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Celebrating United Methodist connections

Youth attending a retreat

Sonya Luna reflects on her time working for the Michigan Conference and thanks God for the many wonderful connections that have sustained her.

Coordinator of Hispanic/Latinx Ministries, Michigan Conference

I realize this is the last blog I will be writing as a staff member of the Michigan Conference. As I prepare to move on, updating my resume and going through old documents, I am reminded of The United Methodist Church connection. I am here to tell you that the connection is real, and it goes beyond appointments, Ministry Shares, and mission giving, which are all good things. The United Methodist Church connection has sustained me and continues to sustain me throughout this transition time.

I started off my work with the Detroit Conference as a missionary working with the General Board of Global Ministries as part of the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries. I felt the connection right away.

The United Women in Faith (United Methodist Women at that time) supported me from the beginning and invited me to do presentations at churches about Hispanic/Latino ministries. I would receive greeting cards from all over the country on my birthday and holidays from United Women in Faith circles. I taught at Mission u programs, and I spoke at regional events. The women might not have known that I would talk about how their church could be in ministry with Hispanics/Latinos and encourage them to start something at their church, but they supported me, and I took the chance to plant that idea everywhere I was invited.

Local church and district mission committees also reached out to me and invited me to participate. My husband and I even went up to the Upper Peninsula to talk about developing Hispanic/Latino ministries in that part of the state! I hope the seeds I planted and scattered find fertile ground and grow. I know many of them are still blowing in the wind, but they will land at the right places at the right time.

I felt the connection working with the Michigan Conference’s Committee on Hispanic/Latino Ministry. I have gotten to know pastors and lay leaders in churches around the state that are in ministry with the Latino community. Together we have celebrated the Hispanic/Latino Ministries in the state with a yearly celebration service. The pastors, lay leaders, and I supported each other through the joys and challenges of being in ministry. We supported each other through pastoral changes, the closing of churches and ministries, and the start of new ministries and programs. The plan is for this connection to continue.

This gift of connection found within The United Methodist Church is valuable to the Latino population because the connection builds community. The Committee on Hispanic/Latino Ministry recently held a retreat for Latino youth. The youth came from Hispanic/Latino ministries and churches in Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Lawrence. One of our goals was to show them that they are not alone and that there are young people going through similar life situations. We wanted to show the youth The United Methodist Church connection.

Over the years, I have worked collaboratively with Michigan Conference staff, and that feels like the United Methodist connection at work. I have worked on Intercultural Development Inventory assessments and was part of the anti-bias/anti-racism working group. Through the Seed to Harvest ministry incubation program, I have seen the connection of coaches, mentors, and supporters, a network of people created to support leaders on their path to birthing their ideas. This is a beautiful process to see, the connection at work bringing forth new things. I have also seen the connection through the generous support of local churches and leaders assisting with refugee resettlement. There is still work to be done in this area, and I encourage local churches to continue strengthening that connection.

Currently, I see the connection during this time of career change. I have reached out to mentors and leaders (some I have not worked with for very long), and they have all been happy to help me. I also have a coach that the Michigan Conference has provided, along with additional career services. I am blessed to be part of the United Methodist connection.

I have seen it work in so many ways throughout these past 15 years. I have seen it when a United Methodist church donated sewing machines to another United Methodist church so that they could start up a women’s sewing program. I have seen it when a United Methodist church donated shoes to another United Methodist church’s summer children’s program. I have seen it as the networks developed by our Children’s and Youth Ministry Initiatives grow and support each other. I have seen it in new churches as they start and grow through the support of Michigan Conference initiatives. I have seen it in the Committee on Asian-American Ministry and the pastors and leaders supporting one another. I saw it on Advocacy Day last month! It is not a competition. We are all in this together to build the kingdom of God here on earth. The United Methodist Church has the connection that can help us do that together.

Last Updated on October 20, 2023

The Michigan Conference