I want to thank you for reading my blog as I continue to talk about my faith walk with the multicultural community of the United States. After receiving feedback on my last blog, I wanted to clarify my first impression of religions in the United States. Christianity was and still is the majority religion in the U.S. I’ve noticed in my travels around the U.S. that among the towering skyscrapers, nestled many lovely historical church buildings and cathedrals. The Christian church was an essential part of the first community structure in these cities. In Tonga, the Church building is central in the villages and town’s design of the Tongan communities. So seeing churches in the U.S. cities comforted me to know that I’ll have a place and community to nurture my faith.
In my Tongans consciousness, the church is the safe sanctuary in the village. When I moved to Tigard, Oregon, in March 1983, my apartment was within walking distance of Tigard United Methodist Church. Though I was happy to see a church close to my home, I wasn’t always comfortable attending worship, as there was a language barrier.
So I attended my brother’s home church. They met mainly in Tigard in someone’s home or apartment for prayers and singing hymns. As the Fellowship grew too large for the apartment and house and needed a more prominent place to gather for Sunday worship, Tigard UMC provided a worship space in the church. On December 25, 1985, Christmas Day, the Tongan Community Fellowship began worshiping at Tigard UMC.
To nurture a close relationship between the congregations, a tradition to worship together one Sunday a month was established. They were given a part role in that service, that is, to sing during the offering. The inclusive ministry of Tigard UMC church had not only provided a space of worship for the Tongans, but they also didn’t charge for the use of the church. That was a show of great hospitality and welcoming.
With the help of the pastor’s direction for a way to help the church, the Tongans made offerings to help with the utilities. The Tongan Fellowship increased its offering through the years without any direction from the pastor and the church.
Tigard UMC gave me a ministry platform and opportunities to explore cross-cultural ministry. I volunteered in the children and the United Methodist Women ministries and took the challenge of taking leadership positions in the UMW Conference Nomination Committee. I also taught 2nd and 3rd grade in Elementary Sunday School and Junior High Sunday School. I was on my feet to cheer and praise the Lord when the seven children (five boys and two girls) in my first 2nd and 3rd-grade mixed class, who were the same children I taught in my Junior High class, were confirmed.
Through my years of witnessing faith with active participation in the needed works of the church, God continues to challenge and fill my days with tasks to work with brothers and sisters to extend care and love for all people.
Pastor Kalina Malua Katoa