“I wanted to see what God can do with me and how he might use me,” said Gao Hlee Vang of First Hmong Mennonite Church, in Kitchener, Ont., reflecting on her congregation’s mission trip to Thailand last summer. Twenty-three people participated in the trip.
Teaching English in local schools, offering vacation Bible school in the evenings for children, and providing school and health kits are some of the things that First Hmong Mennonite Church did when they visited small towns and villages, and even an orphanage.
Several members of the church have roots in Thailand. Many fled Southeast Asia and arrived in Canada as “boat people” in the 1970s. A few generations later, the group travelling from the church included those who had left as refugees, but also those who have only heard stories from parents or grandparents about life in Thailand.
“We felt that it was time for us to step out of our comfort zone and fulfill what Jesus has asked us to do,” said Chung Vang, one of the organizers. “Our congregation has been around for 30 years and we have never done something like this. I always wanted to go back to another country where people are more interested in Christ. In this country we are so rich and busy. We have no time for Christ. There, you can talk for hours with people and you can see that they are hungry for Christ.”
While the young people taught, the others went into the village and visited with whomever they met, talking with them about the gospel, listening to them and praying with them. The villages were high in the mountains, and the local people were excited to receive visitors.
While the young people on the mission trip stayed together in congregational buildings, the older members stayed in people’s homes within the villages.
“Sleeping and life in the villages was hard,” Gao Hlee said. “I have heard my parents talk about life in the villages, but now I actually experienced it. You appreciate and understand what your parents went through—not fully what your parents experienced, but you understand just a little bit more.”
Chung Vang added, “It was different for me. I used to live like that, but don’t any more. It was hard returning to those memories.”
Reflecting on the trip, Gao Hlee said, “The first village we went to was the remotest. I think it was there that most of us left our hearts,” adding, “You feel like you are going there to help them. When you get there, you realize they are actually helping you!”
It has been a year since the group went to Thailand and poured their energy into the country from which many in their congregation had come. “It gives our congregation a good perspective,” Gao Hlee said. “We do need to share the gospel when we can and allow Christ to use us. I would love to go back.”
This story appeared originally in the fall 2015 issue of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s Sprout publication.