Each week last summer an average of 80 to 85 children in Anamosa from food-insecure households received sack lunches from Anamosa Lunches for Youth. Also known as ALY, the ministry is an outreach of the Anamosa United Methodist Church. During this school year ALY has been providing 71 weekend food bags for local elementary and middle school students who receive free and reduced-cost lunches.
This all-volunteer effort is a partnership among seven churches plus the girls basketball team, 4-H groups, and other service organizations in the area. Their ministry is supported in part with Matthew 25 funds from the East Central District. The grant was made possible with apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches throughout the state of Iowa.
Recently, Nancy Mulford reflected on the impact of ALY. “Those of us who work together in this ministry have had our lives affected by the need we see in our community and by the joy of working with our neighbors to meet those needs. We have seen people join our ranks who might not otherwise have participated in church activities” because of the good ALY is doing for the people of Anamosa.
Superintendents, field outreach ministers, and district administrative assistants gathered this week in Des Moines to develop their working relationships as teams. Nancy Sayer and Ken Ehrman from the Samaritan Center for Congregations in Naperville, Illinois outside of Chicago trained the teams, using a variety of exercises and assessment tools. They discussed ways to maximize the impact of the actions of individuals on each team in their shared work and to identify options for increasing job satisfaction and productivity. All of this was to enable the district teams to be more effective partners with local lay and clergy leaders throughout the Iowa Conference to create world-transforming communities of faith. Apportionment gifts from local churches throughout the state helped to support this training.
The Samaritan Center for Congregations “strengthens congregations by helping them discover and utilize proven resources to address the opportunities and challenges they encounter.” On Monday evening our consultants presented a sample Church Assessment Tool (CAT) report to leaders from Faith United Methodist Church in Centerville. The CAT is being considered as a complementary resource in conjunction with the Healthy Church Initiative discernment process. This resource helps local churches understand themselves more fully especially as they prepare for transitions, successions in leadership, and strategic planning.
Over the weekend twenty new students gathered for the first School for Lay Ministry class to be presented in Spanish. Simpson College in Indianola served as the site for the event. Students spent all day Saturday together and concluded their class just before noon on Sunday. Instructors for the class included Enna Antunez, one of our pastors in Perry, and Ruben Mendoza, one of our pastors at Broadway United Methodist Church in Council Bluffs.
The Hispanic population is growing in many parts of Iowa, and this new initiative was developed in response to the need for more church leaders who are fluent in Spanish. For two decades the Iowa School for Lay Ministry has been equipping leaders for ministry in local churches and the greater mission field. The new class is a natural extension of this innovative ministry, which has been recognized throughout the United Methodist connection for its leadership development practices.
Nitza Dovenspike, the chair of the Iowa Conference Hispanic Ministries Standing Committee, helped to coordinate this collaborative effort among several agencies, including the Board of Laity and several of our District Connectional Ministries Councils. Apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state of Iowa helped to provide scholarships for participating students.
A father and his son arrived in the United States from Central America two years ago with legal work permits. They came to the newest clinic for Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors in Decorah to renew their permits as the expiration date approached. A second son, who had also immigrated with his father, had only recently reached the eligibility age of 15 for a work permit. With tears in his eyes, fearing that his son would be deported without proper papers, the father asked, “What can we do about my younger son?” Fortunately, the JFON attorney was able to help the father and both of his sons care for the needed paperwork successfully.
First United Methodist Church in Decorah is the home for the monthly JFON clinic, which opened in September. Ann Naffier, the staff attorney assigned to the new clinic, indicated that northeast Iowa residents have “very little access to any immigration legal services at all, let alone free or low-cost services.”
Justice for Our Neighbors offers free, professional legal services to low-income immigrants. Legal clinics are available throughout Iowa staffed by JFON lawyers with the help of local volunteers. Apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches in Iowa partially fund their efforts. Donations can be made using their Iowa Advance Special #375. Learn more at their website www.iajfon.org.