In the small Fayette County community of Point Marion, Christmas carolers this year include Fijians who have become an integral part of the ministries of Point Marion United Methodist Church.
Last year’s Christmas service at the church featured a choir for the first time in many years. It was made up of Fijians singing a capella in their native South Pacific island language. Since then the church has grown its ministries and expanded its outreach through the Fijian Language Ministry.
Many Fijians and their families moved to the Point Marion area from the state of California to work in the shale gas industry. Methodism is the major Christian religion in Fiji, so after first immigrating to California, the families established faith communities that came together for a combined worship service each month. When they moved to Pennsylvania, they looked for a church where they could do that and Point Marion UMC became that church.
The monthly worship, on the last Sunday of each month, is a traditional Fijian service in the native language of Fiji. Initially it drew about 50 people, but attendance has climbed to over 100. A community dinner with Fijian dishes follows each worship service.
Some of the Fijian families also worship weekly with the rest of the congregation at Point Marion and are very involved in ministry there, said the Rev. Bev Roscoe, the pastor. Some are involved in other churches, such as Calvary UMC in Uniontown, but come to the monthly worship service. Several volunteer in community ministries.
“There is a tremendous need in the community for social supports for children and youth. There are a lot of latch key kids and absolutely nothing for them to do. There are a lot of young people who don’t have GEDs,” Roscoe said.
As part of the Fijian Language Ministry of Western PA, Point Marion UMC received a grant to help people with GED prep and job prep. One of the Fijians had been a professor and offered to teach a GED course.
In addition, the pastor explained, “We provide resume prep at no cost to the community, and through our Bargain Corner Thrift Shop, which benefits our Food Pantry, we provide clothes (for work or interviews). We also help with job readiness skills, including interviewing, online application processes, and so on.”
When layoffs hit the fracking industry, the workers began to search for other jobs, Roscoe said. “With a recent expansion at Ruby Hospital (part of the West Virginia University Hospitals), they have struggled to find enough people to fill service jobs.
“Our Fijian liaison works at Ruby and began to refer them there. We also spread the word in the community. When the HR director at the University Hospitals realized the number of people being hired from Point Marion, she asked if the church would partner with them and host interviews, the pastor added.
“So far, 30 people have been hired through the efforts of this ministry, which is primarily supported and operated by the Fijian Language Ministry as a way to help and support the community which has embraced them!” said Roscoe.
Point Marion UMC will host hospital interviews for service jobs from 9 a.m. to noon on Dec. 16. These are full-time jobs with benefits. Resume Prep will be offered on Monday, Dec. 14 at the church. To schedule email email@example.comSince the Fijians have become involved at Point Marion, the church also has added a program for children in grades Kindergarten through 5, an enhanced children’s ministry which includes Fijians volunteers, and they offer one-on-one tutoring for both children and adults. They also reached 38 children through a VBS program and plan a summer feeding program in 2016. “We are working on an after-school program mid-week, twice a month. We hope to start during Lent,” Roscoe said.
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