The Rev. Evelyn Erbele is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church currently assigned as copastor of the First United Methodist Church of Ketchikan, Alaska. She is also deeply involved in local care of the homeless through the congregation's Downtown Ministries, which is a denominational mission Advance.
Ketchikan is located on an island within the Tongass National Forest. It is a region of unusually heavy rainfall, a factor, along with the geographical isolation, that compounds the hardships of unemployed and low-income residents. Downtown Ministries includes providing facilities for a day shelter related to First City Homeless Services (FCHS), a local nonprofit organization that serves the needs of Ketchikan's homeless, marginally housed, and transient community. The shelter is located in the social hall of First United Methodist Church. Evelyn is the church liaison to the shelter manager and sits on the First City board of governance as secretary.
Many of the persons served by the shelter are chronically homeless, leading to questions about their willingness to make other arrangements. People ask whether funds are well used in serving the same families and individuals again and again.Evelyn says she finds it difficult to put a dollar value on people. "What I am saying is, this is Ketchikan. It is raining and it is cold. Families, men, and women are in the day shelter every day. Where would they be if it were not here?"
"Homelessness has many faces," she explains. "When I first began working with FCHS in 2008, I would look at an individual and say to myself, 'If this were my father, mother, brother, or sister what would I do for them?' And then one day I heard Christ say, 'Evelyn, these are your father, mother brother, and sister.'"
Evelyn is an elder in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. From 1996 to 2006, she was in Russia, where she helped to develop programs to introduce and educate adults to the Christian faith. Evelyn states, "For the most part those of us raised in the West have been exposed to church culture since birth and possess a basic understanding of church and the Scriptures. Not so for the peoples of Eastern Europe. Adults of this region were not allowed for years to attend church or Bible study. For that matter many still don't own a Bible."
From 1999 until June of 2007, Evelyn traveled in Lithuania and Latvia to foster adult education courses. She was pastor of the Eiguliai United Methodist Church in Kaunas, Lithuania from 2005 to 2007. Organized in 1999, this congregation had a particular focus on at-risk children. It started an afterschool program and, later , initiated a food-sharing ministry for shut-ins and older persons.
Evelyn wrote and published a study book in both the Russian and Latvian languages entitled, A Biblical Understanding of the Christian Faith and Church Membership through the United Methodist Church.
Before her service in Eurasia, Evelyn managed a health and dental clinic for students and staff of the Hillcrest School community in Jos, Nigeria.
Rev. Erbele holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Wesley Seminary, Washington, DC. A native of Warwick, Rhode Island, she and her husband Terence (Teri), also a missionary, are the parents of two adult children.
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