Cindy Vang of First Hmong Baptist Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, was honored with WMU’s top leadership award — the Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development — during the WMU Missions Adventure and Celebration on June 12 in New Orleans.
“What impresses me most about Cindy is that when God gives her a vision, she is not afraid to pursue it, even when she has no idea how it will happen,” wrote Joy Bolton, volunteer international WMU coordinator and retired executive director of Kentucky WMU, who nominated Vang for the award. “She prays, trusts God, and challenges others to join in … and people respond.”
Although their paths crossed when Vang served as president of Minnesota-Wisconsin WMU from 2016–19, Bolton said it was during the COVID pandemic when Vang invited her to be a part of an online prayer group that their relationship grew.
Recognizing the need to stay connected during a time of isolation, Vang began a “Prayer Chat” group that continues to meet each Tuesday and includes women from across the United States, as well as Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam who share their stories and pray together.
“There is no doubt of Cindy’s global impact of encouraging women in their walk with the Lord,” Bolton shared. “She encourages women to be on mission and prays for them. In Prayer Chat, we have learned of the missions work of several women in Laos and Thailand and prayed for them and also, through Cindy, sent resources to help them. The commitment of these women to travel to remote places, to help others by taking blankets and food and share the gospel is inspiring. Cindy has played a vital role to encourage and help them.”
Betty Lynn Cadle, retired executive director of Minnesota-Wisconsin WMU, shared that one of the joys and most rewarding parts of her role was working with Hmong women in the churches there.
“When Cindy got involved in WMU leadership work, she hit the road running,” Cadle reflected. “Watching her lead others to participate in the ministries and projects God lays on her heart is an inspiration and a challenge. She works willingly and endlessly to put feet to whatever she believes needs to be done. Cindy evidences love for accomplishing the purposes of WMU — where she is, throughout the US, and overseas, too.”
Vang and others who serve with her on the leadership team of Minnesota-Wisconsin WMU have connected with women in Thailand and Laos to provide weekly training about WMU and become active missions leaders in the villages where they live.
Cindy Townsend, minister of women’s enrichment ministry and WMU at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, first met Vang in 2016 at a WMU board meeting. In 2018, she participated on a missions trip Vang helped lead to Chiang Rai, Thailand. One of the outcomes of that trip was the formation of Hill Top Crafts, a WorldCrafts artisan group.
“Before Hill Top Crafts existed, it was just a dream in Cindy Vang’s heart,” Townsend shared. “I was there in Thailand when the Hmong women covered the floor of a big room of different styles of purses made from the Hmong signature material and invited us to choose our favorite purse.
“They learned how to sew and create their own style by watching videos on YouTube,” Townsend explained. “We prayed that night this would be the beginning of a way for Hmong women to provide for their families in need. Today, Hill Top Crafts exists because Cindy challenged women to learn how to sew and do something productive for their children.”
The artisans employed at Hill Top Crafts send their much-needed income home to their families in small villages in Laos and Vietnam. They are provided with shelter, as well as leadership training and discipleship courses. Their work at Hill Top Crafts helps them build self-esteem, encourage self-confidence, and provides essential hands-on skills to be successful in life. The women donate a portion of their sales to provide food, clothing, and shelter for orphans.
Vang’s influence in the area continued on a missions trip in 2019 to Laos and Thailand. Her team visited 10 churches in Laos and 5 in Thailand, gave away more than 300 eyeglasses, coordinated a Vacation Bible School in a Laos church, gave away 105 Bible story books to help churches read to children, and gave away solar lights to people so they could read God’s Word at night, among other missions endeavors. Vang is planning another trip to Thailand and Laos in 2024.
“Cindy is constantly asking God to give her visions of how to make the world better for her Hmong people,” Townsend shared. “God has answered her prayers by giving her His vision and by providing His way for the dreams and visions to become a reality.”
The Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development was established in 1999 to annually recognize a Baptist woman who demonstrates the ability to foster leadership in women and displays the potential to be leaders in the community and the world. The award includes a grant to help the recipient continue her development and ministry to others.
Julie Walters is corporate communications manager for WMU.