Sibling delegates look back at historic week
HOUSTON — They’re not quite sure who had the idea first.
|Siblings Roy and Abigail Koech pose for a photo at First United Methodist Church's west campus in Houston, the venue for the South Central Jurisdictional Conference.
Abigail Koech was encouraging friends in 2019 to nominate themselves as delegates to the General and Jurisdictional conferences during the Great Plains Annual Conference session, and reluctantly decided to put her own name in.
Her brother Roy, meanwhile, was working on offering himself for nomination.
“We probably told our parents before we told each other,” Roy said.
Both were elected as lay delegates — she the first lay delegate for the Great Plains in the South Central Jurisdictional Conference, he as an alternate who moved into a voting position during the 29 months since the election. They have asked around and believe themselves to be the first sibling delegates for the conference, if not the jurisdiction.
Both were warned to expect strenuous, extremely long days in Houston. And both were among the elated crowd for the unprecedented triple bishop election on the first ballot, which made episcopal leaders of the Rev. Dee Williamston of the Great Plains, the Rev. Laura Merrill of Rio Texas, and the Rev. Dr. David Wilson from the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.
“A lot of people described it as an emotionally stressful time. I was expecting a whirlwind,” Abigail, 21, said. ‘I was very pleasantly surprised when it happened. It was very surreal to come here for my first jurisdictional, and here we’re making history.”
“It was definitely unique,” added Roy, 25 “I don’t know if I was expecting it to last until midnight on Friday, but I definitely thought (it would take longer). … It wasn’t even in my scope of thought that there would be three.”
The Koeches are double-PKs (preachers’ kids). Their father, the Rev. Ezekiel Koech, is pastor of Lenexa UMC; their mother, Alice, is a lay pastor in Easton, Kansas.
Neither of their Kenya-born parents had been a delegate to conferences, they said.
“My dad loves Dee, and he was definitely, ‘Do what you can for Dee,’” Abigail said of Williamston, the first Black woman elected as bishop in the jurisdiction. “They’ve been very supportive of us in general and have expressed their pride. They’ve been a support system in general.”
“One thing about our parents, and it goes equally both ways for our mom and dad, is that they are really good about being supportive because they have a lot of trust in us,” Roy said. “They’ve showed by example for a long time how to be humble, how to listen to those who are speaking, regardless of the environment and circumstances and the subject that’s being spoken about.”
Abigail said she didn’t see any of the negativity that she was warned about.
“There wasn’t as much politics going on, and people were very honest,” she said. “That just shows where we’re at as a jurisdiction, and we’re moving forward in a positive way. We can be in a time such as now and people still have integrity.”
Abigail said she’s leaving Houston proud of being a United Methodist.
“It’s definitely an encourager. It gives you a good boost of energy,” she said.
While Abigail is uncertain whether she’ll put herself up as a delegate again, Roy is already making plans.
“I’m looking forward to sharing the insight and wisdom that I’ve collected,” he said.
Neither have plans to enter ordained ministry. Abigail is in search of a college to finish her degree in marketing, and Roy, who graduated from Fort Hays State University in 2019, works in construction services in the Kansas City area.
They have a younger brother, Zach, who will soon turn 17.
The two have balanced time together and time apart during their four days in Houston. They both have enjoyed meeting new people, especially other 20-somethings from around the world.
But don’t think because they have the same last name and DNA that they are of one mind.
“One thing that sometimes happens when we’re in the same room, especially for four days, is that we kind of become seen as a package,” Roy said “But we’re very individual people, and we have individual experiences. We have similar experiences, but in different years.”
But that doesn’t mean they’re completely different.
“Anyone who’s spent time around Abby and I knows that what we share in common is our observant and inquisitive nature, and I think we get that from our parents. It pays off, especially in settings like these,” Roy said. “Our parents, they love us and encourage us. They know whatever we have on our hearts is the direction we should be headed.”
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