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"My Name is Petra"

By Petra Thao (St. Paul-Appleton WI)

My name is Petra, which means “rock.” Pastor John Boeder at MLC says that I’m a rock. I don’t know about that, but I do know that I rely on the Rock, Jesus Christ, my Savior.

I first learned about him when I was 9 at the Hmong Saturday School of St. Paul-Appleton WI. Saturday School reached out to the Hmong community to share with them the love of Christ. This outreach opened the eyes of many Hmong families, including half of my family.

I enrolled at St. Paul’s in 4th grade. I remember that when my teacher, Mrs. Lorry Voss, asked our class to open the Bible to a certain book, I didn’t know what was going on, but as the year went on that changed. The Holy Spirit worked faith in me, and I understood Christ’s death on the cross for me. I kept asking my mom, “When are we going to get baptized?” She told me to wait and the right time would come. Sure enough, in the spring of that year, half my family got baptized. It was the best day of my life, ever.

I have three brothers and four sisters. I’m the second youngest. My younger sister and I were born in America; the rest were born in Thailand. When my family first moved to America 21 years ago, we still believed in the Hmong religion: Shamanism. Shamanism could be defined as paying respect to or worshiping the dead. Most Hmong households have an altar or shrine for rituals to show respect to dead family members. Rituals are performed for New Year’s, a marriage, a newborn baby, a death, and many other reasons.

My dad was a well-known Shaman King, so people always asked him to perform rituals for them.

Shaman Kings are mediators between the spirit world and the living world. They can talk to the dead and figure out why someone is sick, ask for a blessing, or ask for mercy. They are chosen by the spirits; they cannot simply choose by their own will to become a Shaman King.

My dad passed away in 1999, and as sad as it is to say, he is not in heaven. A few years later, Hmong Saturday School started, and my family was one of those who were touched by this miracle—half of my family, that is. My three brothers and oldest sister still hold strong to
Shamanism, and two of them try to convince the rest of us to go back, but we are standing firm in Christ. They’ve made fun of God and said that in a few years we’ll stop going to church because we’ll realize there is no God. It’s very sad to hear these words from your own family, but we’re not backing away from our God. We know the truth, and we are standing firm in our Savior.

Some of my family members questioned why I’m here at MLC when I can do so much better and get more money by doing something else. They don’t understand that I want to be here because of my love for God and my passion for sharing his Word with others. I’ve made my point clear, and now they know that no matter what they say, I’m not changing my mind.

After I graduate from MLC, I want to go to China or Thailand. Maybe Thailand because I can speak Hmong and there’s a big Hmong community there who need to hear the Word of God. I always imagined going overseas for a few years, then coming back to the U.S. to see what else God has planned for me. I’m very excited about this adventure.

I thank God for those in my family who are still strong in their faith, especially my youngest sister, Mai See; her faith keeps me going as well. I’m also thankful for my home congregation, my friends, my Luther Prep family, and my MLC family. It is such an honor and a blessing to know that there are so many people out there who are supporting me, pushing me along on my journey. I know that Jesus is my Rock. I hold onto him, and he holds firmly onto me.

Read more articles in our Fall 2012 InFocus magazine.