Grace Lao Mennonite Church (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada)

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Ong ath Phounsavath
Grace Lao Mennonite Church

The St. Jacobs Mennonite Church began to sponsor Laotian persons with the arrival of the Nyuk Panyadeth family near the end of 1980. By 1988 the church had sponsored at least eight Lao families.

A Sunday school for the Laotian families, led by Luida Gingrich, began 5 September 1982, and included Bible reading in both English and Laotian. Five or six Laotians attended every Sunday. In 1983 Mabel Sauder and Art Martin also helped to lead the class, each teaching about two months at a time.

Beginning in 1985 Pastor Tong Chitchalerntham visited the Laotians in St. Jacobs once every two months. Sometimes Ong ath Phounsavath from Hamilton, Ontario accompanied him.

On 21 April 1986 the group met with persons from the Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec. The meeting concluded the Lao group had the potential for becoming a church. On 30 August 1986 the conference's Missions Ministers Hubert and Mary Schwartzentruber, Tong Chitchalerntham, and local leaders and sponsors, met with about thirty of the Laotian group to discuss plans for the future. Out of this discussion grew the decision to invite a couple to give leadership to the group. Tong Chitchalerntham had responsibility to minister to the Laotian congregation in St. Catharine's on Sunday mornings, so an invitation was given to Ong ath and Viengxai Phounsavath to come, as they were known and liked by the St. Jacobs group.

In the fall of 1987, Ong ath and his family came to minister to the group once a month. The Lao Fellowship soon asked Ong ath to come and live in the community. In September 1988, Ong ath and Viengxai Phounsavath and family moved to Kitchener to continue leading the Laotian Fellowship of the St Jacobs Mennonite Church. On 27 May 1990 Ong ath Phounsavath was licensed as a minister in the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada. The congregation was first known as the St. Jacobs Lao Mennonite Church.

At Christmas 1993 the Grace Lao Mennonite Church, as it became known, held a meeting to discuss the possibility of collecting money from each member family, to enable the the congregation to move to Kitchener where all of its members lived. In 1994 a five year plan was developed to become an independent Mennonite Church worshipping in Kitchener in either a rented or purchased facility.

In April 1996 the Grace Lao Mennonite congregation was received as an emerging congregation in the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada. In 1997 the congregation received its charitable charter and transferred membership from the St. Jacobs Mennonite Church. In October 1999 the group moved to a church building purchased at 575 Lancaster St. W. in Kitchener.

The Laotians at Kitchener join many Laotians throughout the world with special services on "Day of Prayer for Laos".


Mennonite Reporter (20 March 1989): 11; (19 October 1992): 13.

CMC Nexus (May 1996): 18.

Yang, Nancy. "History of Grace Lao Mennonite Church." 2012. YouTube. 6 December 2016.

Additional Information

Table 1: Grace Lao Mennonite Church Leaders

Name Years
of Service
Tong Chitchalerntham 1985-1987
Ong ath Phounsavath 1987-2002
Som Phanpha
(Lay leader)
Trakoon Yoel Masyawong 2004-present

Table 2: Grace Lao Mennonite Membership Statistics

Year Membership
2000 95
2003 95
2015 70

Author(s) Som Phanpha
Date Published July 2003

Cite This Article

MLA style

Phanpha, Som. "Grace Lao Mennonite Church (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2003. Web. 8 Jul 2020.,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=141724.

APA style

Phanpha, Som. (July 2003). Grace Lao Mennonite Church (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 8 July 2020, from,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=141724.

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