The most amazing scenery I have behold in the United States is not the lovely landscape or the beautiful cities. But a scene of many different races of people in one place. I came from a mono-cultural island, and one can imagine my arrival at the Honolulu, Hawaii airport. I had never seen so many different kinds of people in one place. I stayed with relatives for eleven days, and I ate a meal from another country each day. It was love at first sight; I was swept off my feet in love with this country, the multi-cultural people, and food!
The diversity of people enriches and increases the dynamics of the social structures of the United States with cultures and traditions and increases the number of religions. I was overwhelmed with the many different religions practiced in the country. It was because my world view of religions was underdeveloped. When I left Tonga, the majority religion practiced was the Christian religion; the Mormon religion was rising fast, and there was a new formation of Bahai teaching.
Here in the United States, Christianity is still one of the majority religions. I find that there are beautiful churches’ buildings and cathedrals in the heart of the six big cities I have visited. Church life was a key factor of my upbringing. I found a home church with Tigard United Methodist Church (TUMC) in the Christmas of 1985 and became a member in 1988. Tigard UMC is a majority white congregation, but there were enough Tongans to form a Tongan Community Fellowship service in the Tongan language. I worship with my Tongan community in the early afternoon at 1:30 pm on Sunday. The Tongan Fellowship would worship with the English language congregation on the first Sunday of the month (Communion Sundays). Our Tongan choir would also sing during the offering.
I look forward to that Sunday because we would only have one service with our Caucasian brothers and sisters in the morning. I will then have a free afternoon with my family. It has been a symbiotic relationship between two cultural groups that has prevailed for over three decades now.
Because I love to know people of other cultures and religions, I was active with the Tigard United Methodist program and ministry. When I was challenged to take up a leadership position in the UMW Conference Nominations Committee, I took that leap of faith. Here was the ministry platform where I made many friends across the Oregon Idaho Conference. I also attended the United Methodist Women’s National and Conference Ministry Leadership training. The United Methodist Women’s Summer School of Mission was also a study where I made many friends in the church. The United Methodist Women’s ministry had supported me with scholarships and friendships through the years.
Through my years of working with the majority Caucasian church, I learned that the human race is the same. The browns, the Blacks, the Whites, the Asians, and the Hispanics, Able and Disabled, are the human race—the epitome of God’s created beings. The best gift God had given us is our free will. God also gave Moses the Ten Commandments. These are rules to curb our free will. I learned from the bible the people had difficulties observing the rules. Then Jesus, the beloved Son of God, came and gave his disciples a new Commandment “… love one another…” John 13:34.
I learned about these rules when I was little, and although I master some of these rules, I often ignored a few hard ones. The tenth rule was made to trip me. Jesus’ Commandment to “love one another” I have learned to forgive my enemies, but I still don’t know how to love them safely.
Pastor Kalina Malua Katoa