One day a Hmong visitor finished using the shower at the Dinhs’ house and put his dripping wet clothes back on. Kim asked why he didn’t put on clean clothes, and he responded that he didn’t own any other clothes. So Kim gave him her husband’s clothes to wear. When they sat down for dinner, tears streamed down the man’s face. “He thanked the Lord that He brought him here where he could learn the Word of God and had food to eat—in his house he didn’t have rice, only banana leaves,” Kim remembered. “He thanked the Lord who was so good as to save the Hmong people and give them freedom and eternal life.”
As Kim listened, she felt a pang in her heart thinking about her negative attitude toward the Hmong. That night she prayed God would change her heart and that she’d be able to joyfully serve them alongside her husband. Soon joy replaced her bitterness.
AT FIRST, THE DINHS HAD TO MOVE EVERY SIX MONTHS to avoid detection from local authorities. To evade unwanted eyes, the Hmong Christians snuck in late at night and stayed indoors while attending the Dinhs’ weeklong Bible training sessions. Many times, by God’s grace, the police showed up to search the house after the course had finished and could not find any evidence. Twice police showed up while they were teaching, and half of the 30-student class ran away, while the other half was detained at the police station for 24 hours.
Every time the students returned to the Dinhs’ house for more training, they would bring news of new church plants. The Dinhs also traveled to the villages to conduct training programs, trying to keep a low profile to hide from local police. When the police did show up, the entire class ran in different directions and locals hid the Dinhs. Sometimes they’d hold classes in remote areas that police had a difficult time reaching.
The Dinhs say on one occasion they were driving to a Hmong village in the midst of a large storm to deliver 1,000 Hmong Bibles when police stopped them and asked to search their vehicle. Peter refused and drove away. The police followed, but the pounding rain made the mountain roads so dangerous that they gave up pursuit.
The Dinhs drove on until they found the road blocked by a large downed tree. Peter called the Hmong Christians to come meet them, and together they cut off some branches of the tree. The Dinhs passed the Bibles over to the villagers, a task that took two hours, then got back in the car and drove home.
In her 22 years working with the Hmong, Kim has seen a great transformation: Because of their new Christian faith, the Hmong gave up their traditional practice of ancestor worship, which included expensive sacrifices that left them penniless. Hmong Christians now had money to feed their families and to increase their harvest.
Many Christians also learned to read and write Vietnamese by reading the Bible. Hmong children typically don’t stay in school for long, as they are needed in the fields to support the family, yet the Dinhs and other Vietnamese believers stressed the importance of education to Hmong believers. Today most Hmong graduate from high school, and some attend college or even get master’s degrees at the Bible school.
The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) denomination has 1,000 Hmong churches, 400 of which are registered with the government. Existing Hmong churches today face less persecution, although the police crack down when they plant new churches or when Hmong share the gospel with other tribes. “If a tribe just received Christianity, they will face fierce persecution,” Kim said. “But after a while, after they paid the price, they will be OK.”
The Dinhs’ Bible school, which invites overseas teachers to help train eight ethnic minority groups, has four different tracks: one for missionaries, one for women, a bachelor’s degree in theology, and a master of divinity. Through the resources and training from the Bible school, the Hmong have also been able to evangelize the nearby Dao tribe, which today has 24,000 believers. Christian Daos have gone on to evangelize other tribes.
Many Hmong and other minority groups are grateful to the Dinhs for helping them learn the Word of God. Kim brushes aside the praise: “Many missionaries both in Vietnam and overseas have prayed for the Hmong, God is just using us to reap the harvest.”