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Chasing after God


Shyloe O'Neal joins others working in a community garden at Duke Divinity School.
Shyloe O'Neal joins others working in a community garden at Duke Divinity School.

Native American Ministries Sunday, April 14

Transition can be difficult, but a strong focus on the end result can eliminate some of the uncertainty. That is what Shyloe O'Neal discovered when she, her husband, and their two young children moved nearly 1,200 miles across the United States for her to attend seminary.

A Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen from Wagoner, Okla., O'Neal now studies at United Methodist-related Duke Divinity School in Raleigh, N.C. Receiving a Native American Ministries Sunday Seminarian Scholarship helped alleviate some concerns within her family while attending school fulltime.

"The scholarship assisted us in making sure that I could have the books that I needed, the material that I needed, and that I could get to school and be focused on the work," says O'Neal said "It made the difference last fall when my husband chose to leave his job in Oklahoma and come here. There was a seven-month gap of unemployment. It was the difference between us having our lights on and food on our table."

Half of the gifts given on Native American Ministries' Sunday support scholarships awarded by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and the Native American Urban Initiative of the General Board of Global Ministries. The remainder remains in annual conferences to support Native American ministries.

O'Neal credits The United Methodist Church with supporting her educational aspirations and said the scholarship is a way to affirm and appreciate the spiritual gifts of Native Americans. She added, "The regular support of the Native American Ministries Offering allows us to have a faithful witness of our presence in a place where, historically, it has not always been faithful. This is one of the most public ways that the church attempts to say, 'maybe we didn't get it right, but now we are'".

Her dedication to her faith and heritage runs deep. O'Neal wants to return to Oklahoma and serve in rural communities. "I'm a real Native American who desperately is chasing after God with everything that I have. I hope to have the opportunity to mentor in ministry and say to others: you're incredibly valuable to the church."

Henri Giles is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tenn. This story was originally published at

Find more stories to giving on Native American Ministries' Sunday at Order bulletin inserts, posters and other resources to promote the offering by calling United Methodist Communications Customer Service, (888) 346-3862. Churches may receive the offering on another day if that is more convenient.