Being Hmong at Moody
- July 5, 2021
Growing up Hmong, Grace Vang often felt excluded by her classmates in public school. When she arrived at Moody Bible Institute, she felt uncomfortable mentioning her Hmong background, worrying that her classmates would also reject her. Instead, students and professors treated her with respect, and some took a genuine interest in her heritage. Her roommate, Miriam, asked, “Grace, can you tell me more about the Hmong people? Can you share with me the stories that your grandparents have shared with you?”
Going to Missions Conference also showed her that Moody celebrates the diversity of cultures. “Seeing everyone carry their own flags yet knowing that we are still unified is such a beautiful image of what the church is,” she says.
God used her experience at Moody to help her not feel ashamed or hide her ethnicity, nor to idolize it. “That compassion has helped me to heal from a lot of preconceived ideas and heal from the judgments I had against them,” she says. “All of us are learning how to embrace our differences, but also rejoicing in Jesus Christ, that He is the one that unifies all of us.”
As a Communications major, Grace is now eager to incorporate her Hmong identity into the works she creates. For her Capstone project, she’s writing a devotional to preserve the stories of her grandparents, who came to America from a refugee camp in Laos. They followed a religion of shamanism and ancestral worship until Christian Missionary Alliance missionaries led them to Christ. One of her grandpas served in the Vietnam War, and after immigrating, he helped found a Hmong church in Appleton, Wisconsin. Grace says, “God has been teaching me how to embrace my culture, to understand that He created me to be Hmong . . . yet still maintain the diversity of the different cultures in God’s family.”
Now a junior, Grace is grateful for her education at Moody. “Learning more about theology, learning the Bible, and learning under godly men and women here at Moody has shaped and transformed how I live my life,” she says.
Grace has also found a place to serve. Every spring break during her time at Moody, Grace has joined other Hmong students and alumni to help lead an “Iron Sharpens Iron” Bible conference in midwestern Hmong churches. This year they traveled to North Carolina to hold the conference in two Hmong churches, including Charlotte Hmong Alliance Church where her dad serves as senior pastor.
The group spent months planning the in-person event (taking COVID-19 precautions). Drawing from the Bible teaching they’ve received from their Moody professors, their goal was to sharpen and equip the Hmong churches and discuss current issues faced by Hmong youth.
“This year there were a lot of questions about identity—who we are in Christ,” says Grace, who played piano during worship and led a workshop based on Ephesians 5:15–19. “I talked about our identity and what it looks like to be believers. Because we know Jesus, we are learning to live our identity in Christ, which means we’ve had to let go of traditions that don’t glorify God and are tied to shaman rituals.”
The Bible conference has attracted more Hmong students to attend Moody for biblical and theological training—from four students a few years ago to now more than a dozen Hmong students.
After graduation, Grace plans to keep serving the Hmong church. “Some of us want to go to multiethnic churches and reach other people groups. But for me personally, I feel God has called me to stay back, to share what I know, to share life with other Hmong believers.”