First United Methodist Church in Waterloo in partnership with the University of Northern Iowa School of Music is nurturing a love of music in children from Irving Elementary School and their church.

Last fall two groups of five students took group piano lessons for ten weeks. A twenty-week session began in January and will run through May of 2017. Staff from the university and Irving join with church volunteers to guide these experiences.

Another feature of MusicMania ministry is an interactive summer camp for children in grades K-9. Students explore a variety of activities related to music on the UNI campus, including singing, dancing, drama and art. They get a chance to play Orff instruments, African drums, pianos, keyboards, violins and violas. The camp culminates in a performance at the end of the week.

One student, Dohntay, for example, has enjoyed MusicMania for the last five years. Now in high school, he participates in the jazz band and concert band. His mother credits the program for his ongoing involvement, which “sparked the interest he has in music today.”

Support from the Northeast District began in 2015 with a grant of $2500. They followed up in 2016 with a Matthew 25 grant, which was made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.


Storm Recovery

A tornado caused major damage to the sanctuary of the Wesley United Methodist Church in Muscatine late Monday evening on March 6th. Known for their music ministries, their organ was completely destroyed. Yet, as they responded to the destruction and began cleaning up, they remained focused on their purpose as a church.organ.damage.muscatine

In November of 2014 the congregation participated in a Healthy Church Initiative consultation, a ministry supported by more than $60,000 in apportionment gifts this year from the United Methodist churches of Iowa. The resulting report from that weekend urged them to “flesh out a more specific vision for the future God intends” for them. Leaders grappled with the question for a few months before discerning God’s call to “transform lives through hands-on ministry with children and families in need.”

They noted the impact of the storm on others in the community as they attended to their own recovery. Katie Roquet, the director of media ministries for the church, helped to create “a communication hub between all the volunteers contacting us wanting to help and the individual homeowners who need the help.” She created a new tab on the church website to direct volunteers to relief efforts throughout the city and keep people updated on progress.

Children from Franklin Elementary School, where the congregation has focused much of its outreach since adopting their vision statement, made church members a banner that the kids all signed. One 2nd grader wrote, “I feel so very sorry about the tornado, but want you guys to know that I love you. I drew you a rainbow so you wouldn’t feel sad.”

Camping Ministry

Deke Rider, the site director of our Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center, had a lunch meeting at a local restaurant recently. This is the season of the year for preparing for the busy summer months of camping for children and youth.

“It was a fantastic meeting,” he reports, and as the conversation was coming to a close, a women dropped a napkin into his hands. The message written on it read as follows:

I’m a Methodist & went to Wesley Woods Camp as a child. My 3 sons camped there too. It was wonderful! Thank you for sharing the Gospel with our youth. God bless you both & your ministries.


Wesley Woods is located just southwest of Indianola on 344 acres of rolling hills. The staff there offer outdoor education to school groups at all times of the year. The camp also plays host to retreats for families, businesses, individuals and non-profit organizations in adult-friendly facilities.

The Iowa Conference is investing $731,316 in camping ministries in 2017 for the work of Wesley Woods and two other sites, Pictured Rocks in northeast Iowa near Monticello and Okoboji in northwest Iowa near Spirit Lake. These funds are made possible with apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state.

Spiritual Biographies

Students at the University of Iowa have a weekly opportunity to learn about people of faith and their spiritual journeys. Every Tuesday evening, students gather at the UI Wesley Center to break bread, be in community, pray, listen and receive sustaining nourishment for body and spirit.

This semester they are continuing a Spiritual Biography series.tuesdaytable Each week a guest shares personal stories of God’s leading. They reflect on how their spiritual journeys have formed and informed their vocational work. Over the course of these Tuesday Table conversations, students have hosted community leaders, university faculty and religious leaders from across the Iowa Conference. Recently, for example, Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz, the pastor at Trinity/Las Americas and Wesley United Methodist Churches in Des Moines, was their guest.

“Each week,” UI Wesley executive director and campus minister Anna Blaedel says, “we deepen our own sense of our spiritual journey and reflect on the events, experiences, moments, decisions, questions and beliefs that guide our lives and our life work.”

The Iowa Conference is investing $577,000 in our four Wesley Foundations in 2017, including the University of Iowa as well as Drake University, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. This support is made possible with the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.