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Hmong fellowship, IMB partner to reach Hmong in Thailand

CHIANG RAI, Thailand (BP)–In a dramatic new twist for partnership missions, a Southern Baptist ethnic fellowship is forging a partnership with Southern Baptist missionaries overseas.
The alliance between the Hmong Baptist Fellowship and the International Mission Board could be very good news for the Hmong of Southeast Asia. Though largely unreached with the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, the Hmong are responsive to the gospel. Reports of whole villages turning to Christ are filtering out of the region.
Missions partnerships usually are forged between Southern Baptist state conventions or local associations and Baptist conventions overseas. This agreement is the first between an ethnic fellowship in the United States and missionaries working with the ethnic group overseas.
A six-member team traveled to northern Thailand’s Nan province in February to explore the possibilities for Hmong volunteers from the United States helping with witness and ministry projects in Hmong villages scattered throughout the mountainous region. The team visited Hmong villages and met with evangelical missionaries focused on the Hmong.
Hmong Baptist Fellowship leaders Tong Vang and Xeng Xiong, their spouses and Bob McEachern, an associate director of the IMB’s Volunteers in Missions program, met John Gibson, a Southern Baptist missionary physician who leads a team of missionaries focused on taking the gospel to the Hmong. Gibson has led several mobile medical clinics to remote Hmong villages and is working on a plan to establish a permanent medical outreach based in northern Thailand.
As the group prepared to leave their hotel for the five-hour drive into Nan province, three men — leaders of the largest Hmong congregation in Thailand — ran up to stop them, McEachern said.
“These men had heard we were coming and rode a bus 10 hours to meet us. If we hadn’t been running an hour late in leaving, they would have missed us entirely,” he said. “They rode with us up to Nan, and we learned for the first time of their work among the Hmong.
“Before they left, Tong Vang and Xeng Xiong were able to give them copies of the Bible in the Hmong language. These men were very moved. It was the first time any of them had seen the Bible in their own language.”
That Hmong translation of the Bible is proof the Hmong Baptist Fellowship is dedicated to reaching Hmong for Christ, McEachern said.
“They weren’t able to find anyone to do the translation for them, so they translated it themselves,” he said. “The year before that they translated and printed a Hmong hymnal.”
The Hmong, also known as the Miao, originated in China but migrated to Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar in the 1800s.
About 300,000 Hmong live in the United States, most of them in California and Minnesota, said Vang, who serves as executive director of the Hmong Baptist Fellowship. The fellowship’s 30 congregations count about 1,500 baptized members and run around 4,000 in weekly attendance.
Tong Vang’s 50-member congregation moved from Pittsburgh to Minneapolis in 1984 to expand their opportunities for sharing Christ with Hmong people in the United States, McEachern said.
Although the Hmong Baptist Fellowship is a voluntary association with no budget, Vang said the group can contribute Bibles, hymnals and other materials they have translated. Volunteers can help interpret for evangelistic projects and help train Hmong Christian leaders. Hmong-language literacy workshops also will be eagerly received in villages and give workers an opportunity to put the Hmong Bible to work with people who have never heard the Christian message.
More than anything else, though, Vang wants to see Hmong missionaries at work among their own people. “I hope we can have someone go and be with them, to say, ‘We love you and we are here for you and we have come here to help you grow,'” he said.
“There are many, many Hmong there who need God, who have never heard the gospel and want to know God. It felt great to see them, but it doesn’t feel so good to be so far away and to not be able to do much to help them.
“They are just waiting for us.”

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  • Mark Kelly