A New Era — A Guest Article by Rev. Nathan Raddatz

BLC_interface_r1_c3 Those who work closest in the area of ethnic mission efforts, understand how difficult it is to begin an ethnic church that becomes self-supportive in a reasonable amount of time.  I think it is time to move into A New Era.  One in which, this reality is reality no more. I would encourage you to consider the work at Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church in inner city St. Paul, MN as one effort towards this. The plan includes reaching out to the Hmong (Asian), thus strengthening Bethlehem and starting two new churches that will be self-supportive.

Please note that I am not advocating for segregation.  However, as I consider the Hmong (Asian), which I love and work with, I know that there is a large gap in language, learning and culture that must be considered when reaching out.

How can the Hmong Mission Proposal model the way for the LCMS to move into A New Era (self-supportive ethnic churches) with ethnic mission starts?

Consider the various foundations the Proposal builds upon:

a. The area directly around Bethlehem has the highest density of Hmong in the whole U.S.A.

b. Bethlehem members naturally have built many relationships with Hmong families. (i.e. One member, who is a private piano teacher for a number of Hmong families, awaits eagerly the day she can refer the families to the Hmong Pastor.)

c. Bethlehem started a classically based Lutheran School, JOY Academy, in 2009, which is becoming an option for more Hmong families.

d. Most of the Hmong members at Bethlehem are young, well-connected to many other Hmong through school and employment and some even hold key positions in the community.

e. Hmong members serve in the highest positions in church leadership, in addition to Sunday School Superintendent and other chairs of church boards.

f. Bethlehem has a called (part-time) deaconess who can serve alongside Hmong women in their areas of need.

Consider what the Hmong Mission Proposal addresses that is key to a self-supporting church:

a. The need for the Mission Planter to be very comfortable as bicultural, bilingual and engaging with Hmong of all ages, especially the young Hmong.

b. The ability to be engaging at a high level in Lutheran theology to compare and contrast the various beliefs of animism versus Christianity.  Many Hmong want to know the truth.

c. The ability and experience to raise up leaders within the Hmong culture and involve men in the life of the Church.

d. The experience of living and teaching biblical stewardship.

e. Organizational skills to provide ideas and execute activities that address a growing divorce rate, two parent households, where both parents work outside the home, and cultural clashes between the youth and “elders.”

As you notice, some things in this proposal may be common across various plans, others not.  The mission proposal, which could lend to A New Era (in the LCMS), is in eyesight.  In fact, I ask that you pray for the members of Bethlehem as they deliberate about issuing a call to a Hmong Pastor on Sunday, January 20th.  You can certainly support this effort with a financial gift and know that your mission dollars are being put to great use and in the process, the LCMS is reaching all nations.

Note: The Minnesota South District (MNS) and partner churches have made this proposal a reality.  Initially, the MNS District is providing 1/3 support, Bethlehem, 1/3 support; and partner churches, 1/3 support.  The support of the district will slowly decrease.  Support from partner churches, God – willing will hold steady.  Support from Bethlehem will continue to rise.  The proposal calls for the whole effort to be self supportive by the end of Year 5.

 Rev. Nathan Raddatz is the pastor at Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN.  You can email him at [email protected] 



A New Era — A Guest Article by Rev. Nathan Raddatz — 14 Comments

  1. Yes, the mission field has moved to the USA. may precious folks can be reached for Christ here where they could not be in their orginal countries. The Hmong suffered greatly for their support of the US during the Vietnamese War.

    Bethlehem (where Christ was born for all) How appropriate!

  2. This is a great thing that such an outreach is happening! Definitely prayer for this!

    Question, though: would it be fair to assume that there is an eventual plan to integrate the Hmong Lutherans with the non-Hmong brethren in some way, shape, or form?

  3. @J. Dean #3

    Wouldn’t that be great! Yet, from what I’ve seen in articles and blogs elsewhere, the outreach to the Hmong culture in the United States is progressing in different stages, depending on the region and depending on the congregation. A few years ago, a student from Fort Wayne was called to the Hmong communities in California. The last I heard on that field, the pastor was catechizing quite a few folks, but, I think, only a handful at the time were communicate members of their local congregation. Maybe, someone has an update on that as well.

  4. I hate to say this, but what in the world are any Hmong doing living in a harsh, arctic-like place like Minnesota. Do they just stay inside for 9 months of the year? I’ll bet when they come from Asia, even Summer up there is cold to them. Stop dislocating these people. Find a good matching geographical location in America for them, and accommodate them, not our mid-west focus.

    You know that South Louisiana has a large population of Vietnamese, who came here for the same reason, they supported the US. They were already Roman Catholics from colonial French missionaries of the 19th and early 20th century. They have formed their own ghetto out in the high-grass (Roseau cane) along the Chef Menteur Highway, and one of them was briefly in the US Congress to represent New Orleans.

    Geographically, it’s a god-forsaken place to us, but out of sight and out of mind. Although the Vietnamese are within the levee system, and the eastern levees have been, or are being completely rebuilt much higher. They would still need to evacuate any tropical storms.

    Do the US allied Vietnamese and the US allied Hmong get along at all. The Hmong are a highland people I understand, so living in a wet marsh with high grass blocking all views, would seem clostrophobic to them at first, the Vietnamese have made it their own, even surrounded by encroaching Black ghettos (now stopped because New Orleans East is just too exposed to Hurricane inundations, something bleedingly obvious to all us locals for hundreds of years.

    Still, they have made a home there and made it their own. Our winters are still colder than they would prefer, but far from arctic.

    I am saying that the US allied Hmong deserve a better placement in America than the frozen north. They have been misplaced and a geographically similar settlement more understood by the US allied Hmong should be found and, and we should offer help to the Hmong to move there. But, of course, only if they wish. Maybe Southeastern Asians can be turned into Eskimos.

    If all of them moved out the Chef and formed a new community along side the Vietnamese, with a Lutheran Church (Prince of Peace, much further west toward the city proper, and the WELS church, Crown of Life is right smack in the depths of New Orleans East. The WELS have been focusing on the New Orleans East black community, but would be excellently positioned, along with PoP to help the Hmong settle there, if the Hmong would find the area and the Vietnamese and Black neighbors, and the lowland geography acceptable.

    The Hmong do not belong in Minnesota. Maybe a tribe of Lutheran Eskimos would fit, but not Southeast Asians. Give it some thought, this proposed relocation to warmer climes or warm hilly places in the Oregon area. These are a lost tribe. Try to find them a proper home while you work for the Holy Spirit to offer them the Only God who Exists.

    Minnesota needs to let go physically, and to hold on spiritually.

  5. @Joanne #6
    Do the US allied Vietnamese and the US allied Hmong get along at all.

    The Hmong do not belong in Minnesota. Maybe a tribe of Lutheran Eskimos would fit, but not Southeast Asians.

    The Vietnamese who located in Louisiana were fishing folk who went to what they knew.
    Others among them were relocated by the American companies they worked for, until the evacuation, and where possible, jobs were found for them in those companies or others. These were the educated people. (The Roman Catholics are generally well regarded in Asia because they operate prep schools which turn out students eligible for European universities.)

    [A Thai Lutheran friend of mine went to the RC schools; she said not many Thai converted but they appreciated the education.]

    The Lao “Hmong” are mountain tribes, and were farmers, before the SE Asian war. Even in S.E. Asia, it is cooler in the mountains than it is in Louisiana. [I would say that Minnesota might at some times be too hot for them, as well as too cold in other seasons.]

    As to “picking them up here and putting them down there”… I think the Hmong might have their own opinions about moving. How long have they lived in Minnesota? Some may not know anything else. [I helped a family of Hmong in Houston for a couple of years. Then they decided to move to LA, where there were others that they knew and I lost touch.]

    They were willing to work. In a summer where the local black teenagers were demanding assistance “because there were no jobs”, a Hmong teenager was repairing crates for Coca Cola and he didn’t speak English yet. (One of the men in the family also worked for the bottling plant.)

    [I spent my earliest life in Minnesota. Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing in Texas!]

  6. J Dean,

    A wonderful question up above about integrating Hmong with non-Hmong. If you are referring to Hmong joining churches with Anglo, God is blessing that at Bethlehem already. The Hmong Mission Proposal includes calling a Hmong pastor to continue serving at Bethlehem, which consists of Anglo, Africans and Hmong as well starting two additional churches.

    The proposal does call for the start of two churches, which will probably include mostly Hmong members, as a number of things will be in Hmong, especially in hopes that the “elders” may be reached.

    The plan is absolutely to have churches that consist of folks from a variety of backgrounds, but this plan specifically calls for attention to the Hmong language. I would simply ask to give it some time to transition to more English than Hmong. This can happen within the same church down the road as it did in Bethlehem, when the main language switched from German to English. We just cannot cut off a whole segment of the Hmong population, which without Hmong being the dominant culture and language, it would do.

  7. hope that unfaithful LCMS leaders support true doctrine and practice and defend faithful members pastors and families—-to date that has not been happening-our dp doesn’t seem to care but will join some effort in inner city to cover himself —that includes his group on the bod level

  8. Ralph,

    I am not sure if you are referring to my district president or not. He has been very nice to me and the church I serve. I have personally been active in whatever ways I can to defend pastors and their families. We have way too many not serving any longer.

    The Hmong Mission Proposal referred to in this article has no political slant to it and should not. We are called to be faithful and the Hmong Mission Proposal reflects faithfulness to God’s Word.

    The pastor to be called on Sunday, January 20th is a faithful man as well. I know him and would be humbled to serve with him.

    I love serving in the inner city. That is where my heart lies in terms of ministry. I do not wish for anyone, district president, pastor or layperson to speak about or do ministry in the city as “a show”, yet be unfaithful to our Lord.

    I always say that it is the love of God that compels me to love serving in the city so much, where at times, peoples’ hardships are so very public and it seems like there are so many 24 hours shifts for pastors.

    May everyone in our synod be faithful in doctrine and practice, wherever they serve. For the sake of a clear witness, we have to be and that is what God expectes of each of us to do.

    Dr. A.L. Barry once said, “Keep the message straight, Missouri (synod). Get the message out, Missouri (synod).”

  9. Over 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to study the catechism with a wonder and faithful Lutheran pastor. On the first night of bible study, he opened it up with questions and told the group no question was off limits. Being the shy person I was (I’m being facetious here) I asked, “Is this the one? Is this the church/religion that will get me to heaven?” You see I was raised in an animistic family (my uncle was a shaman). As an adult I had attended many churches prior, searching for the truth. You name it—Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Hmong Christian Missionary Alliance, even non-denominational! My pastor’s response was simple, yet one I had never heard before. He said, let’s open up the bible and see what it says. Every week for over a year, we opened up the bible and studied God’s Word. My family and I were baptized along with 70+ other Hmong members on Reformation Sunday, 2001.

    There are thousands of Hmong who are where I was a decade ago–searching for the Truth. While some might think that to reach ethnic people like the Hmong, a church needs to offer gimmicks and things that will appeal to them, this is false. I am living proof that faithful teachings (the pure Gospel not watered down) are enough. Please pray for Bethlehem as we get ready to call a Hmong pastor this Sunday. May our actions be pleasing to the Lord and may He bless our efforts to reach the thousands of unchurched Hmong and others in our community.

  10. Just wanted to give a shout out to Deaconess Doris Kayser!(did I spell that OK?). She’s not bad for a Calvin grad! Just kidding, Doris!

  11. The mission work at Bethlehem is important. I was privileged to be there when the church started in its mission work with the Hmong and what has been going on has been nothing short of amazing. Praise be to God for the congregation of Bethlehem.

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