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Tongan-American Young People Forging a New Path

We are the Bridge. On October 11, 2014, more than 35 Tongan-American United Methodist young people from around the greater Los Angeles area gathered at the Santa Ana United Methodist Church to worship, fellowship, and explore what it means to be the bridge. The participants, ages 18 to 40, wrestled with the reality of their present context in which they find themselves in the shadow of their parents, first generation immigrants who are administering and leading their faith communities. Though they find themselves within the four walls of the church, consistent with traditional norms of the second generation honoring and obeying the first generation, they struggle with maintaining their own faith identity while trying to measure up to their parents' expectations and wishes. While celebrating their cultural identity, they seek to practice their faith in ways that are less consistent with the practices of their parents’ generation.

The Pacific Island National Caucus of United Methodists is partnering with the Pacific Islanders Commission of Cal-Pac to provide a space where these young people will be affirmed and equipped to be able to forge a new way of ministry that will sustain their spiritual needs while using the gifts gained from the first generation. As part of a series of educational and training events that will focus on these needs, this first event provided some basic training on UMC polity and the intersection between UMC faith practices and cultural practices.

The Rev. David Kim, staff from Discipleship Ministries,the Rev. Saia Tuitahi, and the Rev. Sione Veikoso provided training and education. This training event also provided an ideal setting for these young people to interface with the Rev. Kim, a staff member of a general agency, a rare opportunity for these young people. In addition, the Rev. Kim was able to hear from the young people about their needs. The day ended in worship with the Rev. Monalisa Siofele preaching a dynamic multisensory message. An advisory committee will continue to work with PINCUM and PIC to provide a strategic process for their ongoing work.

Monalisa Tuitahi is chair of the Inter-Ethnic Strategy Development Group of The United Methodist Church.

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