Northwest Native Ministries Interview with Monte Church and Steve Huey
Native ministries is a vital part of church mission in the Northwest. Steve Huey became Native ministries director for the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) in September 2017, taking over for long-time director, Monte Church. As part of this leadership transition, Huey recently conducted an interview with Church about his journey and the future of Native work in the Northwest.
Steve Huey: Monte, tell us of your background for those who do not know.
Monte Church: I’m a Wisconsin boy raised by my Native dad and German mother on the Stockbridge Mohecan Indian Reservation till the age of 16. My mother wanted her six children raised away from the alcoholic environment we lived around so she moved us off the reservation, where we eventually ended up in Oregon. In search of “religion,” which my folks felt we needed, we studied with Jehovah's Witnesses and other religions, but found wonderful stability in Adventism to which a godly neighbor introduced us. We discovered Adventists had schools so I decided to attend Oregon’s Laurelwood Academy and Walla Walla College. I pursued an engineering degree, but in my college second year I felt a strong call to pastoral ministry and switched majors. Through a friend and a chain of circumstances, I then became a student colporteur and worked in Tennessee. There I told the Lord that if He helped me to be successful in canvassing, I would know ministry was truly the direction He wanted me to go. After three summers I found I was the top student of the world in sales in the colporteur ministry. Working in the south I finished my college experience at Southern Adventist University. I found myself pastoring on the side during my last two college years and accepted a call to ministry from the Kentucky/Tennessee Conference.
SH: You have had a variety of responsibilities and experiences within the Advent Movement. Take us on the journey.
MC: After seminary my first year was youth pastor at Madison Academy in Tennessee. I then went into full-time evangelism for the conference for almost 10 years. I received several calls to other places during that time, but it only took four minutes to accept a call to Alaska to work as their first full-time evangelist. It was a wonderful four years helping the Alaskan Mission reach its first one thousand membership mark. From there I went to Bozeman, Mont., where I pastored and held meetings for four years. I then accepted a call to Arizona’s Thunderbird Academy Church (my third time at pastoring academy churches). After four more years (looks like four years was a pattern), I came back to Portland, Ore., to pastor and help build the new Sunnyside Church. Then I went to Estacada, Ore., to pastor and rebuild/remodel their church that had experienced fire damage.
SH: You have been leading Native Ministries for 29 years now. How did this all come about?
MC: After two wonderful years at Estacada I received three calls from the North American Division to head Native American ministries, which I quickly turned down. I was raised on a reservation and I knew the gigantic lifestyle problems that would have to be addressed if any soul winning was to happen. The fourth time I was approached I accepted, with fear and trembling, and began 29 incredible years of ministry. I personally was blessed a hundred times more than the blessing I was to this position of service. It has helped me more than any other way in saving mankind and me from this problematic sinful planet. There is no way possible to adequately thank the NPUC for taking this ministry under their wing – they have, in every way, been positively supportive. It has become the most solid program of Native Ministry in the division. We would have never seen the successes we have without this NPUC “team” effort.
SH: What all is involved in leading the Native work?
MC: We have tried to make the emphasis of working in Native Ministry that of evangelism by conducting evangelistic crusades and creating annual Native camp meeting programs to those who rarely get to experience revival/evangelistic outreach like the metro areas do. Because of the remoteness of Native villages it was expedient to annually transport preachers/musicians to these far out locations. Since Native people are culturally visual people, we realized how effective it would be to produce video culture-slanted stories and teachings as a tool to be used by Native outreach workers. We never realized how powerful these would be to the place that hundreds of Native people baptized have, in one way or another, been influenced. These videos today are being used around the world especially in Native culture populated areas like Australia, New Zeeland, Mongolia and now China. It’s funny to see myself in these videos walking around speaking (with voice over) different languages.
SH: A year and a half ago, you called and, with NPUC backing, asked me if I would consider becoming director. I was shocked and gave my reasons why I couldn’t. You persisted, answering my questions. After much thought and prayer, I said yes. Heaven’s help, Monte’s mentoring, Upper Columbia Conference's assistance along with the Union’s has made it work. Monte, you had been trying to retire, but, I quickly asked you to be my associate. You don’t know the word retire. Tell us about this new phase.
MC: Retirement? How do you spell that? I will never stop doing what I can to help, until I can’t, in order to keep this ministry strong. I keep pretty well booked for speaking appointments and evangelistic meetings today, which I do enjoy. I work on the attitude of assisting and not trying to control in this ministry that has thrilled my heart. I think the major mission of what we can do today is train and support our wonderful growing Native Ministry team who work so hard in outreach to our Native American/Canadian brothers and sisters. We need to keep before them the fact that the work of God, in this cosmic great controversy, will never be finished anywhere unless it’s finished everywhere. It won’t be long now the way everything is going.
SH: Thanks for this interview. We praise the Lord for your leadership, wisdom, and energy. Continued blessings as we team together.