by Paige K. Slighter
The Hmong Mennonite Church that meets in our building recently celebrated Hmong New Year. This is a festive cultural holiday that encourages gratefulness and welcomes new beginnings. During the celebration, church members dress in traditional Hmong clothing and enjoy traditional Hmong food. Historically, the Hmong New Year occurred at the end of the harvest season when all the hard farm work was done. It was a way for villages to come together in unity and give closure to the past year.
Customarily, non-Christian Hmong celebrations included Shamanistic rituals like animal sacrifice to ancestors. As Christians, the Mennonite Church celebrates by meditating on God’s love and his protection throughout the year. The holiday presents an opportunity for the church to continue the preservation of Hmong culture while honoring God through fellowship.
As the church reflects on this past year, one thing they are grateful for is the opportunity to use Woodland Hills as a gathering place. The building makes it possible for them to study scripture, worship, serve different ministries and grow together in fellowship. Their congregation has grown from twenty people to one hundred, and they look forward to even more growth in the new year.
They are also grateful for their faithful minister, Pastor Xeng Thao. When he made the decision to serve in 2014, he and his family left behind more than just their homeland, Thailand. They also parted with their familiar lifestyle, close community and some family members. Pastor Xeng Thao and his wife, Dao, came to the US with three of their children, but two of their older daughters stayed behind.
The church is inspired by their commitment and encouraged by their faithful example. They see it as a reflection of Matthew 16:24-26, where Jesus called his disciples to pick up their cross and follow him. Pastor Xeng Thao knew that coming to America would not be easy, yet he continued to pursue his calling and put his hope in Jesus. The congregation recently held an egg roll fundraiser in the Gathering Area to support Pastor Xeng Thao as he finishes paying off the family’s visa loans. They only have $2,000 left to raise.
As the community looks forward to 2019, they are praying for continued spiritual growth and fellowship. They are a multi-generational church that values their great inheritance of faith and the richness of their Hmong culture. It’s important to remember the past and appreciate where they came from, as well as strive forward with great expectations for the future.
If you’d like to check out one of their services, the Hmong Mennonite Church meets from 3-5pm on Sundays near Door C. If you’d like more information, you can connect with Mai Yang at firstname.lastname@example.org