Central Texas Congregation Receives 2022 One Matters Award
By Barbara Dunlap-Berg
Honored by Discipleship Ministries, Tongan First United Methodist Church in Euless, Texas, delights in welcoming the stranger.
Members of the 186-member Tongan First United Methodist Church in Euless, Texas, know what it is to be a stranger, and they receive newcomers with a smile and open arms. Situated between Dallas and Fort Worth, Euless is home to one of the country’s largest Tongan communities, which initially formed half a century ago as immigrants came to the Texas city for its proximity to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and its jobs. Tongans compose about six percent of the city’s population of 60,500.
This year, Tongan First UMC was one of several congregations to receive the One Matters Award from Discipleship Ministries. The United Methodist agency partners with annual conferences in selecting recipients. One Matters recognizes one congregation from each conference that has increased numbers of professions of faith and baptisms from zero to at least one, with a renewed focus on discipleship. Honored churches get a commemorative plaque and a $1,000 check.
During 2021, the primarily Pacific Islander congregation, served by Pastor Lina Mahe, had seven professions of faith, baptisms, and confirmations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic forced our church to try new things – like worshipping online through YouTube or social media,” Mahe said.
Nearly two years later, online worship remains popular for those who cannot attend on Sunday morning. Weekly Bible study nurtures participants in their Christian walk.
"The COVID-19 pandemic forced our church to try new things – like worshipping online through YouTube or social media."
Members didn’t let the pandemic slow the church’s growth.
“During COVID, many of the women were instrumental in supporting and growing the children’s ministry, even though several of them had to take jobs to support their families,” the pastor recalled. “We work with our community to build a safe and sound environment.”
Along with community services, Tongan First UMC “connects through spiritual engagement, such as going to funerals, having services with others through singing and praying, and celebrating weddings and birthdays,” she said.
Reaching out to other churches and faith groups is essential to the congregation.
“Tongan First UMC has worshipped together with our brothers and sisters from the Tongan Wesleyan Church, Martin UMC, and other Tongan churches. The art of working together with these churches is vital to sharing our faith and our ministries,” Mahe noted.
Reflecting on the One Church Matters award, Melissa Shamburger, East District administrator, Central Texas Conference, said, “Tongan First United Methodist Church is one of our smaller churches and one of our ethnic congregations. We wanted to be sure to highlight this church.”
To apply for the One Matters Award, a conference nominates a church, collects required information and documentation, applies online, and acknowledges and celebrates the honored congregation, often during annual conference sessions.