On Sabbath, June 25, over 100 people gathered at the Madison Community Seventh-day Adventist Church to celebrate the forming of the first Hmong Company in the Wisconsin Conference. Chanchai Kiatyanyong, current pastor for the new company, gave the welcome for this historic event and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for what God has done and trusting in what He will do in the future. Titus Naftanaila, conference president, shared thoughts from the time when Joshua lead the children of Israel across the Jordan River. He called the congregation to follow God and consecrate themselves in preparation for what God will do.
During the Sabbath service, Pastor Ko Saelee gave an overview of how ministry in the Hmong community began in Wisconsin. He said that over 15 years ago the founder of ASAP Ministries (Advocates for Southeast Asians and the Persecuted), Judy Aitken, had felt impressed to go to a certain cabin at Camp Wakonda. When she arrived, she found conference leaders there praying about how they could reach the many Hmong people in Wisconsin. Through this providential meeting, plans began to formulate and the ministry for the Hmong was started. A few years passed and the Wisconsin Conference was able to partner with the Minnesota Conference in sponsoring Pastor Saelee to help plant Hmong churches in both states. Eventually two Hmong groups were formed in Wisconsin, one in Milwaukee and one in Madison. Pastor Saelee expressed his thankfulness for the support of the conference, for the Madison Community church allowing the groups to meet in their building, and for all the believers that have accepted Christ. He said, “We may be small, but God can use us and has a plan. When God calls, we answer and He will take us step by step.”
Also, two elders, Jerry Vang and Choua Lee reviewed how God had lead in the formation of the Hmong groups. Jerry, an elder in the Madison group, shared how at times it felt like they had lost the way, but that God had a plan even when they couldn’t see the direction. He recalled that he attended a church planting seminar in Sheboygan, WI and upon sharing the struggles their congregation was having, that the coordinator there asked for special prayer for the Madison Hmong group. He encouraged the congregation to stand firm and pray for direction and see what God will do. Choua, an elder from Milwaukee, shared how he and his wife received a call to move from their home in California to help start a Hmong church in Milwaukee. They accepted the call and were welcomed with open arms by the Milwaukee group. Some of their family also joined them from California. He shared how “Grandma Nelda”, who had a dream to have a Hmong church in Milwaukee, helped them all get settled. He says that as Bible studies began, God blessed them by leading to the right people at the right time. He gives all glory to God and said, “When you answer God’s call, things happen.”
Over time, the two groups began to meet together, alternating between the two locations. As the number of members grew, they found they would qualify for company status and made the decision to join the two groups under the name Wisconsin Hmong Company. During the celebration service, Brian Stephan, conference Executive Secretary, had the privilege of officially granting company status and inviting those wishing to join the new company to sign the membership list. In all, 61 individuals signed their names to this list. In addition to the members from Madison and Milwaukee, individuals from Appleton and even as far away as Minnesota came to support the joining groups.
Music was a integral part of the celebration with the youth leading song service and performing a special song. Pastor Saelee wrote a song entitled “Come Home” that talks about how God is standing at the door waiting and watching all the Hmong people in Wisconsin to see if His children will come home. This was performed by several members of the new Hmong company.
At the close of the service, Pastor Chanchai welcomed four new members into the company who were recently baptized at Wisconsin Conference camp meeting, near Oxford, WI. After a group picture, the celebration continued with a delicious meal and time to fellowship together.
We praise God for his work in the Hmong community and the establishment of the first Hmong Company in Wisconsin.
Laurella Case, Communication Coordinator