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Christmas and communism
To preach freely before a large congregation is a “gift.” Vang says.
Born in Laos, he came to the United States as a young man and eventually studied theology. Nine years ago, he returned to his homeland as a “foreign missionary.”
Religion there is controlled by the state, he said; to hold a Christmas celebration, he had to get started in September, submitting a request to the village chief or police.
“You need to write how many people will be there, who will speak. … And if people are coming from other villages, you need permission from those villages,” he said. “If you celebrate without a permit, everyone gets arrested.”
Vang’s Christmas celebrations in Laos started the morning of Dec. 24 and continued through Christmas Day, he said.
They include a long pageant, countless hymns, different worship segments and, of course, a huge feast of a freshly slaughtered cow or pig and worshipers contributing whatever food they could.
Vang tries to blend what he learned in Laos with his experiences living with Hmong in the United States. Many in his congregation appreciate the deep level of understanding he has of cultural practices and subtleties.
The result: An unusual church, headed by a Laotian missionary who served in a homeland many of his churchgoers never knew, with a rock band performing “O Lug Lug Emanues” — “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
“We like it because there’s two sides of it,” said Shoua Yang, a machinist from Little Canada, sitting with his wife and young son in the church. “You can have your traditional side, and your Christianity side. They fit really good.”
Jean Hopfensperger • 612 673-4511