North Carolina Pastor to Direct United Methodist Mission Work in Thailand
by Elliott Wright
New York, NY, July 13, 2010--A North Carolina pastor born in Southeast Asia is the new United Methodist mission director for Thailand.
The Rev. CherLue Vang and his wife, Mang Thao Vang, will leave for Thailand shortly as missionaries with the denomination's General Board of Global Ministries.
Fluent in several Thai dialects, Rev. Vang will be responsible for all United Methodist mission work in the country, which is part of the Southeast Asia Mission.
Born in Laos, he was pastor of the First Hmong United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, for 15 years, and is a clergy member of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. Mang Thao Vang was instrumental in organizing the women of the congregation and will do similar work for new churches in Thailand. They will be based in Chonburi Province, South of Bangkok.
"We thank God that CherLue and Mang Thao Vang have responded to God's call to mission at this time," said Thomas Kemper, general secretary (chief executive) of Global Ministries. "Their gifts and preparation are well suited to mission opportunities we have in Thailand and they will be significant assets to all of our work in Southeast Asia.
While overseeing the various components of United Methodist mission in Thailand, Rev. Vang will put special effort into developing new congregations, which are expected to move quickly toward indigenous leadership.
"Our experience in other parts of Southeast Asia show us that the most effective way to grow the church in the region is by forming Bible fellowships and house churches with strong indigenous leaders," said the Rev. Jorge Domingues, who is Global Ministries' deputy general secretary for mission and evangelism.
"This has been remarkably successful in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, and we hope the approach will expand our church growth in Thailand, where our work is much more recent."
There are currently eight United Methodist congregations/fellowships in Thailand.
"Thy Kingdom Come on Earth"
In anticipating his coming work, Rev. Vang recalled that in addition to the command to "make disciples of all nations" Jesus also taught followers to pray to God, "Thy kingdom come on earth." He looks forward to both spreading the gospel and to make the prayer a reality in Southeast Asia, especially in the lives of the poor.
"Helping them to find food on the table for their children and put clothes on their backs is a way for people to see God's kingdom on earth," he said. "To me, the Good News is salvation for their soul and experiencing God's kingdom on earth. Preaching and teaching will bring them to salvation. Education will greatly help them to find and live God's kingdom on earth. So we plan to do both."
Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam form the Southeast Asia Mission of The United Methodist Church. Bishop Larry Goodpaster of Western North Carolina is the bishop assigned to the mission. Cambodia has a pan-Methodist mission structure and is moving toward autonomous status. Each of the four countries is a mission initiative of Global Ministries.
Thailand Missionary Community
Other missionaries, Gary and Cindy Moon from Los Angeles, were commissioned in October 2009 and assigned to Thailand, where they are now developing a children's ministry in Chiang Mai province.
"The Vangs and the Moons will form a strong missionary group to represent the United Methodist Church in Thailand," said the Rev. Jong Sung Kim, a Global Ministries executive for Asia.
CherLue Vang was born into a Hmong hill tribe in Laos and became affiliated with the Evangelical Church of Laos. He attended Thailand Theological Seminary from 1975 to 1978 and learned three of the four dialects of the Thai language. He also studied at the Asian Center for Theological Studies and Mission in Seoul, Korea.
From 1979 to 1983, he worked at the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in Pakchom Thailand, serving as liaison between Thai authorities and nongovernmental organizations engaged in relief there. His family from Laos had become refugees in Thailand.
As a refugee, Rev. Vang came to the United States in the mid 1980s, first living in Des Moines, Iowa. A friend urged him to move north to work with a Hmong community related to a United Methodist church in Bound Brook, New Jersey. He agreed and soon also enrolled in Drew Theological Seminary, a United Methodist school in nearby Madison, New Jersey, and sought United Methodist ordination. He worked in Bound Brook for four years, and from 1989 to 1991 was pastor of the Everittstown-Pattburg United Methodist charge.
Service in Western North Carolina
Rev. Vang was appointed to the First Hmong United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1991 and remained there until June 2006, helping with his wife to organize the congregation that grew from zero to 122 members. In mid-2006, he was appointed to the Lowell/Smyre and Myrtle Churches in Gastonia, North Carolina.
The pastor and Mang Thao Vang were married in 1984. In the US, Mang Thao worked for several national corporations, most recently as a repair technician in the electronics industry.
She was an active partner with her husband in developing the Hmong congregation in Charlotte, and played a significant role across the US in organizing units of United Methodist Women in Hmong congregations. She has served as president of the Hmong National Methodist Women.
Mang Thao has also effectively promoted the Laos Initiative among persons of Hmong background in the US, raising support for clean water projects and a mushroom industry that affords employment to United Methodist families in Laos. She also has valuable experience in youth ministries.
The Vangs have three adult children, who will remain in the US.
Date posted: Jul 13, 2010