Gloria and I were blessed to be a part of what I would describe as an historic event for God’s Kingdom and the work of N.C. Baptists on Saturday, Nov. 16. In a two-hour worship service in Greensboro, before a strong number of international people, 11 Montagnard men were ordained to the gospel ministry. It would be newsworthy if any 11 men were ordained at the same time, but the ordination of 11 Montagnard men is unprecedented in North Carolina. This was a major event important in several ways.
The Montagnards are a people group who have come to North Carolina from the Central Highlands of Vietnam and neighboring Cambodia.
Thousands of Montagnard Christians have come here over the past decade to escape intense persecution by the Vietnamese government. That persecution has included imprisonment, torture and death. The Montagnards sided with our forces during the Vietnam War. After the Americans withdrew in 1975, the communist government continued to attack the Montagnards, especially the Christians who sought to worship Jesus Christ freely. So our new Montagnard neighbors arrived here seeking freedom of religion just as our own Baptist ancestors did in an earlier time.
It humbled me to learn that each of these 11 men spent time in communist prisons in Vietnam. Several spent as much as 17 years hiding out in Vietnam’s rugged, forested mountains as they preached, evangelized and led worship while evading capture by communist soldiers.
These brothers have demonstrated their commitment to prepare themselves for the pastoral ministry. They recently completed a three-year study of the Bible and Christian doctrine, plus additional study about pastoral leadership. Their course of study was developed by Rev. K. ’Them Nfn, pastor of Highland Christian Church, a Montagnard Baptist congregation in Asheboro. He started the first Montagnard church in Greensboro in 2003 and in 2008 he moved to the smaller Asheboro church so he and his son, Simon Touprong, who is also a minister, could focus on discipling and training their people. Some American pastors from BSC member churches were part of an ordination examination council that invested 9 hours questioning and sharing with the candidates. Pastor John D. Jarman from Rankin Baptist Church said he felt unworthy to question the faith of these brave men. Steve Sells, director of missions for Randolph Baptist Association said the men knew an incredible amount of “solid, theological information.”
Pastor K.’Them has trained 35 students across N.C. This disciple-making was carried out in partnership with several Montagnard leaders, plus support from Randolph Baptist Association and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Sei Hun Kim, who has led Asian church leader training for our convention, was a prime mover and encourager.
One of the 11 ordained men will return to Cambodia as a missionary. Two will be starting new Montagnard churches here.
The others are already serving as pastors of churches. There are 11 Montagnard Baptist churches in our state. During the recent annual BSC meeting, we focused on creating disciple-making churches to impact our state’s lostness. Our new brothers and sisters from Vietnam have shown us this can indeed be done.