Twenty-two churches in north central Iowa are participating this spring in Healthy Church Initiative groups.
The Healthy Church Initiative is an intentional leadership development process designed to enhance the skills of pastors and laity to lead growing, vibrant, spirit-filled congregations. Participants gather in continuous learning communities to pray and study together throughout the process. Every meeting results in a self-selected action step for each participant and congregation. This cycle of action and reflection, similar to the class meetings in the early Methodist movement, strengthens leaders and produces the fruit of ministry God desires.
The North Central District has organized a northern tier and a southern tier of churches for their group meetings – many of which are facilitated by leaders living in the district. Participating churches include Forest City, Titonka, Swea City, First UMC in Mason City, Clear Lake, Colo, Ventura, Calvary UMC in Ames, Sheldahl, Slater, First UMC in Nevada, Huxley, Cambridge, Rockwell City, Dayton, Harcourt, Marion Street UMC in Boone, Riverside UMC in Fort Dodge, Ellsworth, Radcliffe, and Grand Junction.
Iowa Conference apportionment gifts from United Methodist congregations throughout the state help to underwrite the expenses of the Healthy Church Initiative. For more information about the Healthy Church Initiative, visit http://iaumc.org/hci.
One boy taking lunch home from school inspired the Fort Madison United Methodist Church to establish an emergency fund.
The Inside/Outside Needy program is the congregation’s response to poverty in the community. Fort Madison has one of the highest unemployment rates in Iowa, and many families are struggling financially.
Isla Lachmann, one of the volunteers with the program, wrote about what led them to establish their ministry. A little boy told them when he ate lunch at school and was offered a second helping, “he would put the seconds in his pockets to take home to his family.”
Knowing that others very likely would need help, the congregation began organizing a system for distributing emergency funds for such needs as medicine, food, clothing, rent, utilities, shelter, and transportation. A committee of three works with the church secretary to track and approve funding requests.
Their ministry reaches out to people both within and outside the congregation. “We always invite clients to worship with us if they do not attend another church.” This expression of God’s love, reflected in scripture, is supplemented with a Matthew 25 grant from the Southeast District. The grant money comes from apportionment gifts from local churches throughout the Iowa Conference.
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Waterloo is reaching out to others through a transportation ministry. They noticed that a number of people were unable to attend worship and other activities at the church because they had no transportation or they could not drive due to a handicapping condition.
The congregation now has a handicapped-accessible bus available on the first Sunday of every month to bring in persons who are confined to wheelchairs and elderly who do not have access to transportation. Members and non-members alike in their neighborhood have benefited from this service.
Because of the success of this ministry, a new need has come to their attention. Pastor Jae Hee Lee writes, “We want to add electric-powered doors to the restrooms and perhaps to the rear entrance” in order for the church building to become more accessible. “This will be great for our outreach opportunities and the many ways we serve as a center for the community.”
A Matthew 25 grant from the Northeast District helped the church with this project by providing funds to pay for the bus transportation from area care centers to the church. Conference apportionment gifts from the local United Methodist churches of Iowa made the Matthew 25 grant possible.
The Nodaway Valley Free Clinic (NVFC) provides free medical care to the people of Clarinda and the surrounding area. They offer examinations, diagnoses, diagnostic tests, administrative support (applying to medicine discount programs), pharmaceuticals, necessary medical transportation, education about care of chronic conditions, and follow-up and accountability for care.
The clinic is open three Thursday evenings per month to extend basic health care services to people without other means of support. Their volunteers include physicians, nurses, and other health professionals, as well as support staff, who are available at no cost to patients. Five churches in the area support the NCFC with regular volunteers, including two pastors.
The NVFC is a part of the Free Clinics of Iowa, the largest network of free medical clinics in the state. This donor-supported, not-for-profit organization has over 30 clinics in both rural and urban settings.
The NVFC is supported in part through a Matthew 25 grant from the Southwest District. These funds are made available from apportionment donations given by local United Methodist churches of the Iowa Conference.
The people of the Polk City United Methodist Church have reached a dozen children outside of their church family through their after-school program.
The local elementary school is across the street from the church building. Each Wednesday after school the church opens its doors for the children of the community. Thirteen children from the congregation have been a part of the ministry, and twelve more kids who have never been to the church before also participate.
Twelve members of the church have helped with the program throughout the past year. In addition, several high school youth have lead music, crafts, and games.
The Imagine No Malaria initiative was a featured activity in their after-school program. It exposed the children to our commitment to global health as United Methodist people in Iowa. An offering for the ministry provided the children an opportunity to help solve a big problem in our world.
Matthew 25 funds from a Central District grant were used to purchase equipment and supplies for the ministry in 2013. These monies were made possible from apportionment gifts from local churches throughout the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church.