Written by Rev. Ron Carlson, Northwest District Superintendent
"I am because we are."
While we are in the middle of this season of interviews and charge conferences, I am also getting ready to travel to Africa University with our Bishop. In the midst of transition and searching for a new normal, I am questioning the sanity of this adventure at this time. There is so much going on here in the district and I will be gone for about two weeks. Often, the preparations and the current reality combine to make me feel almost overwhelmed. Luckily, at those times I am able to remember my first trip to Africa University five years ago.
On one hand, that trip seems so far ago in the past, on the other it seems to have just happened yesterday. To be honest, the trip happened long enough ago that the length of the plane rides has melted into my memory. While the distance traveled was great, it is not what I think of when I recall that trip. What I think of today are the people and the concept of Ubuntu. It is those two things that caused me to jump when the Bishop asked if there were any interested in traveling with her.
The first time my family and I set foot on the campus of Africa University we were overwhelmed by the friendliness of the students, faculty, and staff. We were touched by the work of the orphanage just outside the campus and amazed at the work on the farm done by Larry Kies and his family. We attended a church where we saw what sacrificial giving looked like. It was in Africa that I first began to understand Ubuntu, which can be translated as “I am because we are.” In Africa, the community is greater than the individual and it can be seen throughout the lives of those who live there.
I am seeing these same values here in the Northwest District. In the few interviews and charge conferences that I have already done, I am meeting some wonderful people and hearing about some great ministries. Together we are doing our part to create disciples for the transformation of the world. I am so excited to be here, and I am looking forward to the next many years as we live out our understanding Ubuntu as we love God and love our neighbor. I hope that you will share your stories of ministry success throughout the year, and not just in this time of charge conferences and interviews.
One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, Native American Ministries Sunday serves to remind United Methodists of the gifts and contributions made by Native Americans to our society. The special offering supports Native American outreach within annual conferences and across the United States and provides seminary scholarships for Native Americans.
When you give generously on Native American Ministries Sunday, you equip seminary students who will honor and celebrate Native American culture in their ministries.
The United Methodist Church of LeMars in Northwest Iowa has a special kids group. The Kids 4 Christ program is made up of children ages 3 to those in 5th grade. The group recently raised $1,050 to donate to other children through the Children’s Miracle Network.
“We don’t want to limit our ministry only within our building,” said Rev. Okitakoyi Lundula. “We make it so we are there for the community and beyond the local church.”
Kids 4 Christ meets every Wednesday with 45 children attending weekly. Many children aren’t church members but from the LeMars community. On Sunday, many of those children also attend worship service.
Once a month, LeMars UMC’s mission committee designates a special offering to give to groups outside the church through its Noisy Money Mission. The Noisy Money Mission gets its name from special collections made up of loose change from congregants.
“We call it noisy money because the idea is to get loose money and when they drop that money in the can, it makes noise,” said Lundula.
Noisy Money offerings have gone to local, national and international groups in the past. This Lent, though, Lundula asked for a specific group of people to raise money.
“I requested, as a pastor, if we could use the season of Lent for children to do the mission work,” he said. “The idea was to make children feel like they can also be part of somebody’s life by helping strangers and somebody beyond the local church.”
So, it made the most sense for the group to help other children. The recipient of the money raised would be St. Luke’s Unity Point Hospital in Sioux City through the Children’s Miracle Network. The idea to help St. Luke’s came from one of LeMars UMC’s own children.
A young church member named Marcus, 8, was in the hospital for many months after he was born and was helped by the Children’s Miracle Network. Marcus and his mother shared their story and photos of his journey during children’s time one Sunday.
“That was a motivation for the kids,” said Lundula. “If we can do something for the Children’s Miracle Network, many children will be blessed, just like Marcus.”
The two weeks prior to Lent and every Sunday during Lent, the children would collect noisy money from church members after the children’s time. Some members also gave “silent money” like dollar bills.
“The kids, they like when the money is making noise,” said Lundula. “They like to run up and down the aisle collecting the money.”
After the Lent season, the church collected enough noisy and silent money to present a check to the Children’s Miracle Network for $1,050. Lundula presented the money to the organization at their annual Radiothon fundraiser. The representatives with the hospital and Children’s Miracle Network were surprised to receive such a large sum.
“We told them before we were doing a mission project,” said Lundula. “They didn’t expect us to have $1,050.”
The donation from Kids 4 Christ helped St. Luke’s raise more than $120,000, a new record for the organization.
“They are very happy that it helped push them up to their goal that they were working on this year,” said Lundula.
Community of giving
“We are doing very well in the area of mission,” said Lundula. “Doing the mission is really part of the DNA of LeMars.”
An ongoing project for the church is working with Africa University. They support missionaries at the University and other missionaries in Africa. They have also helped raise money to provide clean water in South America. Next fall the church plans to collect books to give to students at an elementary school.
The teens in the church also got involved with mission work. This lat year, a group of seventh and eighth graders collected money to buy food for the needy in the community. They also go to different nursing homes in the area to visit residents. The high schoolers of the church bought Christmas gifts for nursing home residents as well.
“Every month we have something to fit the mission of making disciples for the world,” said Lundula. “That transformation comes through the love we share through the local church.”
That transformation and passion for helping others is evident as the LeMars church is seeing more people join them in their mission. They have had 13 new confirmations and 10 new members join.
“We really feel the spirit moving and we pray that God will continue to bless us in that way,” said Lundula.
Native American Ministries Sunday is April 30, 2017.
This offering is taken the third Sunday of Easter and funds urban ministries with Native Americans, scholarships for Native Americans attending United Methodist seminaries and annual conference Native American ministries.
One half of the special offering received in April by United Methodist Churches across the nation is sent to General Board of Global Ministries for distribution. The other half remains within the Iowa Conference and supports Iowa’s only recipient, the Native American Child Care Center, held at Grace United Methodist Church in Sioux City, Iowa.
The Native American Child Care Center began over 40 years ago as a cooperative effort between leaders of the Native American community and local United Methodists.
The philosophy and purpose of the Native Americans Child Care Center is to provide child care services and an early childhood education and development program primarily for, but not limited to pre-school children who identify with the Native American heritage. It is there to promote and foster the physical, emotional, social, cultural and intellectual development of children to help them realize their full potential.
This work, and hundreds of other ministries, are possible because you give.
When you support Native American Ministries Sunday, you equip students of all ages to honor and celebrate Native American culture in their education and ministries. And you empower congregations that are finding fresh new ways to minister to their communities with the love of Christ.
One tribe in North America has told this story for centuries: when people “pale as birch” crossed the great water in large canoes, they brought with them “The Black Book.” However, the bringers of the physical Book could not have known what it would mean and look like to be Native and a follower of Jesus.
Today Native Americans—with many unique languages, many unique cultures—honor their heritage, and live as Jesus-followers, led by a rotation of primarily Native American pastors.
Most Americans today recognize that the history following the arrival of the large canoes bore little resemblance to the one all Christians identify as Creator. That’s why the people of The United Methodist Church, Native and non-Native, are creating a new history.
Dr. Richard Twiss, a member of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, asked:
“Will we be allowed to develop new ways of doing church that honor God’s purposes for the creative expression of our cultures? Will new ministry partnerships and coalitions form? Will you help be a part of this wonderful process of reconciliation, restoration and release?”
Your contribution supports aspiring Native American pastors and enriches outreach in their communities. Thank you for your generous gift!
Send checks to:
P.O. Box 340029
Nashville, TN 37203
Please put "Native American Sunday" in the note section of your check.