Trinity United Methodist Church in Sacramento will host a candlelight vigil this Saturday, Jan. 29 at 12 p.m. (noon), in honor of the late General Vang Pao.
It is the final vigil in a month of services honoring the life of the celebrated Hmong leader.
Vang was a leader of the Royal Army of Laos who fought alongside U.S. forces in Southeast Asia and is credited with helping thousands of Hmong immigrate to the United States. He is revered within the Hmong community, where he is considered on a par with George Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King. Candlelight vigils have been held across the country every night since his death from heart failure on Jan. 6 in Clovis, California at age 81.
In the California-Nevada Annual Conference, the Committee on Hmong Ministry organized candlelight vigils on every Saturday in January since the general's death, as a time of prayer for the Hmong-American communities and larger communities within the Conference, as well as a time of mourning. They were held Jan. 8 at First United Methodist Church of Roseville, California, where the chair of the Committee on Hmong Ministry, the Rev. Paul Joseph T. Khamdy Yang is pastor; Jan. 15 at FUMC Oroville (CA), and last Saturday, Jan. 22 at Memorial UMC in Clovis.
Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., bishop of the San Francisco Episcopal Area and resident bishop of the Cal-Nevada Conference, participated in the candlelight vigil at Memorial UMC, as did the superintendent for the Central Valley District, the Rev. Mariellen Yoshino, and the Rev. Yang.
Members of Gen. Vang Pao's family, including his widow, attended. His granddaughter, Pai Yang, and 11-year-old great-granddaughter, Sunshine Moua, who sang at the service, are both members of Memorial UMC in Clovis.
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The senior pastor of Memorial UMC is the Rev. Janette Saavedra and its associate pastor, the Rev. Wang Pao Thao, leads the church's Hmong ministry. The Sunday Hmong-language worship service averages around 50 worshipers.
General Vang Pao's funeral has been scheduled for February 4-9 at the Fresno Convention Center – two days longer than a standard Hmong funeral, because of the general's stature. 40,000 mourners are expected. His body then will travel to Minnesota and perhaps to Wisconsin for public viewings.
Several members of the House of Representatives have petitioned the Obama Administration for a waiver which would allow Vang to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which usually is reserved for those who have served in the U.S. military. Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said, "Major General Vang Pao and the Royal Lao Army served in support of the United States with passion, dedication, and honor," in letters to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, quoted in the Sacramento Bee. Under Vang's leadership, the Hmong are credited with saving tens of thousands of American lives.