LIEPAJA (Latvia) – Wesley Camp and Retreat Centre, the four-year-old retreat centre of e United Methodist Church in Latvia, has had a busy time of Christian witness and fellowship at its facility on the Baltic Sea.
The camp is an international mission project involving United Methodists from Latvia and neighbouring Lithuania and Annual Conferences in the United States and Western Europe through the Latvia Mission Initiative of the General Board of Global Ministries. It is near the city of Liepaja on property that was a farm before the church acquired it in 2004.
The importance of the Latvian United Methodist camp may not be evident to those in places where church camps are common. The facility represents hopes reborn and ministry extended to the most ignored groups in society.
Methodism first came to Latvia in early 1921, quickly grew to 20 congregations, and in 1925 sent its first missionary to India. World War II and the Soviet period reduced the church to a “smoldering wick” that began to glow again when Latvia regained its independence in 1992.
Latvia today has 13 United Methodist congregations, 11 that worship in Latvian and two in Russian.
“Wesley Days”, the first major summer event in 2007, combined morning devotions and fellowship with afternoon physical labour and fellowship. Participants came from all of the Latvian United Methodist congregations and from other countries, said Mr Dan Randall, a United Methodist missionary Young adults from Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania gathered in July last year for one of several regional summer conferences of Christians in Action, a European organisation of United Methodist youth.
The Holston, North Alabama and Red Bird Missionary Conferences in the United States and e United Methodist Church in Denmark have been particularly active in providing funds and volunteers for work at Wesley Camp. – Interpreter, adapted from General Board of Global Ministries reports.
‘Red Indian’ pastor who attended ‘pow-wows’
SEMINOLE (OKLAHOMA) – e Rev Harry Long was not your typical United Methodist minister. A Muscogee Creek Indian of the “Wotko” or Raccoon clan, he wore his hair long. His usual attire was a casual shirt, jeans and boots.
Looks can be deceiving, though, because behind this dress was a spiritual giant.
When his home congregation of Salt Creek United Methodist Church honoured him in 2000 for 50 years of ministry, I oﬀered the keynote address and likened him to John the Baptist, who was clothed in animal skins and fed on honey, and to Elijah, who was fed by ravens. He truly was one of the ones who Jesus said would come after John.
On Dec 5 last year, after a long illness, he went to his promised reward in heaven. He was 87. With his death in Muskogee, Oklahoma, I lost a long-time mentor, role model, friend and co-worker. e United Methodist Church lost a respected churchwide voice on behalf of Native peoples and against injustice.
The Rev Long began his ministry in 1949 in the Oklahoma area and was ordained as a deacon in 1951 and an elder in 1953. He went on to serve various ministries for 26 years. He was one of the giants of faith produced by the Oklahoma Indian Missionary
Conference and will be remembered as a man who knew his Christian heritage as well as his cultural heritage.
He developed a ministry of presence among Native American people in the Phoenix area in the 1960s when the city was becoming an urban centre for many tribes. He ministered on the streets, at Native gatherings and even in “Indian bars”, where Natives coming from out of state would gather to find friends and make connections.
He was comfortable in these settings and would reach out not only spiritually but also to oﬀer information about services available to sojourning Native Americans.
In the 1960s, he would attend Native “pow-wows” and Indian basketball and softball tournaments in Phoenix.
The Rev Long had a vast knowledge of history and was a well-known storyteller and hymn singer of indigenous Creek Indian hymns. – United Methodist News Service.
The Rev Alvin Deer is Pastor of Seminole Hitchitee United Methodist Church near Seminole, Oklahoma, and the former Executive Director for the Native American International Caucus for the United Methodist Church.
Colombian prison chaplain gets 2009 WMC Peace Award
MEDELLIN (Columbia) – Dr Jeannine Brabon, a Bible teacher and prison chaplain, received the 2009 World Methodist Peace Award on July 31, 2009 at the Seminario Biblico de Colombia here.
She is the daughter of the seminary’s founders, grew up in Colombia, studied in the United States, and currently teaches Greek and Hebrew at the seminary. She is also the founder of the Biblical Institute of Colombia which teaches Bible in Colombia’s prison system.
She was honoured for her “courage, creativity and consistency in working with prisoners” in one of the most dangerous prisons in Colombia, transforming the lives of inmates, prison oﬃcials and others by introducing them to Jesus Christ.
She began teaching the Bible in the infamous Bella Vista prison in 1991, a year in which Medellin’s murder rate exceeded 10,000, and 30,000 killings occurred in Colombia. At that time the prison culture reflected the outside world. In 1991 there were 30 to 50 murders a month inside Bella Vista prison. Since the Biblical Institute began inside the prison, the prison murder rate has been reduced to less than 10 in the last 18 years. A church has been formed within the prison walls, and the lives of many inmates and their families have been transformed by the presentation of the Gospel there. Dr Brabon has exhibited courage, creativity and consistency in her ministry
to students and to inmates. She grew up with first-hand knowledge of the persecuted Church, and has committed her life as a teacher and prison chaplain to helping people understand the transforming power of the Gospel. – World Methodist Council.