The Carson Valley United Methodist Church welcomed new Pastor Latu Paea recently.
“This is a huge deal, he is only the third pastor to come to the church in 40 years,” said CVUMC office manager Len Frueh. “He is awesome and has been warmly received by our Congregation.”
The 37-year-old was raised Methodist and has been a youth pastor for seven years, but this will be his first position as pastor for a whole congregation.
“I come from generations of pastors, and I am now the youngest in my family to pursue it as a career,” said Paea.
He started as an aid in the church at the age of 27, helping his father, who was also a pastor, set up meetings and events and eventually participating with the youth.
He then accepted a role as a seminary student at Sia’atoutai Theological College in the Pacific islands of Tonga where he received his Bachelor of Divinity. He went on to receive a Masters from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.
From there he applied for a pastor license through a six-month process. Once he was inducted into the district committee a position became available in the Great Northern District, which is Nevada.
“I was appointed to the 2023 conference, applied to the church, they said ‘yes’ and trusted me and brought me here,” said Paea.
Before receiving his credentials, Paea played football and rugby for Fresno State and said it wasn’t a lifestyle he wanted to continue.
“I was a jock,” he said, “and I always tell people when they ask why pursue ministry and it’s because I was taught from an early age to hurt people on the field and that ‘boys will be boys,’ but now I am in a field where I preach love, I am around different people and I promote care, love and acceptance without judgement to anyone.”
Given his age, Paea brings youth to the church and having the ability to connect with the younger generation.
“I’m trying to break the barrier that pastoring is just for old people, or as I call them ‘wise ones’,” he said.
Paea also plans to share his culture with the community.
“Carson Valley has shared their culture with me and I have some of my culture to share with them,” he said.
Paea relocated from San Francisco, but is also of Tongan decent.
“I speak fluent Tongan, my parents and wife are Togan,” he said. “I want to share some of that culture in the church by wearing some of my culture attire, introducing some cuisine during potlucks and even portions of prayer and some hymns in my language.”
With the retirement of long time pastor Tony Hoefner, Paea said he is not looking to replace what Hoefner brought to the church.
“They already built the foundation of this community, I am not looking to destruct or reconstruct what they built, I’m here to maintain it and build upon it,” he said. “It’s rewarding to contribute to the community and to continue to instill hope and good. If I can convince others that there is good and good people are out there, then I have done my job. You might not find perfect people, but you will find good people and that’s what I think the church community is about. If you need family, a safe place, hope, it’s here.”