Camp Hope at Pictured Rocks

Young people who have experienced the incarceration of a family member gain support and encouragement at Camp Hope. Children and youth from the age of 8 to 12 can attend Camp Hope at the Pictured Rocks Camp and Retreat Center this summer.

They’ll have a lot of fun, of course. But the camp experience also provides some time and space to know God more and find healing in a safe place. Compassionate, caring staff work with campers throughout the three-day event.

In previous years the events have been held at the Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center outside of Indianola in central Iowa. This year’s expansion to Pictured Rocks offers a second sight in eastern Iowa. In all about 60 kids will receive scholarships to come to Camp Hope for free this summer.

“There is enough need to justify a second Camp Hope,” said David Hobbs, the Leadership Development Minister for Camping and Christian Formation in the Iowa Conference. “We’ve worked extensively with the Iowa Department of Corrections and the Women at the Well United Methodist Church” at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville in the last two years.

Conference apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches throughout Iowa help to support this ministry.


Food Fight 4 Kids, Sioux City

Leeds Elementary School students receive shelf-stable food on days when school is not in session through a ministry of Wesley United Methodist Church in Sioux City called Food Fight 4 Kids.

While the Food Bank of Siouxland conducts a backpack program for six urban elementary schools in the area, limited funding has kept Leeds Elementary School students from being included. More than 60% of their population (402 students) receive free or reduced lunches. In the 2011-2012 school year, 23% of students were enrolled in English Language Learners classes and more than 40% of students were racial ethnic minorities.

Wesley UMC hosted a community panel discussion in October 2011 to identify community needs. Food insecurity was identified as the number one issue facing their area. The goal of the project is to help students “reach their full potential regardless of the circumstances of their lives,” writes Christy Cook, the co-chair of Food Fight 4 Kids.

Partners in this ministry include volunteers from Wesley UMC, Leeds staff and PTA, and students from Briar Cliff University. A Northwest District Matthew 25 grant, which is made possible through apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches throughout Iowa, has provided financial support.


Urban Farm in Cedar Rapids

Iowa’s first urban farm education center was created in 2012 as an outreach of the Matthew 25 Ministry Hub. The two-acre farm is located close to downtown Cedar Rapids on empty lots where houses once stood before the 2008 flood.

The urban farm is a part of their Cultivate Hope program, which exists to help build sustainable, healthy communities. They focus on teaching families how to grow, eat, and preserve fresh, high quality food right in their own neighborhoods.

If kids are to flourish, they need to be healthy. But children in the Taylor and Northwest Area neighborhoods have some of the highest obesity rates in the city. Working with the Harrison Elementary and Roosevelt Middle schools, the Matthew 25 Ministry Hub is shifting the food culture in these communities. They offer weekly, hands-on food education programming for students throughout the growing season.

The Matthew 25 Hub is planning a Farm Summer Camp for kids to taste farm-fresh food and learn about how it is produced. Farm tours are also available for youth groups with interest in their ministries. Apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa help to support this ministry through a Matthew 25 grant from the East Central District.

Manawa Faith Community

The Manawa Faith Community is an outreach of Salem United Methodist Church in Council Bluffs. Located in a highly transient area where most residents live in rented housing, the ministry faces drug abuse and child neglect in their community each day. Yet, their pastor Daniel Grauer writes, “We have made significant progress in addressing social behaviors . . . and spiritual care” of the persons we serve.

One family of five, for example, struggles with alcoholism, and the young adults in the household have learning disabilities. The 25-year-old son has attended youth activities, but gaining his trust has been a big challenge. In the last three years he hadn’t spoken a complete sentence. During a church-sponsored Christmas party last December, he brought tears to the eyes of one adult volunteer when he asked, “Where would you like these (gifts for young children to go)?” It was a moment to treasure. They were making a difference in his life.

On the Manawa Faith Community Facebook page, visitors read their message: “We don’t care about your past, your race, culture, or status. We DO care about your personal relationship with God.” Their ministry is supported in part by a Matthew 25 grant from the Southwest District, which is funded through apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa.