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Orofino church makes improvements to be accessible

Lilia Felicitas-Malana

Lilia Felicitas-Malana

Lilia Felicitas-Malana, who began her ministry in a rural church in the Philippines, now helps the Orofino-Peck United Methodist Church in Idaho identify their assets and community needs.

One asset is that the building recently became more handicapped accessible with a sloped entry and the addition of an elevator so it can better serve its own members and others who have had knee and hip replacements.

Members refer to themselves as the “wounded knee and hip” church.  Seven members had surgeries replacing those joints, said Lilia of the congregation in which most of the 55 who attend worship are aging.

“When my husband, a truck driver, and I moved to Orofino a year ago, our four children doubled the size of the Sunday school,” she said, “and brought diversity to the community.”

On April 29, they dedicated a key-operated elevator so people could go from the social hall on the lower level to the sanctuary.

The church raised funds for the $50,000 elevator and used funds from the sale of the Methodist church in Peck, a small community six miles west, after it merged with the Orofino church in 1988.

Orofino UMC

New entry to Orofino UMC

 

After the elevator was installed, two people began attending, including one woman in a motorized wheel chair with a service dog.

“She was so happy when she learned about the elevator,” said Lilia, who grew up in a Methodist church in the Isabella Province in northern Luzon.

After “accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior” at the age of 16, she became active in church, singing in the choir and teaching Sunday school in the congregation of 40 people. 

 


Orofino ribbon cutting

Lilia and members prepare to cut ribbon.

While some had urged her to consider ministry, she had her mind set on medicine.  However, when her brother and she both were eligible for a government college scholarship and only one in a family could receive one, he took it.  Then a “Good Samaritan” offered to finance her education at a Bible school to learn Scripture and help in children’s ministry.

She saw it as God’s way to set her on the path into ministry.

“We have our plans and God has plans,” said Lilia, who has been in ministry 21 years.

She completed Bible school, was ordained an elder and had served in ministry 15 years in the Philippines when she had the opportunity to serve a Filipino-American congregation in Seattle and study at the Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry for a master’s of divinity.  She has not yet finished the degree.

For four years, she helped start the multi-ethnic, multi-generational church, an outreach of Beacon United Methodist Church.  Then she was appointed for two years to serve a church in Tieton near Yakima, before being appointed just over a year ago to Orofino-Peck.

Orofino is a community of 3,200 with 20 churches, many retired people, schools, two hospitals, a fish hatchery, a state prison, nursing homes, a logging company and farming in the surrounding area.

Lilia and leaders

Lilia discusses plans with leaders.

Lilia sees her gifts in ministry as pastoral and apostolic.

By apostolic, she means reaching out to unchurched people so they know there is a God and can find their way to live faithfully.  Whether ordained or lay, she believes Christians are called to share the Good News.

“I challenge church leaders in every message that that’s what we do because we enjoy God’s love and grace—share it with others.”

As a pastor, Lilia said, her primary role is to listen.

“I love visiting people and listening, whether they are well or sick,” she said, noting that as the first ethnic pastor there, she brings the gift of her diversity, expressing the reality that “we are one.  Color does not matter.  We can do ministry together.  Diversity makes it brighter.”

When she came, the congregation’s focus was on survival.

Her challenge is:  “What are we doing?  Why are we here?  Are we fulfilling our purpose here as a United Methodist church?”

“Doing outreach in the Philippines is different,” she said.  “There we bring the Good News to villages, teaching children and adult Bible studies, feeding spiritual aspects of people’s lives.

“Here outreach means more of a program for the church to help the community,” she said.

For example, members help support and volunteer to run FISH, Inc., Friends In Service of Humanity, an outreach of the churches collecting and selling clothes, and using the proceeds to provide food, clothing or medicine for people in need who come to a church for assistance. FISH is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mondays and Wednesdays, and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Fridays. 

The congregation also supports missions through the regional and national United Methodist Church, such as collecting loose change for Hope for Children in Africa to support children in an orphanage that educates them and trains them in work skills.

Lilia is one of the local clergy volunteering as chaplain in a six-week rotation at the Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinic. 

Recently, she taught confirmation for five youth.  When she asked how they would spend their summer, they said they would be on vacation.  She told them that in the Philippines Sunday school is year round.

She asked them what they might do in the summer to show they are Christian.  They agreed to do something for elderly people, like offering to do an hour of yard work, house cleaning, walking a dog or other project.

The church members were asked to submit their needs so youth could sign up to help them.

“They decided that they could show they are Christian by helping and realized that to have faith and be Christian is both a blessing and a responsibility,” said Lilia, who is helping the congregation identify their assets as a congregation and the needs of the community.

“A successful congregation does not depend on what the pastor says or does, but on the congregation’s knowing their gifts and responding to the community,” she said.

While some in the congregation have wounded knees and hips, Lilia is helping them realize their physical issues are only one aspect of their lives.  They do not need that to hinder them from what they can do for Christ.

When some felt after spending the funds for the improvements, they had done what they needed to do and had no money, she reminded them that “God is good all the time and promises to provide.  We need to claim the promise and continue to believe.” 

So she continues to challenge the congregation to consider what their church will look like and be like in five or 10 years.

For information, call 208-476-5617.



Mary Stamp - The Fig Tree - © June 2007