Tag Archive for: Hmong

True love, God’s love

As couples prepared to buy chocolate, candies, teddy bears, cards, and roses for each other on Valentine’s Day to express their love for each other, Faith Hmong in Alaska uses this time of the year to gather couples for an evening of food, relaxation, photos, and God’s Word on the message of true LOVE.

“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” – 1 John 4:10a

The message that evening focused on Genesis 2:17, “They become one flesh.” This reminded couples that marriage doesn’t stop after the wedding ceremony, having their first child, or being able to accomplish some of their goals. Couples must be intentional with their marriage. They can’t just show love or affection towards each other once a year on Valentine’s Day; they must show love for each other and serve each other every day to continue to strengthen a marriage, which is built on the foundation of Christ. It was great opportunity for couples to gather together and experience an evening filled with God’s Word, great conversations, and time to reflect on each other.

Faith Hmong in Alaska uses this kind of event as an outreach opportunity to invite friends, family, and neighbors to the Faith Hmong community. We also have events for kids and parents to spend time together, such as a family paint night, which is planned for next month. Coming to worship services can be a little intimidating for some, but with events like these, believers and friends can come and relax and hear about their Lord. It’s a fun way for the church members to do outreach in the community.

We have been serving the Hmong community of Anchorage since 2009 and have established a beautiful relationship with our Anglo brothers and sisters at Faith Lutheran Church. Every Sunday, our doors are open early in the morning for an English service, followed by a Hispanic service preached by Pastor Chris Ewings and Pastor Nathan Wagenknecht. Then, we end our Sunday with a Hmong service starting at 3:00 p.m., followed by Hmong Sunday School. We designate the first Sunday of each month as a fellowship Sunday for the opportunity to invite friends, families, and neighbors to attend and enjoy some snacks and conversations.

Faith Hmong continues to focus its ministry on the Hmong community in Anchorage, and God continues to bless us. We look for opportunities to share what so many people in the world are still seeking – LOVE. A love the world cannot give, but rather true love that comes only from our Savior, Jesus.

Learn more about our ministry at faithhmongalaska.org.

Written by Pastor Pao Moua, Home Missionary at at Faith Hmong Lutheran Church in Anchorage, Alaska

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“One Faith, One Family.” – Hmong National Conference 2022

What would lead people to pack into three vehicles at 11:30 p.m. and drive through the night from Kansas City to Wisconsin or catch the 2:00 a.m. red eye flight from Fresno to Milwaukee? The answer is the Hmong National Conference hosted by Trinity Hmong in Manitowoc, Wis., this past July 29-31. After canceling the last two national conferences due to COVID, about 170 Hmong brothers and sisters were finally able to gather together to celebrate with food, fellowship, and the Word of God.

The theme for the gathering was, “One Faith, One Family.” Separate breakout sessions were held in English for the teens and in Hmong for the adults.

Pastor Sam Lor of St. John’s, Minneapolis, Minn., led about 50 teens through the topic, “Cultural Identity through Baptismal Identity.” Why this subject? Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) student and cohost, Semson Lor, said, “In the world today you can identify so many different ways. We wanted teens to see who they are in Christ.”

At the same time the teens met, Pastor Pheng Moua of Immanuel Hmong in St. Paul, Minn., was leading the adults in the Bible Study, “How to Encourage One Another.” “We are living in the End Times and it is important to motivate each other and build each other up in order to let our light shine to the world.”

All the devotions, sermons, and Bible studies of the conference reinforced the theme, “One Faith, One Family.” Pastor Ger Lor of Grace Hmong in Kansas City, Kans., stated, “Unity of brothers and sisters in Christ was what the Savior prayed among his disciples: ‘that they may all be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, and they may also be one in us.’ The gospel creates a unity of faith with our Father, our Savior and our fellow believers.”

Pastor Joel Nitz was also in attendance for the first time since he took the call to serve the Hmong in Vietnam. He reflected, “I had a wonderful experience as I connected with our WELS Hmong members in the U.S., worshiped and learned with them, and practiced my Hmong language skills.”

In addition to feeding the soul, there was plenty of food for the body. The meals reflected the different places Hmong people have called home over the decades. Laotian pho was served for lunch one day and all-American hamburgers served picnic style for dinner on another. In order to work off the extra calories, a sports tournament was held on Friday that included volleyball and corn hole.

The highlight of the conference was at the Sunday morning worship service where the group expressed their spiritual and doctrinal unity at the Communion Service.

And why travel so far? Pastor Xing Yang of Faith in Clovis, Calif., shared, “Jesus. I tell the people it is about Jesus.” The next Hmong National Conference is scheduled for 2024 in Fresno, Calif.

Written by Rev. Leon Ehlert, Chairman for the North America Hmong Committee

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Communicating the power of the gospel cross-culturally

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

Romans 10:14

When Jesus came to earth, he preached the good news. According to the four gospels, the amazing thing Jesus did during his three years of ministry were not the miracles, but the communicating and ministering done with the power of the gospel. Clear communication of the gospel is a necessity for a minister or an evangelist. When Jesus preaches the good news, he uses a simple and easy to understand way to communicate the gospel to the people to whom he is speaking.

One question we ask ourselves at Grace Hmong Lutheran Church is, “How do we communicate the gospel to the unbelieving Hmong people? Especially people who believe that inanimate objects have souls?” When Paul and Barnabas communicated the gospel in Lystra (Acts 14:8–23), they spoke to people with these beliefs in a clear and understandable way.

It is the power of the gospel that brings wonderful news to the whole world, including the Hmong community! God sent his Son into the world to die for sinners. Our sins are forgiven. That is awesome! That is the good news! That is the powerful message of the gospel God has given us, and we pray that the power of the Holy Spirt will guide us to communicate this message to others clearly and understandably. This is SO important, especially in cross-cultural ministry.

New members at Grace Hmong

This past January, 11 prospects of Grace Hmong completed the membership course and were confirmed into the Christian faith. The members of Grace Hmong or I had no power in converting these people into faith. It only happened by the working of the Spirt through the Word.

But how did we meet them so that we could share the gospel with them? It was a short conversation between one of our members and the head of their family. Then they came to our 2019 Thanksgiving Service. After the service they were invited to join the meal. At mealtime, Grace members and I had the opportunity to talk with these families about their faith and presented the pure gospel to them. They were interested! They told me that they never heard that sinners are saved through faith in Christ – they had been taught that sinners are saved only through good works. A couple weeks later, they came to our Sunday morning service and continued after that. Three months later, they decided to take the membership course.

During the membership course, they learned the theology of the cross. Every time we met, I tried to communicate the gospel in a clear and simple way for them to understand. The power of the gospel slowly penetrated and created faith in their hearts. We cleared up misunderstandings they had from the past. Now they are baptized and confirmed into the faith and are members of WELS!

What changed their hearts and turned them to the saving power of Christ? It was not the wonderful meal Grace prepared for them. It was not the money Grace spent on that day. It was not the power of the members or Pastor Lor that penetrated their hearts. It was the Holy Spirit working through the gospel.

That is why it is important for the church, the members, and the pastor to communicate clearly the simple message of the gospel. In the Great Commission, Jesus declares his authority over all things, and then he commands us to go and communicate the good news to others. Jesus wants us to share the power of the saving gospel with other people the way he taught. To God alone be the glory!

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

Learn more about Hmong ministry at wels.net/hmong.


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The bigger the animal, the more special the feast

The bigger the animal, the more special the feast. Traditionally and culturally in the Hmong community, a cow is reserved for a special occasion. (when a baby boy is born, marriage, etc.) A cow signifies the happiness of the parents. A wedding feast with a cow for the meal is a feast for a family of wealth.

Faith Hmong Lutheran Church in Anchorage, Alaska, had a special meal like this in June. It was a meal to invite the community to, and a meal to share with the congregation for the three days of our annual camp. God’s Word says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

“Out of darkness”, is so true as we were held under the control of Satan and his lies. How wonderful it is to celebrate together with brothers and sisters under the cross and to share this experience with other redeemed children of God, young and old.

Ladies enjoying the beef bone

The question was brought up as to how we could gather and have a special meal – how special of a meal was the next question. Leaders in the congregation had to struggle with this question. Chickens, pig, goat, or even a cow? The price of livestock is not cheap in Alaska. To make it as special as possible, we would need to get a cow.

“Why not?” the leaders asked. $1,500-$2,000 is the asking price for a cow, but it would make this year’s camp very special.

In November 2018, the leaders got the ball rolling as we ended that meeting. The idea was that leaders would start to donate to this meal – $10 a week, $20 a week, even $50 a week, depending on what they were able to donate. Then, at the beginning of June, whatever else was needed, we would ask for a donation from the congregation to cover the cost.

What a blessing it was to see when brothers and sister unite and come together for a purpose. We were able to gather enough funds to cover the cost of the cow for this fellowship event.

Camp devotion

June 20, 2019, the day before our camp was to start, a couple strong youth and myself drove to Palmer, Alaska, to butcher this cow for our feast. We butchered the cow at the farm and hauled pretty much all the parts that were necessary – all of the meat, including the stomach, heart, lungs, and intestine. The phrase “leave nothing behind” was true for us as we only left behind what was not edible.

What a blessing it was to have many hands to help with this process. We were able to bring all the meat back to camp and process it there. Many people are familiar with hanging the meat first, but not in the Hmong community. We process the meat into smaller portions to cook right away, and to make sure we have enough to cook for all our planned meals.

Four meals were planned – one for Friday evening, two for Saturday, and one more on Sunday. We thank a couple of our ladies for taking charge of the meal prep. They are great cooks who really know how to cook this traditional food!

On Saturday afternoon, we held our special meal. Members were encouraged to share personal invitations to the Hmong community to come and join us for this special meal. Though the drive was about 1.5 hours from Anchorage, we had three non-member families come and join us for this special meal. The meal’s menu included Laarb ( fine ground beef mixed with herbs), which can be made raw and cooked, boiled beef bone soup (a very time-consuming dish, where the sauce is made from the intestine), short ribs, lean meats, tripe (stomach), BBQ beef, rice, and pepper to go along these dishes.

Lake games

We thank the Lord for an afternoon filled with laughter, conversation, fellowship, games, songs, and the sharing of God’s Word through devotions.

Three days was not long enough. If only we could hold time still for a moment. To see brothers and sisters in Christ gather together and to have families who don’t believe be able to join us and see the unity, fellowship, love, and care of Christians was a great blessing. It’s not just the planning that made all this come together, but God’s guidance and blessings. This was made possible by everyone involved. We had roughly 70 people throughout the three days, and nearly 100 people at Saturday’s meal. We had enough meat left over to share with the 18 families at Faith Hmong. The fact that each family was able to go home with a portion to enjoy shows us the abundance of God blessings.

We are looking forward to next year already! Maybe it won’t involve butchering a cow (as that’s a lot of work), but maybe something smaller. Any time we get to spend working together, loving each other, and being led by the Lord will be time well spent. May the Lord continue to bless this ministry and lead us to do all things to glorify him alone.

Written by Pastor Pao Moua, home missionary at Faith Hmong Lutheran Church in Anchorage, Alaska. 


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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 wels.net/hmong.

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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. 

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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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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 wels.net? 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 © 2021
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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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 ’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 wels.net? 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 © 2021
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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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 © 2021
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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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 © 2021
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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