Hmong Baptists celebrate being Southern Baptists

DENVER, Colorado (BP) – More than 150 people from the 54 Hmong Southern Baptist churches across the United States gathered Oct. 13-15 at First Hmong Baptist Church of Broomfield, a north Denver suburb, for the Hmong Baptist National Association’s annual meeting.

With a theme of “Renew Refresh Restore in Christ” and Psalm 51:10-12 as its Scripture, the 31st annual meeting included passage of an $80,000 budget, election of officers, and the preaching of five Hmong leaders, plus three days of Southeast Asian cuisine and fellowship.

“Many people said the meeting was very good,” Executive Director W. Tra Xiong told Baptist Press. “We don’t have any debating. Everything was very good. No conflict or anything confusing.”

New officers, each elected for a two-year term: President Chue Ger Herr, pastor for the last 21 years at First Hmong Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo.; Vice President Chong Pao Thao, pastor for the last four years at First Hmong Baptist Church of Denver, located in the Broomfield suburb. Treasurer Lydia Ly, children’s minister at Followers of Christ Hmong Baptist Church in St. Paul, Minn.; Secretary Chue Fue Moua, founding pastor in 2021 of United Cornerstone Baptist Church in Oakdale, Minn.

That the Hmong were a minority people group shunted around mountainous regions of Southeast and East Asian countries is a part of their history. Because of that history, they like the freedom they have in Southern Baptist autonomous churches, Xiong said.

“Many people coming to Southern Baptists because they like the way Southern Baptists function,” the executive director explained. “Hmong people want to adapt to American culture, to make their own decisions. They want the Bible to teach them and train them so they can do what God told them to do. They don’t want anyone forcing them.”

Xiong teaches at the Hmong Study Center started three years ago that is affiliated with Gateway Seminary in Ontario, Calif. Fourteen students have graduated, and at least half of them are pastoring churches.

Other Hmong leaders Xiong knows about are studying at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and at California Baptist University.

“In the future we want to get more leaders, train more leaders so we can start new churches,” the Hmong leader for 30 years said. “When we start churches, we need pastors to lead congregations.”

While today the largest concentration in the United States of people with Hmong heritage are in/near St. Paul, Minn., and Fresno, Calif., the first Hmong Southern Baptist church to be started was in Kansas City, Kan., in 1977. In 2021, two were started: United Cornerstone Baptist Church in Oakdale, Minn., and Reborn Baptist Church in Sun Prairie, Wis.

“We plan by 2023 to 2025 to start three new churches in the US,” Xiong continued. “In Portland, Ore., Sacramento, Calif., and Wausau, Wis.”

In addition to the 54 churches in the United States that worship in a Hmong context, 70 in Vietnam, eight in Thailand, six in Laos and one in France also affiliate with Southern Baptists.

This is because Southern Baptist missionaries and volunteer mission teams have for years ministered and built relationships among Hmong people, said Xiong, who trains Hmong leaders overseas every year.

“You can see this [growth of the Hmong fellowship] is the result of the Cooperative Program,” Xiong continued. “We are working together and the Great Commission is being fulfilled around the world.”

Xiong was one of five men to preach during the Hmong annual meeting. The others: Peter Yanes, executive director of Asian American Relations and Mobilization at the SBC Executive Committee; Michael Proud Jr., executive director of the Colorado Baptist General Convention; Pao Ly, pastor of First Hmong Baptist Church in Morganton, NC; and Joseph Yang, pastor of Hmong Unity Christian Church in St. Paul.

When Xiong preached Oct. 16 – the day after the Hmong annual meeting concluded – at First Hmong Baptist Church of Broomfield, Colorado – “two people accepted Christ and joined the church,” Xiong said. “That also fulfills the Great Commission.”

The next annual meeting of the Hmong Baptist National Convention is set for Sept. 27-30, 2023, at the Green Lake Christian Conference Center in Green Lake, Wis. It will include biennial conferences for men, women and youth.