Pacific Islanders Develop New Leaders
Imagine attending a high-level on meeting on evangelism. You're surrounded by big names in ministry. You are next to speak and you are feeling particularly unqualified to present to such a prestigious group. But then, the presentation before yours gives you an intense moment of clarity and purpose, not just for that moment but one with ripple effects for your entire ministry.
This is precisely what happened to Meshach Soli, a pastor from the Southeastern California Conference, as he attended the North American Division’s eHuddle in 2017. In that spark-of-a-moment, he learned that Pacific Islanders accounted for two percent of membership demographics. He felt God impress on him to give voice to his cultural heritage.
God continued to open opportunities for equipping, empowering and inspiring Pacific Islanders. In 2019, Soli was invited to be a keynote speaker for the NAD Samoan Camp Meeting in Auburn, Washington. That is where he shared his eHuddle story.
In the audience were Washington Conference pastors and ministry leaders Randy Maxwell, Willie Iwankiw, Nemaia Faletogo, Rome Ulia and Abishai Kenneth Aiolupotea.
“We started praying about how God wanted us to grow that two percent number,” recalled Ulia. “We prayed for a year and a half about creating a platform for ministering to indigenous and Pacific Islanders so we could equip and empower them to be a blessing to the communities they serve.”
As the team kept praying, they identified six key areas of growth: discipleship, vocation, evangelism, leadership, indigenous and preaching. The prayer-filled discussion developed into The Two Percent Ministry, launched in August 2020 and the DVELiP framework that led into an inaugural leadership conference in August 2021—the historical anniversary of when the London Missionary Society missionaries first came to eastern Polynesia in August 1796.
“We spend hours dreaming and planning because our people are our heart,” Soli said.
The core leadership team drew inspiration from the Pastoral Evangelism & Leadership Counsel which has 40-plus years of experience equipping Black local church leaders.
“As much as we are involved in the larger body [of Christ], there are certain things that we can only say among ourselves," said Jesse Wilson, PELC director and the first keynote presenter at the inaugural DVELiP Conference. "Without apology, we’ve always been inclusive [and] we’ve kept to our mission. I know [people will be reached] for Christ that we could never have imagined.”
Reaching people for Christ began right within the three-day leadership conference. In the final session, eight people were baptized and one person took a stand for pursuing pastoral ministry.
“[At future] conferences now,” said Ulia, “we plan to make an appeal for people to have an opportunity to have Jesus in their lives and to become leaders in whatever capacity the Holy Spirit leads toward. This conference wasn’t just for [established] leaders. It was for potential leaders who wanted to explore how God was calling them to leadership.”