Mar 152011

First female Native American presbyter elected

Recently, history was made when Vernice “Cheri” Sampson became the first female Native American presbyter to serve in the Assemblies of God. Sampson, a Pima Indian, was elected by the Phoenix Metro Indian Section of the Arizona District Council.

Sampson is pastor of Salt River Indian Assembly of God in Scottsdale, Arizona. Since February, she also has served as treasurer for the Native American Fellowship of the Assemblies of God.

“When I hear ‘the first woman,’ I just pray that I’m not the last,” Sampson says. “With Native American women, and with Native Americans in general, when they see their own people in those positions, they then know it’s possible [for them to one day have the same positions].”

Sampson’s father and mother both served as Assemblies of God ministers. Even before her parents were married, Sampson’s mother was a missionary to the Native American community.

“I believe that women need to do what my mother did all those years ago, which is to step into the calling He has placed on their lives,” explains Sampson, who is presently mentoring young female pastors and working with three women in her church who have a call to preach.

John E. Maracle, Native American Fellowship president, describes Sampson as a leader of character and integrity.

“This is very historic,” Maracle says of Sampson’s election. “Cheri is definitely a role model for other ladies and those that are in leadership. Everything she does, she does with excellence.”

As Sampson has moved into the new roles of presbyter and treasurer, while continuing to serve as pastor of Salt River Indian Assembly, she feels God has encouraged her with the phrase, “Step in, step up, step forward.”

“I’m going places that my parents always wanted us to go. My dad and his Native American contemporaries envisioned our people moving into all areas of leadership. They have all gone [passed away] and I kind of wonder what they would think of my being elected presbyter,” Sampson says. “I’m excited about this; I’m challenged by it. I feel in one way, I’m over my head, but that’s a good place to be because that completely drives me to Christ and I love Jesus Christ.”

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