Native American study is eye-opener for young adults

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Native American study is eye-opener for young adults

Aug. 8, 2008     News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0895}

An e-Review Feature
By Erik J. Alsgaard**

DAYTONA BEACH — The 2008 Florida Conference School of Christian Mission opened people’s eyes, ears and, most importantly, hearts and minds to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Themed "LIving in Sacred Harmony," the annual school drew more than 600 participants, teachers and staff to the campus of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach July 24-27 for its two learning modules: a mid-week, four-day school and a three-day, weekend school.

“We want the church to be educated on mission things,” said Paulette Monroe, president of the Florida Conference United Methodist Women, which sponsors the school. “We take ownership — not really ownership, we just host it. It’s really for the church to come in and learn.”

The participants, which included about 110 youth and young adults from pre-kindergarten through college, had three mission studies from which to choose: a spiritual growth study called “I Believe in Jesus,” a geographical study on Israel and Palestine, and an issues study titled “Giving Our Hearts Away: Native American Survival.”

The school also featured worship services, time for prayer and reflection, and ample time for fellowship and learning from other United Methodists.

The Native American study struck a chord with many students, especially the young adults who, as a group, utilized this study.

“We wanted to talk about how Native Americans and other peoples are alike,” said Monroe of the study. “That’s what we wanted the kids to see. I think they really enjoyed it a lot.”

Nyssa Masters, 21, said she did. A member of Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church in Tampa, Masters said her mother has taken her to the school for years, “so I keep coming.”

“I learned more of their side of the story, I guess, ‘cause you only see ours,” she said. “It was interesting.”

The class utilized quizzes, readings and other materials to share information and facts many participants had not known.

“You would read about some of the stuff and hope it was false, but it was true,” she said. “We did quizzes and stuff, and some of (the information) was like, ‘I think it’s true, but I hope it’s false.’”

Mickey Erilus is only 18, but she’s already a veteran of the school.

“I’ve been here for many years,” she said. “I started when my sister started to bring me, and then my friends from church started to bring me, and I got hooked. I learn something new every year.”

Erilus, from Hollywood, said she too was surprised by what she learned in the Native American study.

“I didn’t realize what was going on with the Native Americans, what they were going through and how the government was treating them,” she said. “I didn’t know that they actually worshipped like we did. I learned a lot of stuff about Native Americans that I didn’t know.”

Detricia Williams teaches one of the weekend youth classes in the Native American study “Giving Our Hearts Away: Native American Survival.” Photo by Erik J. Alsgaard. Photo #08-0952.

She encouraged other young adults to attend the school. “You’ll get a better, well-rounded view of who’s around you,” she said. “Trust me; I didn’t know a lot of things that I learned this weekend.”

Merline Thony, 21, attended the school for the first time this year. The member of Bethesda Haitian United Methodist Mission in Tamarac said her pastor encouraged her to attend.

“Our pastor was talking a lot about it, and he was saying there were a lot of young kids that attend and that it would be a great experience for us,” she said. “It was a great experience. We deepened our understanding of how the Native Americans really did worship and learning that there were a lot of Native Americans around us that we really didn’t realize.”

Nora Emmanuel, 21, agreed.

“We don’t spend much time learning about Native Americans in school,” said the aspiring attorney, also from Bethesda Mission. “Coming out here and learning about how they are oppressed people in a way and that they’re not able to worship as much as they like to — they don’t have the freedom. We learned about their customs and how they worship God just like we do, just in different ways.”
Dorie Williams, a member of Thonotosassa United Methodist Church, took vacation time to attend the weekend school. Her church is host site to a bi-monthly Native American service.

Williams said the information gleaned at the school is multiplied, fulfilling one of the school’s purposes.

“We will go back and give study classes at our local church,” she said. “And since we’re a small church, we’ll ask other churches to join us in a group setting to learn about the materials we learned here. That’s basically why we’re here — to be able to go and teach other people who didn’t have the opportunity to attend the school.”

Williams encourages people to attend future schools. “You haven’t experienced the fellowship and the spirit of the Lord like you do when you come to the School of Christian Mission,” she said. “You just meet so many neat people here that you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet. And it’s just great to see God’s work at hand.”

Luella Lowe, president of the South West District’s United Methodist Women, teaches a class in the “Giving Our Hearts Away: Native American Survival” study. Photo by Erik J. Alsgaard. Photo #08-0953.

Speaking after the school, Monroe said she was pleased with how things went. She thanked the dozens of volunteer committee members, teachers and staff at the university for their hard work. All this effort, she said, is important, not just for United Methodist Women, but for the whole church.

“Everyone wants the spiritual growth studies, the Bible, the religious part. But when it comes to Native Americans, Israel and Palestine, you hear so much on TV and with news commentators that they paint a picture,” she said. “We need to get in and … study, and then one begins to learn what it’s all about and not the negative stuff that you hear on TV, but those things that we have in common, those things that are so much alike. We’re all alike in so many ways, but we don’t see it until it’s really brought to our attention.”

“It’s bringing the church for a mission-type mission study,” she added. “It’s not just for UMW, it’s not just for women. It’s for the general church.”

Thony said attending the school “can only benefit you.” “You are able to learn,” she said, “and you learn that you really aren’t so different from others around you.”

Emmanuel says it’s all about the attitude. “If you have a negative mentality coming in, you may not come out learning as much as you wanted to learn,” she said. “If you come here with a positive mindset, and you say, ‘You know what, I want to learn, and I want to interact with other young adults and learn about the ministry,’ then you’ll get a lot (out) of it.”

Information on Native American ministries in the Florida Conference is available by contacting Dock Green Silverhawk, chairman of the Florida Conference Committee on Native American Ministries, at

More information about the Florida Conference United Methodist Women, along with information about the group’s Spiritual Enrichment Retreat in September and annual meeting Nov. 1 in Lakeland, is available at”

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*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.

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