Missionary to America, Rev. Vue Lee, King of Kings, Roseville, Mn.
Think about this : a baby, born in a refugee camp in Southeast Asia, of animist parents, becomes a missionary to America, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Is this a miracle? Actually, along the way there were several miracles.
Rev. Vue Lee was born in a refugee camp on an Army base in Thailand. A member of the Hmong , members of his family fought and died for America during the Vietnam war. As thanks for their loyalty, the Lees were lent $1500 by the US government to relocate in Sparta, Wisconsin; sometime after they arrived, Mr. Lee moved his family to Winton, a small town in California. Then, the father passed away.
Left alone, afraid of how they would survive, the only way his mother could earn a living was to take in sewing. Not able to earn enough to feed young Vue and his three siblings, the family went on welfare, and food stamps, living “across the tracks” in subsidized housing. Even so, the Lees paid back every cent of the $1500 loan for their airfare to America.
Vue graduated from high school – but he could not go to college because the family needed more income. He worked three jobs to help the family, until McDonalds offered him a position as a manager of the restaurant where he had been working.
At sixteen, Vue married a Christian Hmong girl. Their agreement was she had to follow the animist traditions of the Hmong. He and his wife moved to San Jose and began a family. After he began working for the telephone company in San Jose, their finances improved. But there was other trouble.
Vue’s wife could not give up her Christian beliefs as she had agreed before the marriage. She returned to her faith and wanted to bring her children and husband with her. There was stress in the family. Vue was suspicious at first, after all, as a traditional Hmong, he had been brought up to fear the “spirits” that infested the world, spirits who were always looking to trick someone and bring them to ruin.
Spirits in the trees, in the lakes and rivers, spirits in the air and in animals. How could he let his family join a Christian church?
On the other hand, he respected Christians – he had been told Christians had good morals, and his children needed moral grounding. Plus, there was a Christian Hmong congregation nearby. He put a toe in the Christian water. He began classes to learn what it meant to be a Christian. In the beginning he sat in the back of the church, until he took Luther’s Small Catechism seriously, and his faith matured. Then he jumped in fully – Vue was baptized at 23. The Bible spoke to His needs and he found peace among the Christians. He became a deacon in the church, and he and his family moved to the front pew. As a child he had escaped from war in SE Asia, and now, as an adult, he escaped the world of those old, jealous, demanding spirits.
In the next few years Vue Lee became materially successful. Mrs. Lee began a small business. They had the new car, the big house. All was well, until one day Vue experienced a severe pain in his back; maybe he had turned the wrong way, or picked up something that was too heavy. Maybe those old spirits were angry with him. He didn’t know what caused the pain; sometimes things happen you can’t explain. The pain was debilitating and kept him at home. A botched operation left him an invalid, unable to work. With no regular paycheck from Vue, the family lost everything – the car, the house, their pride. “Lord, why?”
After six months wrestling with God in a spiritual desert, Vue remembered a promise, a promise he had made to God. Some years before he had felt a calling to become a pastor, but shook off the idea. No matter, it kept coming back. He recalled the prayer he prayed to distance himself from that calling: “Lord, if, somehow, you find a way to pay off all my bills, then I will go to seminary.” Back then, it seemed it seemed impossible. Well, now everything – the house, the car, all were gone, and with them the bills! It was not the strategy he had in mind, but now he had no excuse. What would the family think?
He approached his wife first. He told her there was a heat burning in his heart to become a pastor. Her response was, “But I am not pastor’s wife material.” They agreed to pray about it. Two weeks later she came to Vue and said, “This morning I heard a very distinct voice say to me, clear as day, “Sell your business and follow your husband.” Vue’s response was, “Maybe you shouldn’t tell to many people about this – they might think you are crazy.”
The more they prayed, the more at peace they became with the calling Vue had received. They had no second thoughts, not even about moving halfway across the country for Vue to attend college in St. Paul, Minnesota. They were at peace, knowing the Lord would be with them. And He was.
The church in California raised $2400 to help them move to Concordia University in St. Paul. It would require sacrifice, but support from friends and relatives and especially the support of Concordia made it a possibility for Vue to enter college. The university is located in a multi-ethnic community, and there is a large Hmong population in St. Paul where relatives could be a support base for the family. After paying for the move, the Lees arrived in St. Paul with only $400.
They lived in a dormitory at Concordia, and a Hmong relative fed the family until Mrs. Lee could find work. But who would hire her? Then, soon after they arrived, Mrs. Lee received a surprise phone call: a man with a job offer. “How did you know I needed a job?” The caller told her he had found her application on Monster.com. “But I put that up two years ago! I forgot all about it.”
With two other Hmong students Vue Lee began a Hmong church in the basement of their dormitory. The “church” outgrew the basement and worships today as a part of King of Kings Lutheran. After four years of study, Vue graduated from Concordia. He then went through EIIT (the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology) in order to be ordained. He now serves as the missionary-co-pastor of King of Kings.
Discontented with having to appease demanding spirits all the time, two shamans joined Vue’s Christian church. Shamans have to be “called” by the Spirits; you cannot decide to be a Shaman. And each shaman serves particular spirits. These spirits must always be placated, kept on your good side or they will harm you. The Spirits demand more and more from you; you can never give them enough. These two shamans had grown tired of trying to placate the spirits.
Hmong Christians know that the only way out of spiritual slavery is to become a Christian. This is what the shamans did when they joined King of Kings. They wanted to serve a God of mercy whose power is stronger than the spirits of this world; a God who would bring them peace. Some would say this was a miracle, but it would be only one of many miracles the Hmong missionary Vue Lee has experienced.
How many miracles does it take to bring a child from Southeast Asia to Minnesota to be a missionary? Only one: the love of God, a God who loved the world so much that he selected for his ministry a boy displaced by war, afraid of the spirits of this world, tempted by riches, and fearful of leaving familiar surroundings.
Today Rev. Vue Lee spends his life bringing the love of God to others, in particular, those looking for freedom from oppressive spirits. He introduces them to Jesus, the One Who brings eternal peace.
To see the full video with Rev. Lee, click here.
To see a short interview with Missionary Lee, Click here