From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Seminole reservation gets long-awaited pastor

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Fri, 28 Jun 2002 11:13:48 -0500

June 28, 2002	News media contact: Linda Green7(615)742-54707Nashville,
Tenn.     10-34-71B{276}

By Michael Wacht*

LAKELAND, Fla. (UMNS) - The Native Americans on the Seminole Reservation in
Florida have waited more than 30 years for a United Methodist pastor, and
now they finally have one.

The Rev. Delton Collins, a Lumbee Indian and local pastor from the Western
North Carolina Annual Conference, has been appointed to serve on the
reservation and to establish a church.

Appointing a pastor there is the first opportunity in a number of years for
the United Methodist Church to serve the Native American population, says
the Rev. Sharon Patch, superintendent of the Florida Conference's Fort Myers
District, which includes the reservation. "It's exciting. We have a fairly
large contingent of Native Americans in this area that we have not yet begun
to reach."

The denomination has had a presence on the reservation since 1973, when the
Florida Conference and the churchwide Board of Global Ministries began the
United Methodist Seminole Ministry of Florida. A main focus of the ministry
is the Billy Osceola Library, which was built by United Methodist Volunteers
in Mission teams and is the only library on Florida's five reservations.

Mable Haught, a Seminole and director of the ministry, has been asking for a
pastor for her people for several years. "I think it's going to work out
pretty well," she says. 

The Seminole people "have a sense of God already," she says, adding many of
the reservation's parents send their children to Christian schools. "That
shows a yearning for something when they do that."

Haught says the reservation's medicine man also supports the Christian
faith. "The medicine man says the traditional way and the Christian way are
teaching the same thing. ...They should be walking hand-in-hand."

Collins says he felt called to this ministry more than a year ago. In April
2001, he visited the reservation and saw the needs of the people there. "I
heard the Lord speaking to me a couple of weeks before I went," he says.
"The doors just kept opening, and I just kept walking through them."

Several things came together to make it possible to appoint Collins to this
ministry, including receiving financial assistance from the Southeastern
Jurisdiction to help pay his salary, Patch says. "We weren't interested in
doing this if we were not able to find a Native American who can reach the
culture," she says. "Delton is very personable and very likable. I think
he'll do well here."

The new ministry is going to need support from Florida Conference, too,
Patch says. Money collected during Native American Awareness Sunday for the
past three years is being used to help start it, and future offerings will
help sustain it.

Native American Awareness Sunday is one of six denomination-wide Special
Sundays and was officially held April 14. Patch is asking churches that did
not celebrate it to pick a date later in the year to raise awareness and
support of the ministry.

In addition to his work on the Brighton Reservation, which has about 500
residents, Collins will also help reach people on the Big Cypress
Reservation, according to Patch.

Collins' first task has been getting to know the people and finding out the
kinds of ministry they want and need. He has a vision of winning souls for
Christ, he says. "I want to tell them about a savior who loves them
unconditionally. That's something they're missing, something they don't

The Lumbee and Seminole people have physical and linguistic differences, but
their cultures are similar, he says. They have a common love of nature, many
similar ceremonies and similar art and crafts.
# # #
*Wacht is the assistant editor of the Florida Annual Conference's edition of
the United Methodist Review.

United Methodist News Service
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