The first stop on the Hmong Cultural tour was at a Hmong Christian Church in Wausau. Reverend Herr told us that the first Hmong people were converted to Christianity in 1950 in Laos. He had been raised Christian in Laos. When the Hmong converted, they kept the traditions of New Year’s and the annual Harvest festival. They also still do traditional sewing and needlework, and keep the same clan rules as traditional Hmong have.
In the normal services they use instruments like the guitar and drums and piano, and sing a lot of songs like "Amazing Grace" and "The More We Get Together." They have Sunday school. The main room where they preach and pray and hold ceremonies is a lot like any other church’s main room I have been to.
Their traditional services are mostly done in Hmong. Reverend Herr said a lot of the elders attend the traditional services. The church still sends out missionaries to countries like Laos and Thailand. The missionaries are the ones who translated the songs they sing into the Hmong language.
One banner at the front of the main room says “The Christians are the Light of the World.” It seems like Reverend Herr likes being Christian a lot, and also respects the traditional Hmong culture.
When Hmong people convert to Christianity, most of them think it’s absolute (and so did I) meaning that they thought if they converted they couldn’t practice anything traditional. Not so. The church even has a Hmong New Year. The church has two services—one traditional and one contemporary. Most of the older action goes to the traditional service. The traditional service is given in Hmong and has a slower pace. The contemporary services are given in English and have a faster pace.
Many Hmong in Wisconsin are members of this church, as it was the first Hmong Christian church. After converting a person to Christianity, the church tries to slowly let go of the beliefs and traditions of traditional Hmong. For example, the belief in spirits is replaced with the belief in God. Even so, the church still celebrates Hmong New Year, because that’s a tradition that just cannot be let go of.
Reverend Herr told us about two different services. The traditional service has more praying and moves at a slower pace, and is usually done in Hmong. The contemporary service, on the other hand, is completely in English, sings American songs, and moves at a faster pace. Reverend Herr says the number of people who attend each is the same but that older people tend to go to the traditional service. Aside from the two main services, they have Sunday school, a time where kids can come and learn about being Christian. They have videos about God and Jesus and curriculum pages like “a place in God’s plan.” The kids all do a lesson and sometimes they watch videos, sing songs, or play games.
Adults sing songs, too, such as "Amazing Grace." The contemporary Service usually sings them in English, while the songs are translated into Hmong at the traditional service.
This experience helped me understand that Hmong can be all kinds of religions other than Hmong, including Jewish, Christian, and even others. Even if they aren’t playing the keng or talking with spirits through Shamanism, the Hmong can still get together and sing and pray, be it to spirits in traditional Hmong culture or to God in Christian culture.