Pastor’s Column: Evangelism in the Hmong Community

What does evangelism look like at St. Paul Hmong Alliance Church (SPHAC)? First, let me give us some context. Saint Paul Hmong Alliance Church is a Hmong church located in the Maplewood/St. Paul area. Most of our members are in the St. Paul area, however some of our members live as far out as Forest Lake, Rogers, and Hudson, Wisconsin.

According to a Pioneer Press article on March 8, 2015, “Minnesota Hmong at 40: First immigrants set the bar high for children,” the population of Hmong people in Minnesota increased from 17,764 in 1990 to 77,575 in 2013. There are a lot of Hmong people in the Twin Cities. The Hmong people are animistic in their religion because most of them migrated to the U.S. from Southeast Asia. The non-Christian spiritual leaders of the Hmong people are shamans (witch doctors, if you will) and sorcerers. Among them are black magic practitioners and psychics.

The non-Christian spiritual leaders of the Hmong people are shamans (witch doctors, if you will) and sorcerers
Evil spirits and ancestral spirits rule the Hmong people through the aforementioned spiritual leaders. Spiritual encounters and spiritual attacks are very common among Hmong non-Christians and even Christian believers. One needs to understand that the majority of the Hmong people are either hard-core shaman-practicing non-Christians or Christians. The exception is the small group of highly-educated Hmong people who have forsaken their spiritual beliefs and practices (until they are spiritually attacked). The older generation of non-Christian Hmong people is deeply entrenched in shamanistic beliefs and practices. The younger generation who avoid their shamanistic beliefs and practices will eventually face a decision to either commit fully to shamanism or be converted to Christianity; this decision usually comes when their ancestral family spirits or evils spirits attack them.

Spiritual attacks and oppression through dreams, nightmares and physical assaults (manifestations of evil spirits) are very common.

Spiritual attacks and oppression through dreams, nightmares and physical assaults are very common…
Many of these attacks and oppression lead to a life of fear and bondage, suicide and even murder, depending on the level of control that evil spirits have on a person. When this happens, a person is forced to turn to their shamans or the church for help, protection, and deliverance. Almost always, the victim will do anything and believe in anything that will bring them protection and deliverance.

The challenge for Hmong churches is that they need to have a very strong foundation in the work of the Holy Spirit and His empowerment in the ministries of healing, deliverance, and spiritual warfare. Evangelism through preaching a gospel of Jesus Christ that has the power to save the soul from sin and eternal death, deliver from the power of the devil, and heal physical sicknesses is a must. The book of Acts is full of this.

…need to have a very strong foundation in the work of the Holy Spirit and His empowerment.
We see this very clearly in the ministries of Paul, Peter, and other church leaders. However, if there is one passage that best captures our church’s evangelism efforts, it is Acts 8:4-25. Here, we see Philip preaching the gospel in Samaria.  In verse 6-8, the Scripture stated, “When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city” (NIV). Later on, we see Simon, the sorcerer, who, through sorcery, had “amazed all the people of Samaria” for a long time and “boasted that he was someone great” because the people regarded him as the “Great Power of God” (Acts 8:9-10, NIV). The Hmong shamans, sorcerers, and black magic practitioners of our day are like Simon in his days. They held the Hmong people captive by fear through their evil spiritual powers of darkness.

For the Hmong churches, it is not enough to have the right theology, we must live and be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:1-17), be anointed by the Holy Spirit with power, and minister in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).

…they want to know that the power of Jesus Christ is greater than that of the evil spirits holding them in bondage and attacking them.
Without the Holy Spirit’s divine empowerment, evangelism to the Hmong people will bear very little fruit. In evangelizing the Hmong people, they want to know that the power of Jesus Christ is greater than that of the evil spirits holding them in bondage and attacking them. Even the believers who evangelize the non-believers may be attacked by evil spirits sent by shamans, sorcerers, and back magic practitioners. If your faith and your walk with God isn’t strong, you can be vulnerable to these attacks. Paul made this clear to the Ephesian believers:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:10-13, NIV)

When shamans, sorcerers, and black magic practitioners realize that they are losing their people to Christ, they are not going to walk away quietly without a fight.

…evangelism is very exciting, because we witness the power of Jesus Christ every day in our lives…
Even during some of our deliverance sessions, the shamans, sorcerers and black magic practitioners will speak to us through the person who has been possessed that they “hate losing to Jesus Christ.” Some even identify themselves as current practicing shamans or sorcerers in our community.

Because the Hmong people have such a strong background in animistic shamanism, after their conversion, it is very important that they are discipled in the truth of God’s Word. Otherwise, they will soon revert right back to their old ways. So discipleship is the next most important things that need to be done.

For our church, evangelism is very exciting, because we witness the power of Jesus Christ every day in our lives, exactly as in the days of the disciples in Acts. We have also come to realize more and more why Jesus did his ministry the way he did:

signs will accompany those who believe…
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. (Matthew 4:23-25, NIV)

And we have also come to a better understanding of his Great Commission as given through the book of Mark, where he stated that as we preach the gospel, the “signs will accompany those who believe” (Mark 16:17-18, NIV). We have also found and discovered that the Lord Jesus has been faithful to his promise to be with us and to work with us by confirming his word by the signs that accompanied it” (Mark 16:20, NIV).

 

Rev. Chong Yang is the Lead Pastor at St. Paul Hmong Alliance Church in St. Paul. He received his degree in Pastoral Ministry from Crown College. He previously planted and pastored New Life In Christ Worship Center as a Second Generation Church. And before that was the pastor of Hmong Alliance Church in Minnetonka, MN. (Pictured here with his wife  of 27 years, Bee Her.)

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