When I was growing up on a farm in Laos, we planted our own fruits, and my parents always said, “Whenever you eat fruit that tastes good, save the seed so you can plant it. That way you will have more delicious fruit!”
When I was younger, my dad brought mangoes, tamarind and red guava seeds from Thailand. He planted them in old buckets and told me to water them daily. When the seedlings got bigger, we planted them in our backyard, and he promised that our fruit would be the best and sweetest, even before they fully ripened. I was very excited about those plants and held them close to my heart, hoping that one day I’d get to eat the fruit. Waiting was the hardest part!
In my spiritual journey, I’ve found many delicious fruits growing in the Mennonite community. In 1980, my family and many other Hmong refugees came to Canada, mostly sponsored by Mennonite churches. We didn’t know anything about the Mennonite people but, when we attended church services, we experienced love and comfort and felt warmly welcomed.
Some of these Hmong families were Christians before coming to Canada and started attending their sponsors’ churches. However, they didn’t understand the language, so they sought a place where they could worship in their own language. The Mennonite churches supported this idea and we were overjoyed when First Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., opened up its building for us.
Worshipping in Hmong allowed us to enrich our hearts and to grow in faith, experiencing the joy of God’s love in our lives. I remembered that the first few months in Canada were hard for my parents. I’d often see them crying. But when we began worshipping God in our own language with other Hmong people, their tears dried up. I saw smiles on their faces and life in their eyes.
Because we felt loved, listened to and supported at First Mennonite, we wanted to emulate the warmth, compassion and good faith in our own Hmong church, too. We found that the sweetest spiritual fruit had grown in the Mennonite communities, so we wanted to plant that seed in our backyard.
Now I can see that these seeds have grown fruit in us. In 2004, we saw the need of the Chin people from Burma who moved to Canada and needed a place of worship. We welcomed them to use our church building, just as our former Mennonite hosts had done for us. We helped each other to better walk the journey of faith. Our communities have a good relationship and I’m very proud to see how they’ve grown in their own faith.
More recently, I discovered another exceptionally good fruit within Women of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, and I’d like to see this “tree” continue to bear fruit.
Like the story of Tabitha in Acts 9:36-43, I’d like to keep the story of their “good works and acts of charity” alive. Because I know from personal experience that when Mennonite women come together to sew and knot quilts for others in need, it’s incredible. The physical and spiritual gathering and sharing of faith is powerful. It changes our lives and challenges us to do better and root deeper into Christ.
I’d like to encourage all Mennonite women to continue to reach out and build each other up. Let’s share our fruits of faith with one another so we can grow stronger together.
Ly Vang is married and has five children. She has been a member of First Hmong Mennonite Church for 38 years and has held many positions; currently she is on the prayer and missions team and teaches Sunday school.
After making its debut on Nov. 12, 2007, this is our final “Women walking together in faith” column. CM thanks the many women who authored columns over the years, and also Leona Dueck Penner, who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes shepherding the work along over the past 12 years.