Health Benefits

Pastors and conference staff throughout the state recently completed the open enrollment phase of the 2015 health insurance program earlier this month. This ministry of the Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the Iowa Conference provides health care coverage and related benefits for individuals—and their families, when desired—who are serving United Methodist churches and their related agencies.

While local churches are billed directly for their health insurance coverage for the pastors who serve them, administrative costs are supported in part through apportionment gifts from United Methodist congregations throughout Iowa. The Director of Human Resources and Conference Benefits Officer, a position currently held by Joni Mardesen, and her staff care for the maintenance of health and pension plans for the Iowa Conference as well as related expenses, such as “audit and legal fees, fiduciary insurance cost, meeting costs, bank fees,” and other services.

The governing board is chaired by Beverlee Bell, who currently serves as our pastor in Winterset. Members of the board are elected from across the state, including laity and clergy from all eight districts.


Iowa Wesley

Anna Blaedel, the new director of the Wesley Center at the University of Iowa, recently described her call to ministry. Twelve years ago she was a student at the University of Iowa. The Wesley Foundation “was where I felt and began to articulate a call to ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church.”

She sited the influenced of the campus ministers who supported her, the late Paul Shultz and Marsha Acord. They “touched and shaped my life and faith in powerful and lasting ways, as they have with so many lives.” Now she works, as they did, to cultivate a campus ministry devoted to “worship, service and learning, deepening discipleship, . . . transforming lives.”

Students today are giving testimony to the ministries at the Wesley Center. Abbie Buhr said that “Wesley is a home, a place where I can come to ponder the deep and the meaningful. I would not have made it through my first semester at (the University of) Iowa without Wesley.”

Apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state of Iowa help to support the ministry of the Wesley Foundation in Iowa City. Learn more about them online at or visit them at

African Worship in Sioux City

First United Methodist Church in Sioux City began hosting worship in an African context at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoons last September. Over 1,000 Africans live in the area.

About three years ago one young man was drawn to worship at First UMC because of a cross and flame logo he knew from his experience growing up in Africa. Derrick Okine, who moved to Iowa from Ghana, leads worship now in a style familiar to the people of his homeland.

Nineteen people attended the first event on September 14, 2014. As the ministry develops, Roger Madden, the pastor at First UMC, hopes to partner “with other United Methodist churches in Sioux City as well as Wesley UMC in Akron, which has had a history of ministry in Nigeria” in conjunction with the Iowa-Nigeria Partnership of the Iowa Conference.

A new Matthew 25 grant from the Northwest District, which is made possible by apportionment gifts from local United Methodist churches across the state, will help this ministry develop in 2015. The worship service gives African immigrants a place to gather and develop relationships with others, Pastor Madden added, while worshipping in a context dear to them because “it was how they were raised.”

Christmas Carols for Communion

St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Iowa City is one of many congregations celebrating communion throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons using Christmas carols. The resources are available from the General Board of Discipleship, a ministry supported by local church apportionment gifts from across Iowa and the entire United Methodist connection.

The opening dialogue (“The Lord be with you”) for the Great Thanksgiving, for example, is set to the tune for “Good King Wenceslas.” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice” also are used in the litany. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” provides the melody for the final “Amen.”

Dean McIntyre and Daniel Benedict, present and former staff at the General Board of Discipleship, are the compilers and authors of these adaptations. They have been generous in offering the music widely for use by local churches. Each downloadable page carries the following copyright notice: “This music may be reproduced, distributed, and used in church bulletins for nonprofit local church worship or education with the inclusion of the copyright citation and General Board of Discipleship worship website as its source.”


Care and Share House

The Care and Share House is a volunteer-based organization that provides food, clothing, and house wares to the people of Council Bluffs and surrounding communities. Located next door to the Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church, their mission is “to feed and cloth the people in our community with dignity and respect.”

The ministry has expanded to a second location on South Main Street, and United Methodist churches throughout the city are involved as volunteers to staff the stores and sort through donated items. Approximately 300 families and 700 individuals are served each month by their food pantries. Last April one young man selected dress clothes and shoes from the Care and Share Free Store in order to attend his high school prom. Other people are finding dress shirts needed for new jobs.

Financial support from area churches has funded the purchase of a truck to pick up food at the Food Bank and to make pantry deliveries to low-income housing facilities. Donations also have provided for a new heating and air conditioning unit at South Main and a new computer at Fifth Avenue. Matthew 25 funds from the Southwest District, made possible with apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across Iowa, have assisted this ministry, as well.