This story first appeared in the fall 2019 issue of the Arbor Light, the official magazine of Concordia University Ann Arbor.
Rev. Richard Her (’12) may live smack in the middle of a mission field that’s ripe for the harvest, but it didn’t stop him from traveling 8,000-plus miles from home for one of his latest ministry efforts.
Sometimes, says Her, you need to step away from the familiar in order to begin to recognize another’s needs. And that’s exactly what he encouraged 12 individuals from Wisconsin, Laos, and his congregation in St. Paul, Minnesota, to do last year. On Dec. 29, 2018, the group—led by Her and Vicar Yia Lor of Gathering Place, Arden Hills, Minnesota—traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand, to help the Ban Hmong’s Hope Hostel build a concrete wall around the perimeter of the property and to serve the youth who are housed at the hostel. It was the first time Hmong laity from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod embarked upon an organized mission trip to a country of their cultural origin.
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The mission trip was an important step for the congregants of Hmong Evangelical Lutheran Church in St. Paul, where Her has served as a called LCMS pastor for the past 3 1/2 years. Now they’re planning a second trip to Chiang Mai to bring the Vacation Bible School experience to the Hmong children there in March of 2020. This time there will be over 20 volunteers, many of whom have never been on a mission trip.
“For me, growing up in the Hmong–Lutheran community, a lot of my experience has been that the Hmong has received a lot of support from outside groups,” he said. “Now that our church is self-sustaining, the next step for growing in Christ is to encourage our people to think outside the four walls of the church and to start giving back. Our mission trip was an important way for us to say, ‘Hey, we are a part of God’s people and we can show His love to others.’”
Hmong Evangelical Lutheran Church is part of Hmong Mission Society, a network of Hmong–Lutheran churches or ministries worldwide that exists “to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, engage in worship, and respond with mercy and love toward the Hmong people and their neighbors.” The Hmong Mission Society extends to Alaska, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. When most of the Hmong refugee population began to arrive in the U.S. in the 1980s, very few were Lutherans. Today, thanks to the Holy Spirit working through the society, there are approximately 3,000 who claim Christ as their Savior.
And Her is proud to be one of those believers. He’s also one of the most recent to be ordained as an LCMS pastor and joins the 25 other rostered Hmong church-workers who oversee the 18 ministries of the Hmong Mission Society.
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Her feels passionately about helping individuals from his culture embrace a Scripture-driven approach to Christianity.
“Even though we have a lot of Hmong Christians, many of them don’t go too in depth with the Scriptures. That pushes me as a preacher to teach good theology and good doctrine, and to help people realize that there’s more to our faith than simply ‘I believe in Jesus Christ.’ It’s about what Scripture tells us about our lives.”
The spring 2019 Arbor Light hit mailboxes the beginning of May. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, call 734-995-7317 or send us an email.
The Hmong culture tends to be very legalistic, said Her. The need to study hard and work hard was drilled into him from a young age. As a result, when he first arrived at Concordia, he made a habit of overloading on classes, until he came to see a different way modeled by his peers at CUAA.
“Living on campus and interacting with some of the future pastors of the LCMS really shaped me, because all of my experiences up until that point had been with Hmong people,” Her said. “It helped me a lot to see another side of the Christian faith and to see the security my friends had in not being so law-oriented.
“I’ve come to realize that I have to be able to step back from my pastoral life sometimes and live that more holistic Christian life,” Her continued. “That understanding of God’s grace was a gift that I’m so glad Concordia gave me, and I’m eager to be able to pass it on to those I minister to.”
Did you know?
The 42-year-old Hmong Evangelical Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Rev. Richard Her (’12) serves, is the oldest Hmong church to be chartered by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. According to the most recent U.S. Census, St. Paul has the largest Hmong population per capita in the United States; more than 28,000 Hmong–Americans live within the city.
Learn more: cuaa.edu/pre-sem
The fall 2019 Arbor Light hit mailboxes the beginning of October. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, call 734-995-7317 or send us an email.
— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Ann Arbor and Wisconsin. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-243-2149.
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