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Michiko Manacop-Reyes: Doing it All

Written by Susan Jakubowski-Weiner, Connecting Voices Editor

Can a woman really do it all—including generously gifting time and talent to her church?  In the case of Michiko (“Mitchi”) Manacop-Reyes, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

Recently named one of UCC Southern California Nevada Conference’s (SCNC) three “Distinguished Laywomen,” Mitchi’s life journey has been a fascinating one.  One of four children of a U.S. Navy man and his wife, each born in a different country, Mitchi arrived when the family was stationed in Japan.  As were her siblings, she was given a name typical of the land of her birth.  Thus Japan produced Michiko!

After retiring from the military in the early 70s, Mitchi’s dad moved his wife and family to northern California only to realize they really belonged in the Philippines, where they lived until 1986.  Describing her parents as being the greatest influences in her life, Mitchi says,  “Religion and faith were a natural, inborn part of our existence.  My grandfather was a United Methodist minister and my family helped start a number of churches in the Philippines.  At age 12, I was a regular in the choir.”

Mitchi completed her education there, obtaining a degree in accounting from the respected Catholic school, University of Santo Tomas.  Journeying to the U.S., she “hit the ground running,” taking a number of civil service exams and, in 1987, landing an accounting position in the Los Angeles City office of then-mayor Tom Bradley.  “Mayor Bradley was a wonderful man. ” He knew each of his office employees by name and loved his city.  It was an honor to work for him,”   Mitchi worked in the mayor’s office – for Bradley and his successors – for ten years.   But her career growth was just beginning; the city attorney’s office awaited.  Now an administrator in that office, Mitchi has been with the city for 23 years.   She supervises three supervisors and their staffs—and that’s before she goes home or goes to church!

Soon after getting settled in Los Angeles, Mitchi began another “mandatory” part of her life, giving of her talents and abilities to her church.  The Rosewood United Methodist Church, a predominately Filipino church in Los Angeles, was the recipient.  Following  family tradition, she became the young adult group coordinator and really enjoyed that commitment.  Along came a youth coordinator with whom she shared much committee work.  He stuck around and Mitchi realized that she and Ernesto (“Ernie”) Reyes belonged together.  It wasn’t open for discussion or controversial—simply a fact.  Ernie went on to become a student in care, and the time was appropriate to move to a new church.  After a preaching experience at Filipino American UCC Church in the Eagle Rock section of Los Angeles, Ernie and Mitchi decided to stay.  Electing not to follow traditional Filipino dating protocol, they easily fell into marriage and moved into her nearby condo.  Looking back, Mitchi rejoices that she was committed to and secure in her own faith journey before meeting Ernie.  “Everything I am today I would still have been had I not met my dear husband.  And it made it so much easier when I then went on to become a preacher’s wife.”

Eventually Ernie was called to be the pastor of their church, and Mitchi continued on the path she had always been on; a committed career and a deep allegiance to her church.  Not long after this their son Julian was born.  He was easily swept into the loving arms of church members, with Mitchi knowing if she brought him into a worship service or church event, she would not hold him until it was time to leave.  With two older sons, Risenrey and Lee already in the family, her life, it appeared, was now complete.

Mitchi, however, needed to do more.  As a younger woman in her predominately Filipino church, she saw that the others’ contributions and talents reflected their backgrounds, cultural values, work skills and comfort with visibility.  While many of the older women had accepted or chosen “traditional” roles within the church (choir, food preparation, etc.), Mitchi realized that with her accounting experience she had a distinct voice to offer.  Her abilities with numbers, fine points and details helped her have patience and a sense of calmness and she knew that in a UCC church setting, where members agree to disagree, she had the ability to accept and respond to varying opinions and ideas.  For her, leadership was in the front of the church at the Conference level! 

Mitchi has served on the board of the SCNC, going on to become its Chair, and as a delegate to General Synod in Minneapolis.  From there, she went on to serve on the board of Pilgrim Pines and became Chair of its Personnel Committee.  She also has found her voice as a member of the Pacific Islander Asian American Ministries (PAAM).  When asked how she was able to jump right in, given all her existing life commitments, Mitchi shared that she is blessed with a wonderful husband who regularly fills any needed parenting role.  Further, as church work has always been part of her life,  ”jumping right in” does not intimidate her.

Mitchi, who believes our value lies not in our talents but in how we use them, reports she receives much more from church work than she gives, adding that her life would be incomplete without it.   Is wasn’t until she became a minister’s wife that she saw all that is required to pull off that Sunday service and operate a church.  “There is enough work for everybody!”  Her advice to other women within UCC is, “There is work to be done.  Jump right in, and when you feel a fit don’t be afraid to try a role that maybe you haven’t tried before.  You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve!”

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