St. Marks United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids was recently featured in the Cedar Rapids Gazette for its African Ministry. The church offers English language classes and citizenship classes to assist recent immigrants as they settle in Iowa.
The ministry began a few years ago in response to a growing community of Central Africans refugees who had moved into the Cedar Rapids area. Initially, efforts focused on starting a new community of faith with the support of a $6,000 grant from the East Central District’s Matthew 25 funds.
This outreach effort unexpectedly shifted as relationships developed between Iowans and Africans. What emerged, among other things, is African Women Empowered (A.W.E.), a micro-business designed to give African immigrant women opportunities for employment. They produce fabric bags, beaded jewelry, baby blankets, and more.
The Gazette article by Keegan O’Neil reports that as many as 3,000 refugees from Burundi have migrated to Cedar Rapids in the last several years, although “there is no official data on how many have migrated to the city.”
The African Ministry at St. Mark’s UMC, embodies their mission: “We seek to welcome all people, to share life’s journey learning to know Christ as our Savior, and to serve Christ by serving others.”