The Wesley Family Outreach Ministry in Mason City offers free, informal consultations with a trained and experienced clinical social worker at no cost to anyone in the community. “Life isn’t easy,” their website explains. When individuals are feeling overwhelmed with worries or hang-ups, Ken Zimmerman, a licensed independent social work with nearly 40 years of experience who serves as the ministry’s director, is available to talk.
Recently, the parents of a teenaged son were discouraged and despondent over his destructive behaviors. A phone call began a process of support that led to the development of a recovery plan that the son and his parents crafted themselves. The ministry helped to link them with resources in the community, so that the young man could return to school and complete his technical training. “You saved our family,” the parents said. Now their son is on a pathway to a fulfilling job.
The Wesley Family Outreach Ministry is supported in part by a Matthew 25 grant from the North Central District, which is made possible with apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state of Iowa. “If you are looking for a church of people just like you who want to experience God’s love and be transformed by that love,” their website boldly states, “welcome to Wesley United Methodist Church!”
A homeless mother has moved toward financial self-sufficiency with the help of the New Directions Shelter in Des Moines. Shaniece arrived at the end of March last year. Her program manager helped her develop a resume that led to a job with Midwest Professional Staffing within her first two weeks at the shelter.
Shaniece saved $1,500 during her stay at the shelter to pay off fines that she owed to reinstate her driver’s license. By May of 2014 she was able to move to an apartment with a little financial assistance. She is enrolling in college to pursue her dreams of owning a home and running her own business.
The New Directions Shelter is a ministry of Hawthorn Hill with a mission “to establish and operate housing programs for homeless families with children that help them obtain permanent housing and to provide services to help families achieve economic self-sufficiency.” Apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state of Iowa help to support this initiative.
Tim Shanahan, the executive director of Hawthorn Hill, reports that the New Direction Shelter was able to provide emergency shelter and support services for 428 homeless women and children in 2014, representing 135 different families and including 293 children.
Paige Jensen, a junior at the University of Northern Iowa from Hedrick, will be working as a summer assistant for MUMMS. Mobile United Methodist Missionaries is a ministry of the Iowa Conference supported in part by a Matthew 25 grant from the Southwest District through apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state.
MUMMS is well known for its Vacation Bible School ministry. Paige will be a part of the MUMMS team in 2015, working with local church leaders in their outreach to children primarily in rural parts of southern Iowa. A mission trip she took in high school with her youth group from Prairie View United Methodist Church inspired her interest in MUMMS. The group traveled to Newport, Tennessee, and helped with a VBS in a local park. Many of the children “knew who Jesus was,” she said, but parents didn’t seem to care. She was pleased that an invitation to parents to come to a celebratory meal at the end of the week “sparked their interest.”
This year fifteen sites for Bible schools have been set up, including Bagley, Coin, Silver City, Thurman, and Yale in the Southwest District. MUMMS director, Cherie Miner, and her senior summer assistant, Allison Engel, will be working with Paige throughout the spring to finalize plans for these events.
Wesley United Methodist Church, just east of downtown Ottumwa, hosts a monthly clinic to help low-income residents navigate U.S. immigration laws. Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) provides free, high-quality immigration legal services, education, and advocacy through a network of clinics across the state. Some clients may drive a couple of hours to make use of JFON’s service, Carol Ryan reports, but last year about “half of the clients were from Wapello County,” where Ottumwa is the county seat.
One case from the clinic at Wesley UMC involved a mother who had been separated from her children for seven years. She was told as she fled her homeland to seek asylum that the children could join her once she became established in the United States. She encountered many roadblocks and feared that her children would grow up without her. But a JFON attorney, Ann Naffier, was able to provide the legal counsel needed to resolve the situation.
JFON is supported in part with a Matthew 25 grant from the South Central District. These funds are made possible by the apportionment contributions of United Methodist churches throughout Iowa. Learn more about the ministry of Justice for Our Neighbors in Iowa at their website, www.iajfon.org.