by Heather Peck Travis
For the past two years – thanks to the Native American Ministries Sunday offering – Carson Jones and his daughter, Sade, have attended summer conferences of the Southeast Jurisdiction Association for Native American Ministries at the United Methodist Center at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.
Carson and Sade, 12, are members of Triad Native American United Methodist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.Administrative Council chair Daphine Locklear Strickland, notes, "To the average person, this might seem like a small thing, but Carson and his daughter look forward to this conference as the only vacation time they have to celebrate with other Native Americans from all over the Southeastern Jurisdiction."
Carson, a member of the Lumbee tribe, explains that without the financial assistance of the fund, they could not afford to attend.
"I am a single parent and only work usually 20 hours a week at UPS," he says. "I do some yard work in the summer. It takes all the money I make to pay my bills and care for my daughter.
"When I first started attending the conference 12 years ago, I only knew the members of my church, and it was something different to do," Carson says. "I met new people from all over the South. I enjoyed attending the classes that were taught by different people, mostly Indian. I really enjoyed Bible study."
Carson says in attending the conference, he developed a close bond with Daniel Dubby, who attends the conference with the children of the Mississippi Choctaw.
"I really like being with the different people and my daughter meeting other children like us," he says. "Sade attends children programs. I believe it helps her self-esteem to sing and play and do crafts with other children."
At Triad Church, Carson serves on United Methodist Men, social action and hospitality committees. He also delivers bread to families in the community and ushers at worship services.
'Rich in the love of God'
Triad Church is a "Native American church that strives to have Native style worship and celebrate Native traditions," says Strickland. Many of its 110 members "are retired and live on Social Security. We are not a rich church, but we are rich in the love of God.
"Many Native people come to the Triad area searching for a church, and they find us," she adds. "We have many poor people, and we have middle income, but we don't look at socioeconomic conditions. We look at the heart.
"Carson is just one example of a person (moving from) being homeless to owning his own home from the time he joined our church."
Native American Ministries Sunday reminds United Methodists of the contributions made by Native Americans to the church as well as to society.
The financial gifts benefit Native American ministries, help preserve a rich cultural heritage and empower local outreach within annual conferences and across the United States. They also provide seminary scholarships for Native Americans.
"We desire to be like Jesus, so we work hard to show God's love in our communities," Strickland says. "Our first full-time pastor received help while in seminary from Native American Ministries Sunday.
"Native American Ministries Sunday is crucial for native people who go to conferences because many of them live on fixed incomes," she continues. "Without the offering, many of our church members could not attend the summer conference."
Heather Peck Travis is a freelance journalist living in Glasgow, Ky.
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