This is an article that I wrote a few years ago and was featured in HmongToday:
A lifelong believer in traditional spiritual healing (“ua neeb”), my passage to finding Jesus Christ (or “Yexus” as we Hmong know him) has caused a drift between me and the rest of my family.
Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) when I was 12 years old, I have been fighting chronic lung disability for the majority of my life. A life threatening condition, CF has taught me a lot of things as well as raising a whole lot of questions.
Over the years, countless Shamans have treated me. My situation had been so severe at times that my parents have taken me out of state to get “spiritual” healing, herbal treatment and pretty much everything else in the Hmong healing world. They wanted so much for me to be cured, that they were willing to try everything and anything. Growing up in a huge family, I have seen more Hmong ceremonies and rituals than many people will probably see in a lifetime. With 14 siblings, there’s a lot of “ua plig” and “ua neeb” when one of us gets sick and what not.
I never really got into GOD because it just never occurred to me that I needed another religion in my life. I was in that mode of I’m Hmong so I’m believing in what our culture believes. And to be honest, I thought that those who were “Christian” were denying their Hmong culture. After all, isn’t Shamanism a defining attribute of being Hmong?
As a believer in Yexus, it is always a blessing to be able to give a testimony of coming to Him. Everytime a person gets this opportunity, it opens a chance to show others what Yexus has done. One of the affects of having CF is that you are an easy victim for pneumonia, a bacterial infection that attacks the respiratory of the lungs.
It wasn’t until high school when all the years of pneumonia really began to take its toll on my lungs. The first time I got hospitalized for about two weeks was when my lungs were bleeding. That was a time that I will never forget, because when I look back, it was a time when GOD first started to point things out to me. Eventually I recovered and was back on my feet doing thing as usual.
Usually if we don’t hear GOD too well the first time, the second time usually is a little clearer. And just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, a few years later one of my lungs collapsed. So there I was again, in the same hospital, this time with tubes in my chest, wires hooked up to me and all the other usual needles that they needed to run the medicines through. I mean, if you saw me you would’ve thought that I was probably not going to make it. The first night that I there, the doctors wanted to put a tube in my chest to try to vacuum the air out. When surgery got underway, and I was drugged up, all I saw was a bright light above me. Then I saw an angel standing next to me and he told me that he was there to take me somewhere. As we were going up through the clouds on some sort of escalator, I could see angels going up and down as if they were running errands.
Eventually he took me to a room and asked me to stay there, a few moments later he came back and took me to a place where the steps stretched on for as long as the eyes could see. Then a voice came from above the stairs. All that I remember was the voice telling me that it wasn’t my time yet, and that “there was a plan for me to accomplish.”
I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but now I am starting to realize what it all meant. That sounds pretty much like a movie scene right? Well, that’s what I thought too, so I didn’t share it with anyone for a while. Weeks went by and I was talking to my aunt from Pennsylvania and she, being a Believer of Yexus herself, told me of a dream that she had the night of my surgery. She saw me standing with a man in white robes in the middle of a stairway, and an angel said to her, “Do you know that child there?” My aunt said yes I do, he is my nephew. The angel asked her, “What is his name?” And she said “Pao” (you know how Hmong people tend to have more than one name).
Then the angel said to her, from now on he is to be called “Xamuyeej”. Awaking from her dream, she was in tears and singing that name out loud. Let me tell you, when she was telling me this, a million things began running through my mind. This was the beginning of the road to Christ for me. It wasn’t until recently when I started to really know GOD. I am now experiencing Him in a way that I can truly make sense of all of my past encounters with Him.
Take for instance the name that my aunt gave me, Xamuyeej. About a year ago I looked through the Hmong Bible and discovered the meaning of that name. In the English translation, it is Samuel, which means that GOD hears. And I truly believe that GOD heard the cry of my parent’s heart and put it in my aunt’s mouth to proclaim that name. Just as GOD heard the cry of Samuel’s mom before she gave birth to him.
Looking back, GOD has been there for me and has taught me so much, but without any knowledge or faith in Him, I did not recognize that it was Him. Only now, like Samuel, I have heed to his calling and have a relationship with Him. Just as Samuel was called to take charge of the priesthood of his time, do I understand what my role as the first Believer of Yexus in my family is? Because I have chosen to follow GOD and my parents are still holding on to the traditional belief, there is always that spiritual conflict. Sometimes I wonder what do they think about it and how do they feel about my decision? Do they feel that I have betrayed them? Being the oldest son, have I let them down by not holding onto tradition? These are only few of the questions that run through my mind. I mean, how do you follow GOD and still be a good son who holds up the role of being the oldest? There’s so much tradition that goes against the way of GOD, so how do I deal with it?
What GOD is teaching me is that the hard times that we go through is only to help mold us spiritually. It is not always an easy lesson but He reminds me that He is only a prayer away. A question that I have had for a while and recently revealed to me is the commandment of Honoring thy father and mother. Well, how do I do that? Obviously if I have chosen the path not of tradition, have not I dishonor my parents? But then GOD reminds me that the commandment is “Honor thy father and mother”. Not, “Honor thy father who also believes in me and forget them if they don’t believe in me”.
And yes, I have actually had cousins who have said that about me behind my back. That me choosing a new faith is a slap to my parents’ faces because they are still living. Honestly it did not offend me because it lets me know that I am on the right path. Although the view for those who believe in GOD is that all will be okay when you accept Him, that is not always the case. What GOD provides is a fellowship, a relationship that will guide and direct you in life’s many challenges. There is so much to believing in GOD than just going to church, singing, and praying. It is the fact that you can build a relationship and grow spiritually and to have a solid foundation to stand on, a foundation of truth. And that in Him, I can have assurance that I am not alone in this world. Now that I have chosen to follow GOD, I am blessed with the knowledge that regardless of our hard times, there is a GOD who is in Heaven that knows me by name, and He is faithful to answer me when I call on Him.