Interview with Tupouseini Kelemeni
The Newly Elected Vice President of United Methodist Women
Congratulations on your election as vice president of United Methodist Women! How does it feel?
I feel honored to know that my colleagues trust me with such a responsible position. At the same time, it is a little daunting, but with God's help, I know I can do it.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in the island kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific, where I met and married my husband, Eddie, who is now a retired pastor. We have three sons, two daughters, 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. I was raised in the Wesleyan [Methodist] tradition and have upheld my Wesleyan heritage all through my life. I went to school in Tonga and Australia before moving to Hawaii in 1971.
What do you want to accomplish in your four years as vice president? What do you want to see happen?
The spiritual discipline that I am most drawn to is prayer. I would like to see spiritual growth through individual and corporate prayer being encouraged, studied and practiced throughout the life of United Methodist Women. Spiritual growth through prayer and Bible study is important to me. I am encouraged to see the different language groups being offered training and workshops as well as the efforts to translate the United Methodist Women materials into the different languages. I would like to see that continue as we try to foster relationships with our sisters who do not speak English.
United Methodist Women is entering a new phase. How do you see yourself guiding the organization into that phase?
The way I see it is we are charting out new territories for us and for future generations of United Methodist Women. As vice president, I want to always be aware that I’m working on behalf of women, children and youth all around the world. I'm also keenly aware that I’m the first ever and only Pacific Islander on the United Methodist Women board, thus there’s a whole race of peoples out there who look to me as their voice.
I am looking forward to learning new ways of doing things. To be a part of a team that learns together and works cohesively for the good of the organization, keeping in mind always our PURPOSE and the vision that we have before us.
What are you looking forward to?
I also look forward to meeting with our conference mission team in Los Angeles this coming weekend, and then two weeks from there will be our own Hawaii District Annual Celebration. I will be sharing at both meetings some of the new information that we shared at the board and the program advisory group informational meeting that was held in Nashville in August.
Are you looking forward to Assembly 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky?
I cannot wait for the next Assembly in Kentucky because I would like to be a part of the planning team and bring about some wonderful Bible studies, workshops, exhibits, worship and songs for all the women to enjoy and learn from.
How do you want to reach out to more young women?
I think that to reach out to young women, we have to really touch them on a personal level. Show interest consistently, brush up on your technological skills and don’t be afraid to invite them personally.
What’s one of your passions?
Singing is a passion that takes up a lot of my time. I direct our chancel choir at my local church. I also direct a United Methodist women’s choir at my church and a district-wide United Methodist women’s choir. These women sing in the Tongan language.
What are you going to do next?
At the end of this month, after all my meetings for United Methodist Women, I will be attending a very important meeting and the first of its kind for us Pacific Islanders, to be held in Los Angeles. It came about after the last census that the Pacific Islanders were one of the fastest growing minority populations in the nation and yet there is great disparity in studies offered by the government in terms of how to serve them, especially on health issues. High-ranking government officials will be there to speak as well as offer workshops for the participants, who are Pacific Island leaders and advocates.
Any other thoughts?
“I can do all things through God who strengthens me.”
Mary Beth Coudal
Senior Writer, Communications Department