Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga Annual Conference
July 08, 2014
Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., and other Cabinet members traveled to Tonga at the end of June to be part of a delegation to the 91st Annual Conference Session of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga.
The Rev. Kristie Olah, Dean of the Cabinet, and the Rev. Linda Caldwell, Conference Superintendent for Mission Collaboration, were joined by pastors and lay members from churches in the California-Nevada for the week-long meetings on the island of Vava'u. The Rev. Siosifa Hingano, Rev. Heilala 'Ahio, Rev. Kalatini 'Ahio, and Olah's husband Bob Olah participated, along with delegations from the Methodist Church in New Zealand and other Pacific Island Christian communities.
During the week, more than 2000 people gathered to celebrate their Wesleyan heritage and renew in faith, in nights of song, great feasts, inspiring worship, and generous hospitality.
On Saturday, Bishop Brown addressed the conference, speaking on "Revival and Do Good," responding to the theme of the meetings, which invited the Holy Spirit to Renew the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga. Sharing from Acts 2, Bishop Brown told those gathered, "God's love is not limited to the church but to all…those outside the church need God's love more." He added, "The church is Christ's healing in this world…Wesley said the church must push outward and not just inward."
Other speakers included the King of Tonga, His Majesty, King Tupou VI and Rev. Rex Nathan, President of the Methodist Church in New Zealand. On Sunday, Bishop Brown, Revs. Olah and Caldwell, participated in the ordination of four elders, with each of the California-Nevada Conference leaders laying hands on one of the ordinands.
The meeting marked the one year anniversary of the signing of the bilateral agreement between the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga and the California-Nevada Annual Conference. This document defines the relationship with the Tongan church and its leaders. Rev. Caldwell and leaders of the Tongan church, including President Rev. Dr. Finau 'Ahio, and General Secretary Rev. Dr. Tevita Havea, were instrumental in the work of creating and supporting this document.
Rev. Olah shared, "It was a great honor and joy to go to Tonga, especially since I am privileged to serve with many Tongan families in the El Camino Real District and in our Conference. To meet relatives of our members here in the US, to see the villages where some of our pastors grew up, to witness the faith of the people of Tonga, to breathe the fresh sea air -- all was inspiring and a real blessing." She added, "My husband Bob and I appreciate all the generous work and care of so many of our Tongan brothers and sisters to host these events. And the first Sunday back in California when I went to church without my keikei, it felt like I wasn't properly dressed!"