The Vietnamese Alliance Church of Greater Los Angeles came into being through three main periods by the mercy of God. The first and second periods of 25 years occurred simultaneously from 1980 to 2006, and the third period started within the last 7 years.
The First Period (1980-2006): Establishment and Growth of Highland Park/Glendale Church
Highland Park Church (1980–1996)
During 1979 and 1980, faced with an influx of Vietnamese immigrants, Hermon Free Methodist Church in Los Angeles’s Highland Park neighborhood decided to sponsor an English as a Second Language (ESL) class for these immigrants with the hope of helping them adjust to a new environment.
Some Christians who helped lead the ESL class began to realize this was a good environment to introduce Jesus to their fellow Vietnamese and started a Vietnamese church. Thus, the Highland Park Church came into being under the sponsorship of the Hermon Free Methodist Church and the support of Reverend Phan Minh Tan, who was a pastor for a church in Pasadena.
After one and a half years shepherding two churches, Reverend Phan Minh Tan passed the senior position to Reverend Vo Thanh Thoi. After more than a year, Reverend Vo Thanh Thoi retired. After that, the Highland Park Church did not have an official senior pastor for some time. However, God prepared many pastors who came from near and far to teach and exhort the believers on a weekly basis. In 1985, Mr. Vo Chi Mai and his family moved to Highland Park and joined the church.
Having received a special calling from God, Mr. Vo Chi Mai dedicated his life to God and entered the seminary. After graduating from Azusa Pacific University, Mr. Vo Chi Mai was ordained by the Free Methodist Church and became the Highland Park Church’s senior pastor in 1991.
Glendale Church (1996–2006)
In 1996, realizing the need for learning and fellowship with other churches that have the same language and culture, Highland Park Church joined the Vietnamese District of the Christian &Missionary Alliance and moved to the city of Glendale.
In 2006, after Reverend Vo Chi Mai retired from his senior pastor position to enter a new ministry, Glendale church agreed to join Los Angeles Church under the leadership of Reverend Nghia V. Nguyen.
Looking back on these twenty-six years (1980–2006), the church grew from a small ESL class to a church mature in faith. We give thanks to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because of His faithfulness upon the church, which the Lord Jesus bought with His own blood.
A noteworthy person connected to the Highland Park church since its inception is Mr. Raymond Jackson. He is a son of the late missionary R. M. Jackson, who served in Vietnam. Born and raised in Hanoi, Mr. Jackson came to the U. S. when he was a teenager. Because of their love for the Vietnamese people, Mr. and Mrs. Jackson played a big role in helping with transportation for the Vietnamese people to attend ESL classes, organizing activities, and building Highland Park church. Although Mrs. Jackson couldn’t speak English as Mr. Jackson did, they both chose to be involved and helped build the Vietnamese church for nearly three decades.
In their advancing in years, Mr. and Mrs. Jackson still came to church every Sunday. Their faithfulness was a great example for other believers. In His will, God brought Mr. Jackson home to be with the Lord on Thanksgiving 2010. The church members dearly miss him.
The Second Period (1982–2006): Formation and Development of Los Angeles Church
After 1975, many believers had to leave their dearest homeland. By God’s mercy, some reached the other side safely, reestablishing their new lives in a foreign country.
Some Vietnamese came to America and settled in Los Angeles. Since there was no Vietnamese church in Los Angeles, some families came to Hawthorne Church to worship and received help with transportation.
One year later, Hawthorne Church voted to establish Los Angeles Church. With God’s guidance and with the support of Reverend Richard A. Lever, Reverend Samuel Ong Hien, senior pastor of Hawthorne Church, discussed the need for a Los Angeles Church facility with Reverend Dan Judy, senior pastor of Advent Christian Church. They finally agreed that the Vietnamese Church would be allowed to use the Advent Christian Church facility to gather for worship.
On January 10, 1982, Los Angeles Church was formally established. District Superintendent Reverend Truong Van Sang preached during the opening service. Reverend Samuel Ong Hien concurrently pastored both Los Angeles Church and Hawthorne Church.
Although the church started with only 14 members, it had all the basic church activities. Besides Reverend Samuel Ong Hien, other pastors came to minister to the church, including Reverend Nguyen Xuan Mai, Reverend Dang Ngoc Bau, and other pastors in the area. Reverend Samuel Ong Hien continued to pastor the church in 1982.
Following are pastors who ministered to the Los Angeles Church ever since:
From April 24, 1983, Pastor Kieu Tuan Nam.
From September 22, 1984, Reverend Doan Ngoc Thach.
From January 1, 1987, Reverend Nguyen Chau Chanh officially became the senior pastor of Los Angeles Church. During this time, Reverend Nguyen Chau Chanh to establish the development fund for the church and the reverend completed the process of applying for church’s legal status.
From August 1, 1994, Reverend Phan Van Xuan.
From April 1, 1997, Reverend Le Phuoc Lac.
From January 1, 2001, Reverend Ha Minh Vinh.
On February 1, 2004, Reverend Nghia V. Nguyen accepted an invitation to be the senior pastor of Los Angeles Church after more than a year worshiping with the church, and guiding it in several areas, including spiritual care, evangelism, administrative management, and leadership.
The Third Period (2006-present): Greater Los Angeles Church
The union of Glendale Church and Los Angeles Church Into Greater Los Angeles Church
God saw the need for His church in Los Angeles and Glendale. For that reason, He gave Glendale Church to Los Angeles Church and vice versa. In short, God gave these two churches to one another.
Sunday of November 5, 2006, is a significant for the church because it was on that day the two churches united.
During the past seven years, the love of God and the members’ love for one another have grown deeper and sweeter. Each member enjoys the love God has put in the others. They eagerly go to church, enthusiastically serve God, and cheerfully bring in their tithes and offerings. God has continued to bring in new believers from both churches. He also has performed many healing miracles on sick people. Attendance during Sunday services has increased. Activities from each age group have been blessed by the Holy Spirit and have begun to grow. The church budget also multiplied abundantly compared with previous years.
The church’s Vision
During this transition, Greater Los Angeles Church continued to pursue the vision and mission of the Christian & Missionary Alliance and of the Vietnamese District: acknowledging Jesus as the Savior, the Sanctifier, the Healer, and the Coming King, and fulfilling the Great Commission.
In addition to this overall vision, Greater Los Angeles also developed its own vision during this period:
- Build a holy church according to God’s command written in 1 Peter 1:16: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
- Promote God’s love among members according to the teachings of Jesus written in John 13:35: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
- Witness to the Vietnamese people in the area with great enthusiasm according to Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
- Find and secure a place for the members to worship, especially for the younger generation to get together and worship God.
- Cultivate the young adults, students, and children’s groups for the future of the church spiritually and culturally using English and Vietnamese.
Raising funds for the church building
To meet the needs of growth and having a place for worship, the Holy Spirit led the church to a beautiful church building previously belonging to an Orthodox Armenian Church. The original price posted was $2 million. After almost five months of negotiation with the blessing and guidance of God, the church bought this building with the final price of $1.1 million.
God encouraged the members to give generously, which also showed their spiritual maturity. Moreover, God impressed upon many others from the district, churches near and far, and friends to give freely. Thanks to these enthusiastic responses, Greater Los Angeles Church was confident to move forward in faith to complete its fund-raising for the new building, and this new church building was offically dedicated to the Lord on August 22, 2009.
To meet the need for growth and fulfill the fifth vision of the church, the English Ministry was established. As the predominant language in schools for our young people, English came into use during services, Bible study, and other activities for the children, teenagers, and young adults. On February 1, 2012, the church invited Pastor Nghi Tran to become assistant pastor, focusing on youth ministry and English ministry. After attending the main service with the congregation in praise and tithing, the children join the English service every Sunday morning in a large room set aside for English-speaking young people with the guidance of the assistant pastor and other teachers.
Having witnessed this period of almost forty years marked with countless changes among the Vietnamese immigrants, we continue to praise God for He never changes, nor do His mighty power and eternal love. The psalmist in Psalm 33:12 wrote: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!”
God has established his church and He will continue to sustain it. His love will cover and protect His church as He has promised. Under God’s guidance and protection, Greater Los Angeles Church will continue to receive His mercy, be sustained, and grow steadily.
Looking back at the long path trodden these past years, if God’s hand had not led and protected his children, what would have resulted? All of us at Greater Los Angeles Church give thanks to God the Trinity with our genuine love and heart-felt gratitude.
May all members of Greater Los Angeles Church always choose to put their hands into the nail-scared hand of God and wholeheartedly trust in His faithfulness from now until the day our Lord Jesus Christ returns. Amen!