Summer meetings: Pacific Islander and Asian-American Ministries
Written by Jeanette Quintin
Julie Nakamura (l.) and her family converse with the Rev. Tom Fujita of Nu'uanu Congregational UCC, Honolulu, at the Kamanamui Taro Farm, site of a PAAM Bible study class. PAAM photo by Nozomi Ikuta
Anticipating Hawaii PAAM 2000 made my knees weak and fueled a fire within me. Nervous and on an empty stomach, Tracy Maningo and I (delegates from Faith Community Church of Oakland) boarded Hawaiian Airline's Flight 15, destination Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawaii.
Only God knew what our trip to the beautiful island would turn out to be as we attended our first national Pacific Islander and Asian American gathering.
We were among the more than 200 people at the PAAM biennial meeting, held from July 26-30.
There were 130 youth and young adults more than 70 adults, including four of the five Collegium officers.
Also several national staff persons were on hand to meet and get to know a bit. PAAM 2000 also was blessed by the presence of several infants who were a constant reminder that PAAM is growing and that God continues to create a people who will serve and love God.
PAAM's Jubilee theme this year was based on Leviticus 25 and Luke 4:14-19.
I must admit the book of Leviticus was a bit difficult to grasp but nonetheless the Bible studies brought the scriptures to life. Bible studies were central to the event and offered much food for thought. Jordan Patterson, a kanaka maoli (Hawaiian), led all the Bible studies.
The first Bible Study, Part I: the Return of Land, was personally inspired by Marie Beltram, a houseless kanaka maoli. These persons who form squatter villages along the coastline of Hawaii call themselves houseless instead of homeless because they consider the lands of Hawaii their homes.
It made me angry inside to hear their accounts of deception by a corrupt government system and economic hardship. Ultimately, it was God's sense of compassion that calmed my heart and the hearts of the other participants.
The second Bible Study, Part II: the Release of Prisoners, made the gathered think about our own jails.
Our guest speaker, Alicia Rodriguez, a released prisoner of conscience, shared her personal account of standing up for her cultural and racial rights as a Puerto Rican and as a woman.
That personal and social stand put her behind cold walls for 19 ½ years in U.S. prisons. Her voice was heard by the UCC, which was an instrumental part in her survival both as a woman and a Christian.
It is with God's unrelenting grace and faith that we could hear her story and still be able to maintain some dignity to be a Filipina, a minority living in the United States.
The third and most rewarding part of the Bible Study was Part III: Rejuvenating the Land, held at the Kamananui Taro Farm and on the warm pews of Liliuokalani Protestant UCC in Haleiwa.
There we were guided to think of our context, our own histories as PAAM. What of our land? How do we live in this land that God has given us to live and care for? What personal and emotional value do we have for God's land? Why is it that we often blend and overlook our responsibilities for God's world within the background of our busy lives?
Our eyes were opened to see the smaller beauties of everyday living that we overlook and not properly tend to. May God have mercy on us never to lose sight of these things and help us take care of the land and all God's people on it.
My experience at PAAM 2000 in Hawaii can be summed up as a community of Christ's children, both young and wise, praising and lifting up God's ministry. Yes, we drank too much church punch, a bat did surprise a sleeper in cabin 20, horses do laugh out loud and snakes are savvy.
The warm feeling all of us got in the pit of our stomachs was more than God's nudging of challenge to raise PAAM's ministry within our churches. It was the spirit of community that PAAM has built and continues to strive for.
Newly-elected officers of PAAM for 2000-2002 are Ferdinand M. Rico, Moderator; the Rev. Iese Tuuao, Vice Moderator; Kris Tago-mori, Secretary; and Peter Lin, Treasurer.
Jeanette Quintin of Oakland, Calif., is treasurer of Northern California PAAM and the newly elected young adult representative to the PAAM Executive Committee.