When asked to share stories of God working among the Hmong people in the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, Cindy Vang’s heart immediately went to Nalee Thor, her friend in Laos who was impacted by a missions trip and a prayer group.
Vang was recognized by Woman’s Missionary Union in June with the group’s annual leadership award for her global impact on women, including Thor. A member of First Hmong Baptist Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, Vang is an advisor to and former president of Minnesota-Wisconsin WMU.
Born in Laos, Vang sought refuge in Thailand and then the United States during the Vietnam War. She returned to Laos and Thailand in 2019 on a missions trip.
“I wanted to encourage the leaders who were there and wanted to share the gospel with the Hmong people,” Vang said. “In Laos, I met Nalee. She was a very kind and upbeat, loving, laughing, joyful lady. She was the leader of the women’s group at a large church.”
Thor had been reached for Christ as a child when missionaries handed out candy and told about Jesus. Her heart was fertile ground for the message, and at the time she knew God would someday use her to serve Him like the missionaries, Vang said.
When Vang’s group from America was scheduled to leave Thailand, they still had a suitcase of hearing aids, glasses, solar lights and other materials that God had provided in abundance when they had asked Him for what to give in His name. Thor was eager to pick up the task.
She had followed the group from Laos to Thailand and enthusiastically embraced their work. “All the things that we gave her, she learned how to do,” Vang said. “She started to be on mission. Wherever she went, she fitted the hearing aids and gave glasses and shared the gospel.”
‘Sisters across the sea’
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Vang, who was president of Minnesota-Wisconsin WMU from 2016 through 2019, started a prayer group on Zoom and invited women from across the United States, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Thor was part of the group.
“We shared with her WMU, and she said, ‘I’ve been doing WMU all this time! I just didn’t know what it was! The people around me have been telling me for years that I was so crazy and I’m too much for them. But now I know that I’m WMU!’
“She just had a lightbulb moment of being so joyful, thinking, ‘I have sisters across the sea who think the same way as me, who want to share the gospel, and I’m not crazy,’” Vang said. “She just went on a mission of finding out who we are and what we do.”
Thor told Vang that when she is tempted to be discouraged, she remembers that a group of people from the United States left their comfortable conditions to travel to Laos and Thailand to reach and encourage women like her. Now she knows she has women to rely on and to pray for her, she said.
For years, Thor has sewn clothes for children by hand, using her own larger clothes as material. She had a vision of opening a sewing center with machines to teach other women to sew while sharing the gospel and discipling them. She had the location — an empty store — but she did not have the machines.
When Vang was honored by WMU, she received a grant for ministry.
“God pressed upon my heart to give Nalee her first sewing machine,” Vang said, adding that the MWBC provided a serger to accompany it. Now Thor is learning to use the machine.
“She wants to start small so she can share her machine and share the gospel,” Vang said. “She wants to show women how to do patterns and how to do life together. If she had an abundance of sewing machines, she might not have that time with each person to share how much God loves them.”
The “Sow in Love” sewing ministry in Laos is up and running, thanks in part to Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists.
“There are so many more Nalees out there who we have not even reached,” Vang said. “I have always wanted to reach the Nalees, the people who hunger to do more but don’t know where to start. I feel very energized when I find a Nalee who’s been doing ministry but who needed partners.”
Thor sewed hundreds of decorative pins that were handed out at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in New Orleans this year, Vang said.
“Every time someone goes to Laos, I say they have to meet Nalee, thinking they will love on her. But she outloves them. She will pack them white rice and chicken in the Hmong traditional way. She will just do little things or give them something, making sure they know that God loves them,” Vang said. “She always outloves people.”