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Hmong Baptists’ handmade Christmas ornaments freely spread God’s love

Members of the Woman’s Missionary Union of First Hmong Baptist Church in Coon Rapids, Minn., include, from left, Tia Underbakke, Angel Vang, Elee Vang, Dee Thao and Cindy Vang.

The more than 500 Christmas ornaments First Hmong Baptist Church gifted this year included Scripture and a brief history of the Hmong people.

COON RAPIDS, Minn. (BP) — No price tag seemed appropriate. Should First Hmong Baptist Church sell its colorful handmade Christmas ornaments to support international missions?

“It felt like it was made to be given away, like Jesus,” First Hmong Woman’s Mission Union co-leader Cindy Vang told Baptist Press. “Jesus was [begotten] to be given away.”

Tia Underbakke, who works alongside Cindy and is also First Minnesota-Wisconsin WMU vice president, agrees.

“We were saying this many for this much, and it just didn’t feel right,” Underbakke said. “They were meant to be given away.”

First Hmong Baptist Church Pastor Tonger Vang said the distribution of the church’s handmade ornaments is patterned after God’s gift of Jesus to the world.

“Christmas is a reminder of how much God loves us,” Tonger said. “In John 3:16 it talks about how much He loves the world that He sent His only Son to die on the cross for us. That is His gift to us, His sacrifice to us, and that is His ultimate gift, and that is what Christmas is about, His ultimate gift.”

First Hmong Baptist made more than 500 ornaments this Christmas and is still giving them away. The church gave 300 ornaments to WMU ministry partner First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., and 200 to the Martha Franks Retirement Community in Laurens, S.C., with others on the list.

“It’s not all just beautiful, but it also has a meaning,” Cindy said. “We want people to remember about Jesus and what He did.”

Members of First Hmong Baptist Church used traditional Hmong fabrics and jewelry craft supplies to make free Christmas ornaments for others this year.

With ornamentation on one side and a Scripture on the other, the ornaments are useful tools for spreading the Gospel and fulfilling the Great Commission, Underbakke said.

“As they’re looking at the ornament, they have a story to share,” she said. “They’re also passing on the love of Christ through sharing that story.”

“Free people” is the very meaning of “Hmong,” a people group who began immigrating to the U.S. from the violence in Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War. The U.S. Census numbered the Hmong here at more than 300,000 in 2020.

Cindy believes God dispersed the Hmong people all over the world to position them for missions. She served as Minnesota-Wisconsin WMU president from 2015-2020.

“I think the biggest thing that I realized is that during the Vietnam War, during all the tragedy, everything that went on and we thought that it would never be done with, through all of that, God had a big plan for us,” Cindy said. “Through that, He dispersed us all over the world.

The Christmas ornaments First Hmong Baptist Church made this year are representative of Hmong culture.

“The American people have shared with us who God is, and then now that we know, it is our time to partner with them. And that’s why we wanted to make the ornament, in order to share about how much God loves us. That tiny little ornament is able to share just how much God loves us and also loves them.”

Making the ornaments also gave First Hmong a new opportunity to fellowship in person after being somewhat isolated during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It just really brought us back together, and I think that a lot of churches are needing that right now. It’s for the givers, but also the receivers,” she said. “Next year we would like to share with other churches how to make the ornaments. We would like it nationwide, and people can put their own twist to it.”