Three springtime "Meet Your Missionary" tours will introduce Oklahoma United Methodists to missionaries who serve right here in the state and will invite the travelers to explore ministry sites in Oklahoma.
Each tour is scheduled for a Saturday.
Sponsoring the visits is the Mission & Service Ministry Team (MSMT), chaired by Tom Hoffmann of Tulsa, himself a former missionary. He served in Russia. Coordinator is Karen Distefano of Bartlesville, mission secretary for the Oklahoma Conference.
Tour 1—March 10. Clinton Indian Church and Community Center and El Reno Fellowship of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.
Tour 2—April 14. OU Chinese Fellowship, at Norman, and the United Methodist Ministry Center, Oklahoma City.
Tour 3—May 12. Cookson Hills Center, at Cookson, and Circle of Care Boys Ranch, at Gore.
To register for any or all of the tours, or for more information, contact Distefano at firstname.lastname@example.org. Travel to the sites is on your own.
Most Oklahomans will never visit the United Methodist missionaries and mission sites in faraway lands. "But with these visits—to Donna Pewo, Fuxia Wang, and Meri Whitaker—we get to have a personal encounter with some of them and the people they serve in our own backyard," Distefano said.
"Our hope is that churches or individuals will get to better know our missionaries in Oklahoma, who serve through the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), and that they find a missionary or ministry they are excited to support with their prayers, volunteer efforts, and donations."
Rev. Hoffmann emphasized The United Methodist Church was birthed as a missionary church. "Thus persons called to full-time missionary service through the Church have a special purpose.
Tour 1—March 10
Clinton Community Ministry and El Reno Fellowship, Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC)
(Register by March 1)
Missionary Donna Chaat Pewo serves as a GBGM Church and Community Worker at the OIMC Clinton Community Ministry and El Reno Fellowship.
Following the visit at the Clinton facility, the tour will move to the El Reno Indian UMC for lunch, prepared by church members, and a visit with OIMC Conference Superintendent David Wilson.
A priority of the OIMC, the Clinton/El Reno mission primarily serves children of the Cheyenne-Arapaho nations in a rural area west of Oklahoma City. The program includes worship, tutoring, and recreation.
Originally from Lawton, Rev. Pewo is a licensed Local Pastor in the OIMC, and her home church is Billy Hooton Memorial UMC in Oklahoma City. She directed a ministry in El Reno for four years before the opportunity in Clinton arose.
"God has led me through many storms," Pewo said. "I have learned to trust him and to be obedient, for all he has done for me."
The ministry was launched when a lay missioner heard a call for the Church to respond to needs of the area’s children, many of them poor, surrounded by substance abuse, and struggling in school. It began with a very small group and had increased to 35 in 2011.
Tour 2—April 14
OU Chinese Fellowship, Norman, and the Oklahoma Conference United Methodist Ministry Center, Oklahoma City
(Register by April 1)
Missionary Fuxia Wang is a GBGM Church and Community Worker with the Chinese population in Norman and South Oklahoma City.
This tour begins in Norman and, after lunch, moves to the Oklahoma Conference headquarters, where the group will hear from Jeremy Basset, director of Volunteers In Mission.
Rev. Wang grew up in mainland China as an atheist. She became a Christian in the mid-1990s, while studying at the master’s level in Edmond at the University of Central Oklahoma. She connected with the UM campus ministry at UCO through the Wesley Foundation’s Chinese-language ministry.
She strongly identifies with John Wesley’s insistence that works of piety must be linked to works of mercy, and works of justice also are prominent in her theology.
After seminary study in Los Angeles, she returned to Oklahoma to work with the Chinese outreach of the Wesley Foundation at UCO. In 2006, she was appointed to similar work through the Wesley Foundation at the University of Oklahoma. She became a full elder in 2010.
Today her ministry reaches well beyond the university and into the fast-growing Asian population of Norman and south Oklahoma City. She teaches, preaches, and counsels; she offers hospitality and referrals for services, especially assisting persons with limited or no English language skills as they negotiate American culture and systems.
Tour 3—May 12
Cookson Hills Center and Circle of Care’s Boys Ranch
(Register by May 1)
The tour begins with missionary Meridith Whitaker, a Church and Community Worker serving at Cookson Hills Center. After lunch, participants will travel to Gore to tour the Circle of Care’s Boys Ranch facility.
Rev. Whitaker directs Cookson Hills Center, a UM mission project especially serving the Cherokee people in three rural counties of eastern Oklahoma. She develops programs to help impoverished people of this area find ways to improve their lives and their economic means.
She oversees cottage industries that include a recycling project, which assembles doormats from old tires; silk-screening; an embroidery shop; ceramic chalice-making; and jewelry repair.
Along with her staff, she administers a large Senior Citizens Nutrition Program, craft programs, field trips, social events, health checks, a daycare program for children from infants to age 8, among other ministries.
Teens and young men who are experiencing struggles receive care at Boy’s Ranch, operated by the Oklahoma United Methodist Circle of Care and located at the south end of Lake Tenkiller. One acclaimed component of the ministry is the Animal Therapy Program. Each resident attends animal therapy sessions where they care for animals, assist in ranching operations, and learn about agricultural issues.
Praise for partnerships
"We in Oklahoma are blessed to partner with so many wonderful missionaries," Hoffman said. "By supporting them, we extend the work of our own local churches in making disciples of Jesus Christ.
He continued, "Every missionary sent by GBGM comes from a local church, where she or he learned the Gospel, grew in faith as part of that faith community, and then answered the call to go and share with others."
Cost for each tour is $15. To register, contact Distefano at email@example.com.