Missionary Chris Heng and his wife, Zong, serve at
Missionary Chris Heng and his wife, Zong, deliver Thanksgiving dinner to Song
Tao and her family.
Zong Heng (left) shares the Gospel with Song Tao, a Hmong immigrant who said
the only time she had heard about Jesus before was from Mormon missionaries who
visited her home on bicycles.
One of the groups of volunteers from Twin Cities Hmong Baptist Church in St.
Paul delivers food to the Hmong community. Each box contained a turkey (with
instructions on how to cook it) and all the trimmings for a traditional
Thanksgiving, as well as a presentation of the Gospel.
Missionary Chris Heng and his wife, Zong, pray with a family in the community.
St. Paul is home to more than 26,000 Hmong people—the largest concentration of
Hmong in the U.S.
Who are the Hmong People?Originally
from China, the Hmong people group were driven out of the country into
Southeast Asia. They settled in mountainous regions of Laos, Vietnam and other
parts of Southeast Asia.The name Hmong means "free
Many Hmong families came to the U.S. as refugees in the 1970s,
sponsored by family members or churches. Others came because of the many
support programs offered by both non-profit and government organizations and
They tend to have large families and are closely knit to their clan
choosing to live close to each other. The clans are divided by last names
such as the Thao, Yang, Vang, Xiong and Her. Hmong people connect with
each other through the clan.
Many Hmong live in urban areas and are influenced by "street
culture" including gangs. Several Hmong gangs have
What is their language?The Hmong, who
have settled in the U.S., have two main dialects: White Hmong and Green
What is their religion?Animism, a
belief that everything has a soul, is the basis of belief for most Hmong
people, including the practice of ancestral worship and shamanism. Shamanism is
a family religion that is closely tied to the culture and many feel that if
they abandon Shaman practices they will lose their cultural
Are they open to the gospel?More than
300,000 Hmong people live in the U.S. today. The majority reside in three
states; California, Wisconsin and Minnesota. In 1975, Southern Baptists and
other Christian denominations began to sponsor Hmong refugees coming to the
U.S. This led to the start of Hmong churches throughout the U.S., now numbering
Because of the respect and closeness of the clans, once a member of a
clan becomes a Christian they can easily lead their entire clan to know
Today, 5 percent of the U.S. Hmong population has been reached with
In 1991, the Hmong Baptist National Association (www.hbna.org) was formed by the
Southern Baptist Convention to provide resources, translate material, prepare
Hmong for ministry and provide a resource center of information for
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The families were delighted to receive the food because they needed
it. They were puzzled because, as Hmong immigrants from Laos or Thailand, most
had never cooked a turkey or even had a Thanksgiving meal.
The outreach was a partnership between Twin Cities Hmong Baptist
Church in St. Paul and three other congregations: Calvary Baptist Church of
Roseville, which donated the bulk of the $3,000 needed to purchase the food,
Twin Cities Chinese Christian Church and St. Paul Fellowship.
Each box contained a turkey (with instructions on how to cook it) and
traditional stuffing, as well as Asian staples like cabbage, Asian fruits,
string bean noodles, carrots and Top Ramen. Each box also included a
presentation of the gospel.
Most of the recipients had never heard that Jesus loved them, until
team members delivered the food.
"Our goal is to share the love of God with them," says Zong Heng,
whose husband, Chris, pastors Twin Cities Hmong Baptist Church. "We just want
to reach out to the Hmong community. Even if they don't go to our church
afterward, we want them to think about how much God loves them."
One of the recipients, Song Tao, told the group the only time she and
her husband had heard about Jesus was from Mormon missionaries who visited
their home on bicycles.
Heng explained the difference between Mormons and biblical Christians,
then the group prayed with the couple.
"They said it was OK to call them later," says Zong, whose mother
brought her to the U.S. as a 2-year-old.
The food distribution was conceived when Len Newquiest, a member of
Calvary Baptist, called and asked if the Hmong congregation would help Calvary
share the gospel with some Hmong families. St. Paul is home to more than 26,000
Hmong people—the largest concentration of Hmong people in the U.S. Maria Her,
the worship director at Twin Cities Hmong, estimates 80 percent of the Hmong
population in the U.S. have never heard the gospel.
The Hengs had been praying about what their church should do for a
"We believe it was a God-thing," says Chris Heng, a North American
Mission Board missionary. "We created a flier in Hmong to go with the boxes,
inviting the families to church and sharing Jesus' love."
More than half of the 80 volunteers who met at St. Paul Fellowship to
pick up the boxes were from the Hmong church. Before delivering the food, the
groups received directions, an informal training on Hmong culture and prayed
together. Each of the groups had one Hmong-speaking person with them to share
the gospel in the heart language of the families they would be
"I'm pretty excited about this," says Her. "There is a really big need
for something like this."
Twin Cities Hmong Church is unique because it welcomes all Hmong
generations, Her explains. By providing translation devices during the service
for Hmong speakers and singing a mixture of Hmong and English songs, the church
tries to provide a balance for its members.
Half of Twin Cities Hmong Church is under 25 years old.
"We are reaching the second and third generations of Hmong but also
keeping the culture for the first generation," she says. "We don't polarize one
After delivering the food, the Hmong congregation gathered to enjoy
their own Thanksgiving feast mixed with traditional Hmong food.
"We pray that our outreach today will draw Hmong people to seek only
Jesus and no others," says Chris. "We wanted to put our faith into
Kelli Cottrell is a freelance writer who lives near Grand Rapids,
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