Perhaps the hula classes are the first clue that interesting things are going on at the First United Methodist Church in Independence.
The church at 400 W. Maple Ave. is in effect creating another church inside its walls, the Mana mei Lagi or “Miracle from Heaven” Church in Polynesian. The culturally sensitive, bilingual services are the first Methodist ministry for Pacific islanders in Missouri.
Reaching out to the concentration of Polynesians in the Independence area, the church Sunday is opening its Mana mei Lagi Islander Fellowship. It will be led by the Rev. Po’ese Vatikani, a native of Tonga who studied at Hawaii Pacific University and who will be attending St. Paul School of Theology.
“I was appointed in July of last year. I want to acknowledge that the Independence First United Methodist Church was the one to initiate this opportunity for us,” he said, referring to himself and his wife, Doris. He said he had been surprised that around 5,000 islanders were in the area and hopes to create a place for them to belong, adding that he expected an attendance of at least 100.
The Rev. Mitch Jarvis, lead pastor, noted that much of the islander population is third and fourth generation islanders, who now don’t have the Mormon affiliation of their grandparents.
After the traditional 9 a.m. service led by Jarvis, the church will launch its multi-ethnic service, with island music, at 10:30 a.m. Polynesian food and activities will follow as part of the celebration.
| The Kansas City Star