ROSEVILLE, Minn. (BP) -- Fue Chee Her thought he understood God's faithfulness when he started Gospel Hmong Baptist Church in metro Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., where more Hmong reside than any other part of the country.
The Hmong people are an Asian ethnic group from mountainous regions of China and Southeast Asia who, in 1975, began immigrating to the United States following the communist takeover of Laos.
God's faithfulness, Her said, has become a visible reality since Gospel Hmong Baptist Church was planted at the outset of 2013, with Her having seen God meet an array of needs for the fledgling congregation. Southern Baptists across the country and in Her's own Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention have been a part of that story through their missions giving.
"We've worked as a team, reached out to people, and God has blessed us," Her said. "God has consistently answered prayer after prayer after prayer. Those [answered prayers] confirm to me that this is what God wants me to do. So, through God's faithfulness, I just have to trust and believe."
Her, a North American Mission Board church planter, said his call to church planting came gradually. As he looked around at his peers -- fellow second-generation Hmong-Americans -- he saw a growing spiritual void.
"Many of the [Hmong] churches are original to the youth and parents," said Her, who served previously as a youth minister before the church plant. "But there's that gap between the youth and parents. There's the college scene, the young couples' scene. There's me. I'm a young adult. I have a lot of peers who are struggling spiritually and are seeking spiritual help but there's not a church they can relate to."
Realizing that need helped clarify Her's sense of call to plant a church among second-generation Hmong.
"At Gospel Hmong Baptist Church, we're trying to create an atmosphere where we can go and support these individuals in their journey," Her said. "Even if it's in college, or post-college or when they have a young family and are in their careers, we're there for them in any crisis and in any need."
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 64,422 Hmong residents call the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area home. That's nearly six times the Hmong population of any other U.S. metro area -- and nearly a quarter of the total Hmong population in the country. Minnesota's Hmong population also is unusually young, according to a 2012 academic study of census data by the Hmong Studies Journal. Hmong Minnesotans have a median age of 19.7 compared to a median age of 37 for Minnesotans in general.
Her estimates that 10 to 15 percent of the local Hmong population is Christian. The remaining are either animists or agnostics.
"I believe that God has called me to reach out to and preach to the other 85 percent -- to let them know that there is a God who loves them, there is a God who is calling out to them," Her said. "He is using me to be a vessel for that call."
The church plant averages 50 people per week in attendance.
With one Southern Baptist church for every 118,248 people, Minneapolis-St. Paul has the lowest SBC church-to-population ratio of any of the 27 U.S. cities in the North American Mission Board's key initiative, Send North America, to help churches mobilize church planters to 32 influential North American cities, including five in Canada.
Her said a key struggle in reaching Minneapolis-St. Paul in general, and the Hmong specifically, is getting beyond the belief that people can be right with God through morality.
"Especially in the Hmong community where it's all about having good morals and having good ethics but there's nothing spiritual, there's a need for truth," Her said. "As a pastor I want to be able to teach beyond the moral ethics, to teach the Word of God -- biblically and expository. Teach the truth.
"That's what we, as the younger generation, are seeking."
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. For more information on Her's ministry, watch a video at namb.net/video/heart-language. For more about Send North America: Minneapolis-St. Paul, visit Minneapolis-StPaul
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