History was made when the Rev. Tikiko Namata Lesuma was ordained and elder during the service of ordination at the 169 th session of the California-Nevada Conference. Lesuma is the first Fijian person to be ordained an elder in The United Methodist Church (UMC). "It's very humbling. I feel so blessed and so privileged to be ordained…It's an opportunity to be able to encourage more Fijian folks to come into leadership in our conference, and the broader church," says Lesuma. "It is God's favor and God's grace alone."
Lesuma, 42, who was ordained by San Francisco Episcopal Area Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño (the first Hispanic woman to be elected, and consecrated to the episcopacy in the denomination), grew up in Fiji on the island of Vanua Levu, in the district of Navatu, in the village of Drekeniwai. As he sat on the stage to be ordained, he says he thought about the cloud of witnesses who had gone before him. Lesuma says he was moved to tears as Bishop Carcaño asked those gathered to sing "I Surrender All" during the service. The song was a favorite of his late brother, Silivenusi, who he cites as a spiritual figure and mentor in his life. Lesuma often remembers the words of his brother who challenged him to, "Be faithful in the little, and God will be there for you."
Lesuma, who was baptized, confirmed, and raised Catholic says he first heard a call to ministry at the age of 10 and wanted to become a Catholic priest. "My mom was Catholic because her first husband was Catholic, but my father was Methodist," he says. He and his mother would walk two to three miles for mass, then his dad and siblings would walk to the Methodist church. One day his mom said, "A family that prays together stays together," and they all joined the Methodist Church.
As a young person, Lesuma says he received Christ at an evangelistic crusade. He became a lay speaker in 1992 when he was in high school and preached his first sermon. "I walked miles through the sugar cane fields to preach as a lay speaker." He also served as a youth pastor for a Fijian circuit that included 14 churches with 600 to 700 youth helping to organize rallies and camps. "Never would I have thought that I would be serving in the US," he says.
In the California-Nevada Conference, Lesuma has served St. Luke's UMC in Richmond, Calif., and a two-point…