People of Siouxland – Portraits of the Extraordinary: Pastor Keo

When COVID-19 first broke out in 2020, Pastor Keo Phommarath saw how it effected thousands of people in our area and their ability to afford basic needs, such as food. It was a call to action for Keo and the Siouxland Unity Church, a Laotian congregation consisting of more than 20 families. 

Keo has been the lead pastor at the church since 2003. He said it wasn’t until 2020, that he saw a greater need in the community, as families were facing a crisis and struggling to put food on the table. “We had to do something, we had to help in whatever way we could.” 

Siouxland Unity Church stepped up and served the community in partnership with Zestos, a non-profit organization that provides food, clothing, shelter, and a variety of resources. Together, they hosted four large food distribution drive-thru’s at the church on 6th and Court, where they gave away food boxes packed with everything from dairy and meat products to fruits and vegetables and other wholesome foods. “Everything was free for the public. No requirements. We didn’t want our neighbors and friends to go hungry and we want them to have a better life, especially during these times.” 

Keo knows firsthand about searching for a better life. Born and raised in the Southeast Asian country of Laos, Keo was one of 11 siblings who grew up in a Buddhist home. Then in 1980, he left his home country and came to America. He didn’t know how to speak English at the time, but he was motivated to learn how to make a living. 

Nine years later, he moved from Kansas and found a job opportunity working at Iowa Beef Products (IBP), now known as Empirical Foods. Years later, Keo became enlightened by Christianity and began training at Dordt College to become a pastor. In 2003, it was official, and he was ordained as an evangelical pastor that year. And the rest is history. “God has called me to this. I will always be here for the Siouxland community. And our doors are always open to all.”

By Jetske Wauran-Castro

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