Eben Ezer Lutheran Church, Oaks, Okla.
Director of youth services, Cherokee Nation Human Services
I believe the Creator is present everywhere and in everyone we interact with. We live a phenomenal existence. Our daily experiences and interactions are to teach us, even if we don’t see it at that moment. The Creator is always putting people and things in our path to remind us we’re part of something much larger than ourselves.
Attending the 2017 U.N. Status on the Commission of Women as an ELCA young adult delegate was an experience I’ll never forget. It widened my view of not only the injustices women face worldwide, but also of how strong, persistent, faithful women and their families take great risks to advocate for equal rights and treatment. Having that much wisdom and strength in one place was inspirational.
I pray anywhere I am. Prayers don’t have to be perfect—it took me a long time to realize that. Prayers can come in any form.
My work with the Cherokee Nation youth services has been a calling and a reminder that I’m not in control. There have been times in my life I have tried to steer away from social services because it can be a stressful, difficult field to work in. However, opportunities and occurrences beyond my control and knowing have kept me here, where I work with great professionals to impact the lives of our native youth and community.
I find grace when I need to be reminded that I’m just a vessel to carry out the work of the Creator. It’s not my place to judge, condemn or criticize. I am to strive to live a life that reflects that.
Something I want more people to know about the Cherokee Nation is that we are your neighbors and part of your community. Because we are a tribal nation doesn’t mean we should or want to be segregated. We don’t feel we are entitled—we want the same things for our families that you want for yours. There have been many obstacles that have been placed in our people’s ways throughout history that affect us today, even when it comes to having something as simple as food, water or shelter. The Cherokee Nation [government] is there to work to remove those roadblocks and help our people thrive.
It’s important for me to be active in my congregation because my congregation is my family and my family’s history is there. To not take an active role in my congregation would be to deny my roots and values. I take on a role that has been passed on to me by my family before me and it’s time for my elders to rest.
As a young adult in the ELCA, I think the future of the church is about finding a balance with tradition and innovation. The relationship of young and old is about respect—respect for what has been—and consistency, while being open to fresh, new traditions in the making. As long as there is respect first, there is a way to keep the church’s future hopeful and vibrant.
My favorite Bible story is Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. We worry continuously about not having enough. We become embarrassed that we worried so much when we end up having more than what we need.
I’m a Lutheran because I believe being and living Lutheran is a part of me; it feels right. I want to share about the gift of grace that we are so freely given from the Creator.
People are surprised that I am a Lutheran. Where I live in the Bible Belt, there aren’t a lot of Lutheran churches so it can still be a mystery to a lot of people in rural Oklahoma.
My favorite church memory is of Mrs. Lillian Osburn, our church’s matriarch and a faithful believer. While growing up in the church, so many of my memories have her in them.
I can connect my faith to my work by leading by example. I have a heart for service and a head for collaboration. If my personal life and my work life reflect that, then it will show to the team I lead every day.
I’m striving for justice in more recognition for our youth victims of crime. Every day our team works to educate and open others’ eyes to the uniqueness of not only native youth, but all youth. It’s so easy for people to say youth are untruthful, untrustworthy, exaggerating and being delinquent in their behavior. There are many youth of all races and ethnicities who are victimized daily.
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