I’m sorry you have to read this, but mistakes were made.
This month, we’re (eagerly) anticipating worshiping with Hmong Christians each weekend and telling you what we learn. We’re looking forward to singing songs we don’t know, hearing words we don’t understand, tasting food we haven’t tried before, and getting to know some of our neighbors. We’ve been planning this month since we moved to Fresno.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve spent time in a variety of other churches where English wasn’t the primary language of most in the congregation -- including an Arabic-language congregation in Michigan, a multi-ethnic African congregation in Iowa, and a Korean-language church in Buena Park, California. We’ve also gotten to participate in worship services in Cantonese, Slavonic, Latin, and Indonesian.
This is a little different, though. Fresno has one of the largest Hmong communities in the United States; almost 5% of the population is of Hmong descent. During the 1980s, the Hmong community in Fresno grew from almost none to more than 25,000.
Hmong are not from just one country. For around 4000 years, the culture has migrated through a variety of areas of Asia, from China to Burma, Laos to Thailand. One article I read defined being Hmong as speaking the language (which wasn’t written until the 1950s) and giving back to the Hmong community. And while Hmong culture looks different in different places, we expect to find traditions that are similar in the various churches we visit.
After researching nearby Hmong churches, we decided to visit the congregation that meets in a Methodist church in Clovis. From what we saw online (and on the permanent wood sign in front of the church building) the worship service we wanted began Sunday afternoon at 3:00. That sounded perfect, since we had brunch at The Bridge at 11:00 that morning. Other local Hmong congregations meet earlier on Sunday, so we thought we'd visit them on the other Sundays this month.
When we arrived around 2:45, the Korean congregation that also meets in the building was just finishing. Apparently I hadn’t read the banner in front of the church that listed all the worship services. We were too late. The Hmong church met at 10:00.
All the other Hmong congregations nearby were done with their worship services for the week, but we couldn’t wait any longer to get a sense of the community. We whetted our appetite with a trip to The Golden Bowl Market. And we'll make sure to get the worship times right next week.
We might even visit (and, of course, write about) two churches one week just to catch up!