Ohana is an idea in Hawaiian culture. The word ʻohana means family in the Hawaiian language, but in a much wider sense, to include not only one’s closer relatives, but also one’s cousins, in-laws, friends and neighbors. The idea is also that family and friends are bound together and everyone must work together, never forgetting each other. It is very similar to our Judeo-Christian concept of being and living in covenant with one another.

The concept of family in its broadest sense, that we are all God’s Beloved Children, is the foundation of our youth ministry at First Congregational Church. The idea that we have more in common than that which separates us. When we begin with this fundamental understanding of connectedness in love, we are then shaped and molded in new and amazing ways, and we begin to bear fruit, as individuals, as youth groups, as a community of faith. Ultimately, our faith is then expressed not only one to another, but also in community and global outreach.

Ohana is not just an important concept for our neighbors in Hawaii and our many United Church of Christ churches in Hawaii. In fact, there are Hawaiian organizations today dedicated to the goal of extending this concept to the larger context of the US as a whole. Hawaii and the Hawaiian culture are an integral part of our cultural diversity and interconnection – a very unique and cherished part and benefit of the great and expanding interwoven cultures that embody the United States of America today.

Connectedness is so important for all of us, and especially vital during the years of adolescence and growing into adulthood. FCC Ohana Youth Groups provide an open space for sharing without being judged, for seeking an understanding of faith without being ostracized, for making friends on a deeper level than sometimes happens in our other circles of life.

One need look no further than the events of this summer to see the many ways that our interconnection bears fruit! It all began in June with a party for our graduating Seniors, a blessed week of Peace Village, and our awesome annual Lake Gatherings for middle school and high school youth groups. As I write this message, we still have All Church Camp coming up and we are really excited for what is shaping up to be a blessed time together in the old growth forest of our beloved Camp Adams! As we then wind down and begin preparing for the year ahead, we are especially grateful for opportunities to serve – with one of the most amazing Summer Fun Camps ever, and a Sierra Service Project trip that transformed many lives…not just in Smith River and Crescent City, California, but also right here at home in Eugene! Many of the youth and adult participants on both trips this year have shared that these experiences changed their lives in remarkably powerful ways. We are so grateful for these opportunities to strengthen our relationships, our youth groups and our communities. We are grateful to God and we are grateful to our beloved church at FCC. This is what it means to be the church together…to be Ohana as we seek God’s calling for us. We are deeply grateful for all of the support in time, talent and resources, that sustain these vital ministries. Thank you and bless you for being a blessing!

Grace and Peace, Mark Lindberg, Director of Youth & Family Ministries, markl@fcceugene.org.