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The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
October 08, 2012
Relearning Success as a Hmong American
The year I graduated from law school turned out to be a momentous occasion for my relatives.
That year, not only did I graduate from law school, but I also had one cousin graduate from law school and another graduate from pharmacy school. The three of us were expected to make our rounds to the different graduation parties being thrown by relatives for other family members throughout the summer.
It didn’t matter whose party it was, our names were always announced, and we were expected to stand so that everyone could see who we are. We didn’t say much at these parties and tried our best not to draw attention to ourselves, despite the requirement to stand when our names and degrees were announced.
I struggled that first summer with my identity, what it meant to be an attorney, what it meant to be a Hmong American woman, and how it impacted my identity as a follower of Christ.
Success Made Me Feel ‘Icky’
Prior to law school, I was not acknowledged by relatives for any reason. Once I began school, more relatives began approaching me, talking to me, and asking how school was going.
After graduation, we were polite to people who asked us questions, all the while noticing how our peers were treated differently for not attaining the same degrees that we had.
Relatives began to look at us with hope in their eyes, as if we had changed the course of our family’s history. People would ask us for our advice, our thoughts and opinions on matters that had nothing to do with us.
It made me uncomfortable to see friends and family treated differently, because they didn’t have the same education that we did.
For lack of a better word, it made me feel “icky.”
Jesus Models Real Success
This mentality that I saw was much different from the example that Christ set for us: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Jesus was brilliant and spoke at a level that few understood. He was God incarnate, and yet He came to love and serve humankind. He died for us when we least deserved it. Jesus led with a posture of love and forgiveness. And ultimately, Jesus calls us to something drastically different than culture that demand we “make it to the top.”
Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Jesus’ ultimate act of leadership was in serving humanity and submitting himself to death. If we are to lead others to the kingdom of God, we must deny ourselves and live in humility, not counting ourselves as greater than others.
Hmong Ministry Serves Students
When I was an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, I saw how leaders in our InterVarsity chapter who followed Christ led with a servant’s heart. I remember how these leaders welcomed us as if we were no different from them, even though I saw that we came from drastically different backgrounds, ethnically, socially, and otherwise.
Other friends of mine lead with a conviction from God to see Hmong students on campus become transformed by the Bible.
These friends wanted to see our generation of Hmong students on campus loving Jesus wholeheartedly and not be tied to the expectations set by cultural standards. These friends got together and prayed and started GIGs, Groups Investigating God—with other Hmong students.
Eventually these convictions birthed what is now known as the Hmong Christian Collegiate Conference (HC3). I’ve seen this conference over the years change lives and transform college students to live the gospel. I even had the opportunity this past year to witness someone close to my family receive Jesus for the first time.
I’m no longer a student, but I love being around college students, especially at this conference, because I know first-hand what struggles they are facing.
My hope is that Hmong college students will learn to follow Jesus in a new way that is often countercultural to our culture, to lead not by status but by the teachings of Jesus to love others more than themselves.
Alice Lor is the Associate Staff Attorney for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA. Aside from practicing law, she spends her time trying to figure out what she likes to do in her free time now that law school is over. (So far eating and traveling top the list!)