Embracing the Gift of Waiting - Issue #122
Hmong Community United Methodist Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, is a vibrant gathering of worshipers of many ages. One thing they all have in common is that they are part of and speak the language of the people known as Hmong. The Hmong people, originally from Southeast Asia, have never been a nation or had a single homeland. As a result of political persecutions in the 1970s, especially in Laos, many of Hmong heritage have relocated as refugees to other countries, including the United States.
As the Hmong community in St. Paul has grown in recent years, it has also come to locate primarily in a part of town further away from Hmong Community UMC's facilities. Seeing this trend, in early 2008 the congregation voted to sell the property and use the funds to relocate nearer to the center of the population it serves. This coincided with the economic recession and the bottom falling out of the real estate market.
While some congregations and leaders might have panicked and dropped the price for a quick sale, Hmong Community UMC has chosen to wait for God’s timing to make their relocation possible. In choosing to wait, they also chose to consider what it might mean for them to be in ministry with the increasingly Latino community that now lives around their current facilities, whether they should be able to move or not. So in these years, they have hosted a local Latino congregation, now in its own facilities, and continue to develop relationships through local community organizations to find more ways to be good neighbors. Language and cultural differences remain challenging, but not barriers for mission.
Hmong Community United Methodist Church is still waiting to sell and relocate. But they have embraced waiting as a gift that continues to open doors of ministry and witness they had not imagined before.
Some Questions for Discussion
- What economic challenges facing your congregation might become opportunities for new ministry if viewed from the lens of abundance rather than scarcity?
- How has your congregation experienced waiting as a problem? How have you embraced it as a gift for ministry and witness?
- What are the barriers that keep the congregation from engaging with those in its neighborhood? How might those barriers be turned into doors?