Saved from Death and Doubt, Dr. Cha Serves with Passion

By Zeke Willcox ’17
6/28/2018 4:47:46 PM

Dr. Lou ChaA young Hmong immigrant girl watches Tom and Jerry cartoons on an old black and white television. In the scene, Tom, the cat, slowly and dramatically sinks into the river. His paw shoots above the water — a cry for help.

While spending the day with friends down by a creek, nine-year-old Lou Cha waded through the water, slipped and then fell at the riverbed’s sudden drop.

“At that moment, it was God’s spirit that gave me that image of Tom sinking into the river,” Cha said with a smile, raising her hand above her head imitating the drowning cat. “That’s what I did. I lifted my hand up as high as I could.”

One of the fathers saw the hand poking above the water and pulled Cha out.

Looking back, Cha, assistant professor of Christian ministry and formation, sees how this moment marked a significant time in her life — one example of how God would save her so that she could fulfill a purpose for his kingdom.

Having served alongside the U.S. in the Vietnam War, the Hmong were heavily persecuted in Laos.  Many Hmong, including Cha and her family, fled to Thailand where she spent the first several years of her life in a refugee camp.

When she was six, Cha and her oldest brother ate a potato dinner that was poisoned. Cha survived. Her brother did not. Laying on her back in the makeshift hospital, Cha wrestled with God.

“I couldn’t understand why God didn’t reverse things around and allow me to die and him to live,” she said, especially given that in Hmong culture boys brought a family more honor than girls.

Three years later, Cha and her family took advantage of the United Nations’ offer for Hmong refugees to live in America. Cha’s uncle, a former soldier in the Hmong regiment, was already living in Kankakee, Illinois. With help from him and a mission-minded Methodist church, Cha’s family settled there too.

The transition for Cha proved difficult as she faced a barrage of doubts and insecurities within her faith. When her father became the pastor of a local Hmong community church, she felt jealous and emotionally neglected. Cha distanced herself from her father and the church.

“It wasn’t until my high school years that God again intervened in my life and brought along mentors who were unexpected,” Cha said.

Those mentors, a couple from a neighboring church, invested their time in the Hmong youth with camping trips and invitations for small groups to come to their home. Through their generosity Cha observed a genuineness of faith and heartfelt dedication to the church and to God.

“In many ways they were Christ incarnate to me,” Cha said fondly. “They came into my life and my community and demonstrated for me what it meant to follow Christ.”

Soon, Cha surrendered her life to Christ and was baptized at Maranatha Bible Camp in North Platte, Nebraska.   

Following the mentors’ examples, Cha immersed herself in the youth ministries at her church serving with children’s ministry, worship and youth leadership. God was preparing her for the future.

“Along the way, God had been giving me practical opportunities to learn how to do ministry,” Cha said.

Cha married her high school sweetheart, Chieng Cha. While he attended seminary, Cha went to Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and received her nursing degree. Over the next five years the collected roles of pastor’s wife, hospice nurse and new mother weighed heavily on Cha’s faith.

“I just felt myself being spread very thin, trying to do so many different things and not being able to do them very well,” Cha said.

But again, God proved his faithfulness to a tired and worn Cha with a probing question: if you’re going to live and die for something, what is that going to be?

“As I prayed and thought about that, there was only one thing in my life that I was willing to live and die for — that was God,” Cha said.

Soon, she resigned from the hospice center where she worked and pursued ministry full time.

“[God spoke to me and said,] ‘I don’t want you to help people die,’” Cha said. “’I want you to help people live.’”

“All the struggles of my life God has used to become a blessing to others, so that my scars become healing for others,” Cha said. “I’ve just been very blessed to see God’s faithfulness and his working in my life.”

Cha spent the next five years at Bethel Seminary College studying for her masters in divinity with a special emphasis in children and family studies.

“It is so important that we develop and build up strong Christian families and homes that can provide us with the physical, emotional, psychological care and nurture that we need as human beings,” Cha said.

When she graduated, her husband resigned from his pastoral position of 20 years. The couple felt ready for whatever God had for them next.

Cha accepted the position of pastor of children and family ministries at Kenwood Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, while her husband took a longer-term Sabbath. Cha felt challenged to reach across her ethnic lines and develop the church’s small population of international families.

While working at Kenwood, Cha started her doctorate in family ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to better equip herself to serve God in any capacity.

Soon, another calling and another chapter came into Cha’s life, as God’s plan aligned perfectly for Cha and her husband.

This summer Cha accepted a professorship at JBU within the newly reorganized Christian ministry and formation program that offers students a broad base of ministry skills within nine different emphases.

Her husband became the lead pastor at Serenity Missionary Alliance Church in West Siloam Springs, part of the Hmong District of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. 

“It was such a perfect match that God would provide me the opportunity to teach, train and equip the next generation of Christian ministers,” Cha said.

Cha has found joy in preparing college students for ministry. In her Christian Life course she discusses how to live in your “sweet spot,” — the place where all one’s skills, sculpted over time, come together at a place where one can serve a need with passion. 

“I’m living in my sweet spot,” Cha said. “I feel like serving in this role is a convergence of all that God has been doing in my life and how he shaped me with all the experiences. I really love being here, teaching and being a part of the community, while also continuing to help minister with my husband within the Hmong community. It seems like in all areas just a wonderful opportunity to continue growing and building up God’s church.” n

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