As we near the end of May, we are speaking with Lutherans who are and identify as Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Island heritage. We are honored to share the stories of our AAPI siblings in Christ. Today we are speaking with Pastor Jua Jay Her.

Responses have been edited for publication.

How are you connected to the ELCA?

Since April, I have served as associate pastor for outreach at Eternal Flame Hmong Lutheran Church in Vadnais Heights, Minn. I graduated from Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, in 2020. I am among the 10 Hmong American refugees ordained in the ELCA. I am not an immigrant, like some of the AAPI, but a refugee who came to America with a sponsor and was cared for and loved. I am fully active in the church, though I come from a faith family called shamanism, which originated with Hmong people in the ancient world. When I came to the United States of America, I first became a Baptist, then in 1996 my family and I moved to the Lutheran church because we strongly believed in the Lutheran doctrines.

What aspects of AAPI culture do you see reflected in your church community?

I don’t know about all the AAPI’s cultures, but I know well our Hmong culture. It stresses welcoming communities, nondivided families (as in our old religion), hospitality, and love and care for one another. This welcoming spirit is reflected in the people of my congregation. I have never seen a better example of these essential values.

When do you feel most connected to yourself and your culture in a worship environment experience? What gives you hope?

I feel most connected to myself and my culture during worship when a person’s life has ended, compared to those who still believe in the old religion—when I can connect with others around me who have similar interests. The ones who believe in God, I feel that I can connect to them much more because I know they understand what’s in the Bible. One of the most important things for me is that I am going to live with God and our Lord, forever and everlasting. This is the most important reason why I believe in God, and it gives me hope.

How do you believe the ELCA can better support and uplift AAPI voices and perspectives?

We need financial resources to raise more leadership opportunities for brothers and sisters in Christ’s AAPI Hmong community. We can provide this support to our current pastors’ new ministry projects and to pastors, youth pastors, youth directors and musicians within our AAPI Hmong community. Currently we are short of financial resources and leadership. We need these people to impact, nourish and educate our congregations. I strongly recommend that, if we receive these gifts from the ELCA, we promote within our congregations a sense of strong faith and inclusion.

Kelly Wilkerson
Kelly Wilkerson is a content strategist for the ELCA. She is a former Worship Minister, Creative Arts Director, Youth and Family Director, and has been working in full-time ministry for her entire professional career. Kelly is using her passion for storytelling, art, design, and social media to serve in the office of the presiding bishop on the strategic communications team. She is also an ELCA coach and currently resides in Columbus, OH with her fiancee and their 80 lb bernedoodle.

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