9 now has Hmong men serving as evangelists and pastors. Pastor Vang Toua Moua (Joe Saema) now serves as the main pastor for Village 9. The seed of the gospel didn’t die with Ger Yang. Once the gospel seed was planted in St. Paul, Minn., it spreads to the different parts of the United States and Southeast Asia. I was even asked to baptize ten people during my recent visit in December 2018!

Pastor Vang Toua Moua baptizes a newborn in Village 9

The seed of the gospel continues to spread to different villages. There are many nearby villages by Pastor Vang Toua who need the seed of the gospel. Pastor Vang Toua Moua and his congregation are equipped to bridge the gospel seed for those villages. We trust that the Holy Spirit will turn more hearts to faith in Jesus Christ.

Only the Lord can water the planted gospel seed to grow and multiply. I ask that you remember the Hmong ministries in the Minnesota district and around the world in your prayers. Together, the Lord will accomplish his purpose when he sends his gospel seed to the lost world. As Isaiah said, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” May the seed of the gospel continue to grow!

Written by: Pastor Pheng Moua, Immanuel Hmong Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Minn. and member of Joint Mission’s Global Hmong Committee

To learn more about Hmong ministry in the United States and around the world, visit

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Thanksgiving Evangelism

What is thanksgiving? Why does this country celebrate Thanksgiving in November each year? Many Hmong in the Kansas City community celebrate Thanksgiving each year, but do they really understand the meaning of Thanksgiving?

The answer is no!

Each year during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Hmong people celebrate Thanksgiving by preparing a big meal to enjoy with family members and friends like other American people do. In the non-Christian Hmong community, Thanksgiving is just a holiday for eating and drinking. They only enjoy the abundant foods and drinks on their table, but they don’t know the true meaning of Thanksgiving – the appreciation and thanks for the saving grace and blessings God provides to mankind.

Thanksgiving is one of the most effective events Grace Hmong uses to attract Hmong people in the community to hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a huge piece of our evangelism calendar. Each year during the Thanksgiving holiday, Grace spends a lot of time, effort, and money to be able to host a successful event. Grace prays and hopes to bring the Hmong community to attend the event and to hear the message of God.

Grace Hmong Lutheran Church – Kansas City, Kans.

At our 2018 Thanksgiving service, the members of Grace again had the opportunity to share with our guests why we say thank you for the blessings and love we receive from God. We shared the message of why we find ourselves having a reason to celebrate. There’s never a time NOT to express our gratitude to God for what he has done for mankind! Psalm 140:13 declares, “Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name.” Giving thanks is what Christians do. We were so happy to share that message with our community during the service and meal time.

I was blessed and amazed to see all of the attendees enjoying their time eating up God’s Word during the service. And again during meal time, everyone enjoyed the tasty foods Grace provided. As I looked at their smiling faces, nothing was more enjoyable than spiritual feeding with God’s word and physical feeding with well-prepared Thanksgiving food.

All of the effort, time, and money Grace Hmong put into the event was well worth it. All of our guests enjoyed the message and food. The overall turnout of the event was around 102 people, many of whom were visitors from the community and nearby neighborhood.  From this event, there were two families who were interested in joining the church. The sweetness of the gospel warms their hearts and compels them to join us and come back next time.

The congregation’s outreach efforts are focused on our evangelism program, a Facebook advertising campaign for the weekly sermon series, and events such as thanksgiving with a potluck meal to follow.

Grace’s outreach to the Hmong community is not easy, and we have been experiencing many challenges. However, God continues to remind us that the mission of the church is to proclaim the gospel for the Holy Spirit to win the lost souls.

We are very excited about the gospel outreach opportunities within our community and we hope to share that excitement with the Lord’s people who are supporting that work with their prayers and with their offerings. Let’s keep on sharing the message of saving grace in Jesus!

Written by: Rev. Ger Lor, Pastor at Grace Hmong Lutheran Church in Kansas City, Kans. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


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.  


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 Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.


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 © 2019
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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


A long journey

Along a long and difficult path, the Lord has proven to be a Good Shepherd. 

Amanda Klemp 

Shong Thao, a member of Grace Hmong, Kansas City, Kan., was a lay delegate to the 2017 synod convention. But his journey to Watertown, Wisconsin, last summer was longer than most.

Thao was born in Laos in 1958 at the cusp of the Secret War, a civil war between the Communist Party and the Royal Lao government.

The Shepherd

Thao was born into a Christian family, one of the first in Laos. Prior to knowing Christ as their Savior, his clan had strong and deep roots in the Hmong religion. In fact, his grandfather was considered a powerful shaman in the region, with many families asking him to “remove evil” (heal the sick) in their households. After one particular attempt at “removing evil,” his grandfather came down with a sudden and severe illness and died.

Not long after his grandfather’s death, Thao’s uncle, the new clan leader of the Thao family, met a Christian missionary. Thao’s uncle listened to the missionary, realizing that the traditional religion might not really be the answer. The Holy Spirit led his uncle to share Christianity with the entire clan.

Christianity was an entirely new concept to the Thao clan, but the missionary spoke Laotian and could teach the faith to the family. It’s a faith that would help Thao and his family alone their decades-long journey of danger and uncertainty.

Through the valley

Thao was the smallest of eight children. He said that he was born small and didn’t grow because of poor nutrition in his early years. His father worked on a farm to support the family, but by 1960 the political tensions reached his village and signs of conflict appeared in the form of helicopters and a military presence. The family moved from village to village to stay safe.

Thao’s older sister, at 16 years old, married a military captain. His mom saw this as an opportunity to keep Thao safe and ensure he received an education. So Thao went to live with his sister and stayed there for three years without seeing his parents. He says he remembers crying and wanting to be with his mom, but his sister reassured him that she would care for him.

After three years with his sister, he moved again to live with one of his brothers in a different city, but fighting broke out in the region and they had to move again. His family trekked through the jungle for a week to reach a safer city. Thao, now about 10 years old, was finally back with his parents, but soon his mom died.

Despite the war and the constant moving, Thao continued attending school and graduated from the Laotian school system when he was 15 years old. The war had been raging for more than a decade, and it seemed no end was in site. After graduation, he wanted to go into the military with his cousin and become an officer.

The United States was heavily involved in the Secret War. The policy at the time called for the CIA to coordinate the Hmong people to form an army and defend the country. At 15 years old, Thao got his first job working for the CIA as a mechanic.

Through all of this—the hunger, separation from his parents, treacherous journeys through the jungle, constantly moving, and the raging battles of war—Thao knew that the Lord is his Good Shepherd, who guides him and keeps him safe.

Green pastures

The war finally ended, but because of his work with the CIA, Thao’s life was in danger in Laos after the Communist Party took over the country. After six months in a refugee camp, he was granted refugee status, and at 17 years old he arrived in Wausau, Wisconsin

Despite finishing his education in Laos and already working for the U.S. military—experiences unlike anything U.S. teenagers would have endured—his next big battle would be enrolling in an American high school to study English. He said that he felt like a “dummy.” When the school year ended, the church that sponsored him as a refugee offered him a job as a summer custodian at the school.

When fall came, he didn’t go back to high school but rather attended a technical school and began working full time. He eventually enrolled at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh to study social work.

Between working and going to school, he met his wife, who joined the church and was baptized after meeting him. By 1980, the first of his eight children was born. In a few short years, as a young man, Thao was making a life for himself in the United States. He finished his degree in social work and ended up working to help other immigrants as they settled in the U.S.

But the demands of work and education while in the the early days of starting a family as well as the harrowing events and images he couldn’t shake from his youth took their toll. He suffered depression for many years and, at one time, was even hospitalized for it. Thao, who readily attests to the power of prayer, says he prayed to God for peace the whole time he was in the hospital. He credits his Good Shepherd with providing comfort in his darkest hours. While the memories and images of war have never left him, he says he knows God is always with him, guiding him and taking care of him.

Thao and his family didn’t stay in Wisconsin, and he didn’t spend his whole career in social work. He says he liked to experience different types of jobs, and they moved around the country a few times, each time finding a new church to join.

Dwelling in the house of the Lord

It wasn’t until they moved to Kansas City three years ago that they joined their first WELS church. Grace is a predominantly Hmong congregation, and Thao says he felt drawn to it because he wanted to see it grow. Attending the synod convention this summer reinvigorated him and helped him grow in his conviction that Lutherans teach the true Word of God. He says he wants more Hmong people to know Christ as their Savior.

In the last few years he has experienced some significant health problems, including more than one heart attack and bypass surgery. Although it was scary and painful, he says he knows it was another thing that God guided him through. He’s knows he’s here because God has a purpose for him.

Now his children are all adults and living on their own, each attending church regularly. He also has seven grandchildren. With the perspective he has from his life experiences, he says the number one thing he wants for his children is to “love their Christian family and love each other.” He teaches them never to have to depend on anyone but God and, at the same time, always to be willing to help someone else.

Through his trials, he sees all the times God has protected him, blessed him, and put people in his life to help him. Now his goal is to be able to help others.

Amanda Klemp is a member at Gethsemane, Davenport, Iowa.


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 Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.


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: Amanda Klemp
Volume 105, Number 1
Issue: January 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Sharing the power of God’s grace with the Hmong

Julie K. Wietzke and Joel B. Schroeder

Passionate about reaching the Hmong

Julie K. Wietzke

Tong Xing Yang, one of the newest WELS Hmong pastors, is passionate about sharing the gospel with his fellow Hmong—so passionate that he began a rigorous Pastoral Studies Institute program, graduating at the age of 59.

“My wife and I believe that life on earth is too short, and if we do not know Christ, our lives would not have much purpose,” he says. “I have chosen to become a pastor specifically in order to share the power of God’s grace so that others who may not know or serve God will be saved.”

For more than 30 years, WELS has been sharing the gospel with Hmong immigrants in the United States. This includes training many Hmong men to be pastors and helping support them in their ministry. Some of these men serve congregations here in the United States, while others have returned to share the gospel in their home countries of Thailand and its surrounding area. A Global Hmong Ministry Committee was developed in 2015 to coordinate the ministry opportunities. Hmong pastor Bounkeo Lor recently accepted the call to serve as the Hmong Asia ministry coordinator.

A look at several U.S. Hmong ministries shows the challenges and blessings of reaching out to the Hmong.

New opportunities

With family, or clan, connections being strong in the Hmong culture, Yang and his wife moved to Fresno, Calif., after he graduated from the PSI program in 2013 to continue sharing the gospel with their seven children and their families. It was also a good area for evangelism with 75 percent of the Hmong population there not truly understanding God’s grace.

Yang used his many personal and professional contacts in the Hmong community as opportunities to share God’s message; he also went door-to-door in Hmong neighborhoods. A radio broadcast further widened his outreach. Four years later, Faith Hmong has 93 members and 11 prospects—though the road has not been easy.

“Many Hmong believe that Shamanism is Hmong culture, so when I share God’s message, I am treated as a stranger because I am sharing a religion or culture that is not ‘Hmong,’ ” he says. “Oftentimes, I am challenged, left feeling ashamed, because I have been told that I am not Hmong . . . because I believe in the ‘white man’s religion.’ ”

This, however, doesn’t stop Yang. “My goal is to continue to share the gospel with the Hmong community,” he says. “I hope that God will help grow the seeds that I have tried to plant.”

Growing faith

Pheng Moua, pastor at Immanuel Hmong, St. Paul, Minn., shares Yang’s passion for reaching the lost. While Moua and his 250-member congregation continue to reach out to the largest Hmong population in the U.S., he is also working to make his congregation more independent and self-supporting.

Moua says he has seen much growth in his members’ faith since the congregation started as an exploratory mission in 1999. “A second generation of WELS Hmong Christians have emerged from the older generation that used to worship spirits and ancestors,” he says. “The young men and women whom the Lord brought to Immanuel’s congregation when they were in grade school are now teaching our WELS doctrines to the members and community.”

Currently worshiping at the Anglo congregation, St. John, St. Paul, Minn., Immanuel Hmong would like to secure its own church facility. “If we do not have a place for ourself, it is hard for us to do outreach to the community, and it is hard for our members to take responsibility and ownership,” says Moua. The church has put a building and a fundraising committee in place to work toward that goal.

Moua says Immanuel Hmong hopes to serve as a mother church for future Hmong congregations in the area as well as to partner with neighboring WELS congregations to train Hmong men for the ministry. It is also looking to add English worship services to reach the younger Hmong generation.

Close partnerships

Many Hmong ministries partner closely with an Anglo WELS congregation.

Holy Trinity, New Hope, Minn., found itself in this situation when Bounkeo Lor, then pastor at Grace Hmong, Kansas City, Kan., referred La Xiong to the congregation. Xiong and his extended family went through Bible information class and soon began members at Holy Trinity. Now Xiong is working with Dennis Klatt, pastor at Holy Trinity, and the Pastoral Studies Institute to become a pastor. “I love God and would like to help

others understand the love of Jesus from the gospel,” he says. “I want them to share heaven with me.”

Xiong offers monthly worship in Hmong at Holy Trinity as well as weekly adult Bible study. Besides his studies and his full-time job to support his family, he also is reaching out in his neighborhood and workplace. “I am currently helping a neighbor with landscaping in his yard and have had four conversations with him about Jesus,” he says. He also witnesses to his wife’s grandmother in Menomonie, Wis. “My goal is to get the family elder and his children connected to our WELS church there.”

Because he doesn’t speak English fluently, he is thankful for Holy Trinity’s partnership in reaching out to the second- and third-generation English-speaking Hmong. His and his extended family’s children attend Holy Trinity’s English Sunday school, and the entire group attends the English worship services held every week.

His goal once he becomes a pastor? “I would like to go back to Asia to share the gospel in Thailand and Laos. I would like to help them correctly understand the truth about God’s free and full forgiveness in Jesus.”

Julie Wietzke is managing editor of Forward in Christ.

Partners in the ministry

Joel B. Schroeder

Mt. Olive, Overland Park, Kan., has benefited greatly from associating with and serving Grace Hmong, Kansas City, Kan., 20 minutes northwest of us.

In 2015 we helped Grace Hmong secure a WELS Church Extension Fund loan to purchase and renovate the building they were leasing from a Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod congregation. We guided them through construction then helped them secure a grant to equip that building. Other grants purchased equipment to carry on weekly Internet radio outreach. We’ve included Grace Hmong in our annual budget. We’ve helped fund Pastor Bounkeo Lor’s frequent mission/training trips to Southeast Asia. We’ve helped buy Hmong Bibles and other printed materials he delivered to people begging for Bibles and the gospel. We’ve prayed for and encouraged Grace Hmong. Our pastors preach once a month to Hmong youth to keep them in the saving faith as they become more Americanized. Our pastors helped teach six men in the Pastoral Studies Institute.

Blessings haven’t flowed only one way. We’ve been privileged to see the passion of the Hmong people to hear and spread tirelessly the gospel. We’ve rejoiced when Pastor Lor’s trips overseas uncovered thousands of people begging for more gospel training. We are learning about another culture firsthand—delicious food, unique holidays, bright festival clothing, strong leadership by elders, and respect for the aged.

Grace Hmong has heightened our joy and burden to take the gospel to all nations. World mission opportunities exist down the block or at the next desk. We thank God for helping us see foreign fields near and far white unto harvest through our fellowship with Grace Hmong.

Joel Schroeder is pastor at Mt. Olive, Overland Park, Kansas.

This is the fourth article in a series about cross-cultural outreach in the U.S. and Canada.



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 Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.


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: Joel Schroeder and Julie Wietzke
Volume 104, Number 8
Issue: August 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Using Cultural Connections to further Outreach: St. Paul, Minnesota


Julie K. Wietzke

With 230 members, Immanuel Hmong, St. Paul, Minn., is the largest US WELS Hmong congregation. But it’s not only concentrating on spreading the gospel message in Minnesota. Since fall 2015, Immanuel Hmong has been livestreaming its worship services to broaden the spread of the gospel to Hmong people around the world. “This will help us to share the gospel to places where we are not able to go or where our people do not have a church,” says Pheng Moua, pastor at Immanuel Hmong. WELS Hmong members also can tell their loved ones around the world about this opportunity for weekly worship. About 50 people watch every week from places such as Thailand, Vietnam, France, Australia, East Asia, Laos, and the United States.

Immanuel Hmong also was the site of the recent WELS Hmong National Conference (pictured), in which Hmong pastors and laymembers from around the world strengthened their faith through worship and Bible study and learned more about each other’s ministries.

More than 165 people came from Hmong congregations such as

• Grace Hmong, a home mission in Kansas City, Kan., that recently obtained its own worship facility through a special grant and loan from WELS Church Extension Fund.

• Faith Hmong, Anchorage, Alaska, which shares a building with Faith Anglo, a congregation reaching out to Spanish-speakers.

• Mount Calvary Hmong, a congregation supported by La Crosse, Wis., area WELS churches.

• Trinity Hmong, Manitowoc, Wis., a congregation that grew out of a 30-year mission of First German to reach an immigrant community in Manitowoc.

• Christ’s Gospel Hmong, Clovis, and Faith Hmong, Fresno, two newer California congregations reaching out to family and clan members in the area.

One pastor and his wife from Thailand also attended.

“The encouraging moment is when I see members who live in places where we do not have a church or the church is very small come and see that we have many people worshiping and praising the Lord,” says Moua, who helped plan the conference. “The gathering is uplifting to the members and will encourage their walk with Jesus Christ.”

Julie Wietzke is managing editor of Forward in Christ magazine.


Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.


Learn more about WELS missions in North America.




Author: Julie K. Wietzke
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Using Cultural Connections to further Outreach: Combining Home and World Mission outreach efforts


Julie K. Wietzke

“Around 15 million Hmong are living in darkness. They are oppressed, not only by the power of the devil but also by the power of men,” says Bounkeo Lor, a native Hmong man trained as a pastor through the Pastoral Studies Institute of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.

Lor has a passion for reaching out to his Hmong brothers and sisters. With a foot in outreach in both the United States (pastor at Grace Hmong, Kansas City, Kan.) and abroad (teaching leadership workshops in Vietnam), he is a natural pick as one of two Hmong pastors serving on the WELS Global Hmong Committee, a group that oversees Hmong ministry around the world.

Started as a pilot project in 2015 by the Joint Mission Council, this four-person committee allows the Hmong to have a greater input and responsibility for outreach to their people group. This includes weighing outreach opportunities—both domestic and international—and determining where funds should be spent. “It’s not a bunch of white guys making a decision of what’s best for Hmong ministry, but it’s guys on the front lines who know the culture,” says Robert Raasch, World Missions representative on the Global Hmong Committee. “You get the best of both worlds: men with a strong theological foundation and a passion for outreach—and it’s their culture.”


In January, the Global Hmong Committee met with Hmong national pastors and lay leaders in Thailand to share ministry developments and to discuss further opportunities for working together.

Worldwide in WELS, 25 Hmong pastors serve 8 ministries in the United States and 15 congregations and preaching stations in Thailand and the surrounding area. In addition, there are new opportunities for further Hmong outreach in Vietnam and East Asia and potential for new ministries in the United States.

Lor shares that family, or clan, connections are strong in the Hmong culture, tying these world and home mission fields together. This, he says, makes a joint committee all that more important. “We need each other for the growth of the Hmong ministry,” he says.

He continues, “Sometimes the gap of doing ministry across cultures is so wide that without Hmong representatives, we may lack insight into the best way to do Hmong ministry.”

Both he and Pheng Moua, the other Hmong pastor on the committee, are thankful to be part of a group that is working to further Hmong outreach around the world.

“It is an honor to serve the Lord in this capacity and to touch the lives of the Hmong in different locations and walks of life spiritually,” says Moua. “I serve them to the best of my ability as a bridge builder, to connect and to share their concerns and to walk alongside them. It is not my intention to enforce programs and plans for the mission field; it is my intention to let them grow and take ownership of the mission and ministry.”

He continues, “Hmong outreach is a part of the Great Commission inside the Lord’s church. We will do as much as we can to reach out to them so that their souls will be saved.”

Julie Wietzke is managing editor of Forward in Christ magazine.


Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.


Learn more about WELS missions in North America.




Author: Julie K. Wietzke
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email