100-year-old Christian vestige finds refuge in volcano’s shadow

H’Bau Church at the foot of a century-old extinct volcano in Gia Lai Province has absolved generations of Central Highland minorities over more than a century. Chu Dang Ya Mountain, or “wild ginger root” in Jrai, is blessed with a variety of wild sunflowers endemic to Chu Pah District, Gia Lai Province, about 30 kilometers from Gia Lai’s capital Pleiku. The pan-shaped volcano dates back millions of years, providing shelter to remains of H’Bau Church. A path dissecting Ngo Son rice field leads to the church in Xoa Village, fed by fresh spring water cascading from Chu Nam, the highest mountain in the province and considered brother to Chu Dang Ya Volcano. H’Bau Church, built in 1909, is a marriage between French Gothic architecture and the stilt house structure typical of the Central Highlands. The church has survived the test of war and over 100 years of use. Today, H’Bau only retains part of its bell tower and facade. The tower is still intact and solid, allowing visitors a visualization of its past. The old cross depicting the death of Jesus is still polished and cleaned regularly. Though a new church serves local believers, many J’rai, a big minority community across Gia Lai, still attend the old church every day, carrying with them flowers and prayers.