Bishop James S. Thomas Award

Clint Twedt-Ball and Courtney Ball were recognized this summer for their ministry with the poor in Cedar Rapids. The Bishop James S. Thomas Award honors United Methodist leaders in Iowa who respond to the needs of poor and marginalized persons through education, social justice, and ecumenical ministries.clint&courtney

Beginning in 2006, the brothers have worked to strengthen their neighborhood on the northwest side of their city through an asset-based approach to community development. The Matthew 25 Ministry Hub was instrumental in responding to the flooding the city experienced in 2008. Because of the relationships they had been cultivating with their neighbors, they were able to respond by rebuilding homes “Block by Block” in the most devastated areas. More than $2 million was entrusted to the organization in support of their post-flood efforts.

Now their ministries have expanded to include an urban farm and youth empowerment activities in cooperation with local schools and other organizations. All of these effort help them envision “a thriving, connected community where people are valued and talents are multiplied; where neighborhood families have access to safe, affordable housing and healthy food; and where youth are empowered through reading and the creative arts.”

The Matthew 25 Hub received a $4,000 grant from the East Central District in 2015, which was made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.


Change a Child’s Story

Patty Link

Patty Link recently joined the Iowa Conference staff as an advocate for Change a Child’s Story. Her work with local churches and their leaders to help children develop literacy skills is supported with apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa. Children with good reading habits by the third grade are far less likely to be living in poverty later in life.

Peg Liebsch and Jo Porter recently shared how their church is active in the effort to Change a Child’s Story. They are members of the mission committee at Mt. Hope United Methodist Church, which is located south of Denver and north of Waterloo just east of Highway 63.

They met with the elementary principal and librarian for Denver schools to determine the book needs of their students. Teachers helped to identify homes where books could be given, and the church purchased 44 books to distribute to students based on each child’s reading level and interest before the summer break.

Peg and Jo also contacted other organizations working with children and provided 157 books to them. The Discovery Center in Denver, which offers preschool, after-school and summer programs, received books for children ages two to five. The Denver Clinic and Peoples Clinic in Waterloo received books for children and youth from ages seven to sixteen.

Hope Net, Council Bluffs

The Salem United Methodist Church Outreach Center in Council Bluffs hosts monthly Circles of Support meetings to help people cope creatively with financial, emotional, or physical challenges they face. Participants meet together at the Salem UMC Manna Campus near Lake Manawa for an informal meal to build friendships and share ideas to encourage one another.


“There are times in our lives,” they remind area residents, “when we face situations that are overwhelming.” Sometimes even everyday challenges can isolate us and keep us from realizing our potential. Circles of Support offers a way for people to overcome their problems and “Stop trying to do it alone!”

Circles of Support is one of several initiatives of Hope Net Ministries, Inc. Hope Net is a non-profit, faith-based organization that provides families and individuals in Council Bluffs and the surrounding area with the tools and resources they need to break the cycles of addiction and poverty. Their mission is Helping Other People Experience hope through meeting needs and building healthy relationships.

The Southwest District provided grant assistance of $2400 in 2015 to Salem Church in support of Hope Net Ministries. These funds are made available with the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state of Iowa.

Discipler Program

Six graduates of the Academy for Christian Education Discipler Program were recognized at the 2016 Iowa Annual Conference. The intensive 18-month study was created by Discipleship Ministries, a general agency of the United Methodist Church. The program provide a sound foundation for laity and clergy just entering professional ministry or looking to renew skills and knowledge about contemporary Christian education techniques.discipleship.ministries

Students study six developmental modules individually at their own pace. An accountability partner works alongside each student for support and encouragement. Periodically throughout the process, students also gather together for group discussion and interaction as they integrate what they are learning into their ministry contexts.

This year’s graduates include Jeff Flagg, Nancy Anton-Jensen, Renee Masters, Betty Pierschbacher, Brenda Willis, and Coreen Witke. They studied a variety of topics together, including call and vocation, God and the Bible, and faith formation practices in Christian education. They also explored administration and leadership in the United Methodist Church and learned about designing ministry specifically for their particular community’s needs.

The Iowa Conference Board of Discipleship underwrites some of the costs for the Discipler Program from its $6,964 budget in 2016. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches throughout the state.

Bertram United Methodist Church

The Bertram United Methodist Church was one of twelve churches recognized at the 2016 Iowa Annual Conference for completing the Healthy Church Initiative consultation process. The HCI process helped the people of Bertram to think differently about ministry.


The church is located just outside of Cedar Rapids, but the old railroad town they are in is now the center of a sprawl of new houses. Their worshiping congregation hovers around thirty people each Sunday.

HCI discussions have helped them develop more intentionality in reaching out to the people of their community. “We talk a lot about building relationships,” says their pastor, Jenny Seylar, “so that people know Jesus Christ and know that the people of the Bertram church are people of love and grace.”

One result of Bertram’s HCI consultation was a plan to remodel their church. “We had a desire to bring it back to its 1866 look, while updating all the amenities so that things worked better.” Members of the church have mentioned that the refurbished sanctuary “has deepened their worship experience and allowed them to worship more fully,” says Rev. Seylar.

The East Central District contributed $3,000 toward HCI ministries in their area in 2015. These funds were made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.