CST Social Media Specialist, alumna (M.Div. ’14), and current D.Min. student Monalisa Siofele-Lolohea recently attended four gatherings of the Pacific Islander National Caucus of The United Methodist Church (PINCUM) in California, Hawaii, Utah, and Washington, D.C. Together these Pacific Islander partners, the Tongan-American Caucus, the Fijian-American Caucus, and the Samoan-American Caucus, make up the youngest of the Ethnic Caucuses in the United Methodist Church. And, while the Pacific Islander population of the UMC is only about 0.2%, Pacific Islanders make up 4% of CST’s current student population.
Monalisa’s summer travels began with the Fijian Youth Summer Camp (FJY18) July 10-13 at Camp Lodestar in Wilseyville, CA where she was a presenter. This year’s theme was “Let Your Light Shine,” and it was the Fijian-American Caucus’ 3rd Annual Youth Summer Camp in the California-Nevada Conference.
Led by leaders of the Fijian Caucus and incoming CST M.Div. student, Pastor Tevita Koroi, along with Inoke Qarau and others, FJY18 aimed to provide space for Fijian young people to grow in their relationship with God and in the church.
The Fijian Caucus brought in diverse guest speakers including the first Fijian pastor to be commissioned, Rev. Tikiko Lesuma. Monalisa said, “Rev. Lesuma was a dynamic presence who reminded participants of their gifts and the unique light within each of them.” Other speakers included El Camino Real District Superintendent, the Rev. Shinya Goto; Rev. Mahsea Evans; current CST student, Pastor Langi Lolohea.
Monalisa’s travels then took her to Aiea, Hawaii for the Samoan-American Caucus gathering held July 19-22. This year’s theme, “Called by Christ, Empowered by the Holy Spirit,” brought nearly 100 participants, both clergy and laity, to Aiea UMC.
She says, “The Samoan-American Caucus provides space for conversations and storytelling of the Samoan people and their journey throughout the UMC, and it is a place where young people can discern their call to ministry. Since last year’s gathering, one young adult, Wesley Vaili, has answered his call to ministry and will begin this Fall as a hybrid student in the M.Div. program at CST. This annual meeting builds relationships between the first, second, and third generations, and it helps to equip leaders to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and to dig deeper into their personal understanding of the Wesleyan heritage and foundation. Thanks be to God!”
Wesley says of the next steps in his journey, “I am so blessed and grateful to begin my journey with CST. It won’t be easy, but I trust in God and his plans for my life. He’s brought me this far, and I know that he will only continue to use and take me further than imaginable.”
Caucus President Rev. Michael Seui (Kalevaria UMC in Tacoma, WA) led the conference with the support of his team: Vice President Pastor Simi Laumata (Fetu Ao UMC, Torrance, CA), Secretary Steve Maga (Laity, First Samoan UMC, Anchorage, AK), and Treasurer Rosa Yasuda (Laity, Aiea UMC, Aiea, HI).
Pastor Laumata shared his joy and prayers as he begins his position as Vice-President: “I look forward to all God has planned for us as a caucus, but more importantly for our communities that we serve. God help us and grant us wisdom and strength.”
CST alumni/ae and Course of Study Licensed Local Pastors attending the event included Piula Alailima, M.Div. ’81, Fa’atafa Fulumu’a, Simi Laumata, Fetuao Hakai, Setu Setu, Joe Siofele, Eketone Tosi, M.Div. ‘09, Langi Lolohea, and of course, Monalisa. The Caucus honored two of their pioneers, Misipati Karapani and Faaagi Taufete’e, retiring from their respective churches.
Many of the youth and young adults gathered to learn about the possibility of serving in leadership, and about being grounded in their culture. Rev. Seui shared, “Knowing your roots, where you come from and how you got here is vital in understanding how you’ll get to your next destination.”
Attendees were thankful for the work and ministry of the caucus. One young adult participant, Taimane Yasuda, said, “This conference has opened my eyes to the preparation and commitment required to bring all of our churches together. It’s beautiful to meet other young people active and leading in their local churches, igniting hope not only in the church, but in all that we do outside of the four walls, and in our communities.”
After the Samoan-American Caucus, Monalisa traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah for the conference of the Tongan-American Caucus, Kalia ‘o Felenite, from August 2-4
The Tongan-American Caucus began in 1990 under the guidance of Bishop Roy Sano and the first caucus President, Rev. Dr. Etuini (Eddie) Kelemeni. The current President, Tupouseini Kelemeni, welcomed the delegation and representatives to this year’s gathering. The conference provided leadership courses and cultural competence workshops, addressed current issues in the church, and worked to equip church leaders – both current and future.
Conference leaders included CST alumni/ae Rev. Dr. Siosaia Tu’itahi, D.Min. ’05, Rev. Dr. Linita Moa, M.Div. ’98, and Rev. Dr. Kalesita Tu’ifua, D.Min. ’13, as well as Rev. Dr. Sione Tu’ipulotu, D.Min. ’13, to name a few. Monalisa shared, “People gathered from near and far to remember their traditions, to learn, and to grow spiritually – all the while imagining a bright and hopeful future. This conference truly embodies the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ through the gifts and graces of our culture.”
The last stop on Monalisa’s summer travels took her to Washington, D.C. for MANA, a Pacific Islander Leadership Training held August 4-7 at Wesley Theological Seminary.
The Pacific Islanders Young Adult Leadership Development Program, called MANA (meaning power in Polynesian), focuses on youth and youth adult development.
Program participant, Ofeina Tuhalamaka said of her experience, “As we all gathered from different states in our western jurisdiction, each one of us came from different stages of life and left with a piece of MANA (God’s divine power and strength) that will help us to enlighten and encourage our youth & young adults’ future. A humbling experience; I’ll be forever grateful.”