A dozen local churches across the Iowa Conference received cross-cultural appointments this summer. Pastors have come to Iowa from all over the world to serve our churches. Their presence reflects the vision of Pentecost. People “from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) gathered in Jerusalem, and “we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!” (Acts 2:11).
The Commission on Religion and Race has an ongoing ministry to encourage our churches to appreciate the blessings of diversity in having pastors of different ethnic backgrounds. This practice in the United Methodist Church testifies to our commitment to overcoming racism in our culture and our world. Racism is defined as a belief that one’s own race is superior to others.
Commission members offer workshops for local church leaders on the topic of cross-cultural appointments. The seminars highlight the particular gifts and graces of both the pastors and the local churches they serve. Participants gain a deeper understanding of each other through conversations that establishes strong ministerial relationships.
This year the Iowa Conference is investing $31,000 in the work of the Commission on Religion and Race, which includes support for cross-cultural appointment workshops. These funds are made possible with the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
The St. Charles Parish raised nearly $2,000 at their Old Settlers Reunion food stand in July to support ministries for children. Half of it was used to purchase school supplies for students in the Interstate 35 Community School District.
Amy Reyes went shopping with a friend on behalf of the church to get items from the class supply lists. They divided everything up according to each grade and delivered it all to the school in time for registration.
She also sent an email to every teacher in the elementary school to let them know of the church’s ongoing support. Some have responded with requests already, so she is picking up additional items for the teachers using the remaining funds from this summer.
Grandmas broke down in tears and mothers gave out hugs when they saw the school supplies. They were fearful of the financial burden that purchasing school supplies would bring and were relieved by the donations.
The generosity of the church has spurred even more giving. “A teacher that was moved by your generosity bought a backpack and all the supplies for an elementary student,” said Deann Strange, a secretary at the high school, “and I purchased all of the supplies for a high school student.”
Leaders in the St. Charles Parish are participating in the Healthy Church Initiative with support from the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
Campers at Pictured Rocks got a chance to become Difference Makers this summer. The United Methodist Camp and Retreat Center near Monticello in northeast Iowa hosted a week at the end of June for teens from twelve to eighteen years of age called IMPACT. The experience, which was new in their camp catalog in 2017, gave young people an opportunity for hands-on development of leadership and serving skills.
Participants worked with Matthew 25 in the Taylor Neighborhood of Cedar Rapids on a project called Transform Week. They joined other volunteers and area residents who were painting and siding houses, putting up decks and fences, and cleaning up debris.
IMPACT provided a chance for students to build lifelong friendships with other teens who desire to make a difference in their world. The experience also included many classic camp activities and in-depth Bible exploration. All of the ministries of Pictured Rocks support the strategic priority of equipping ourselves and others as transformational leaders and focus on the Christian spiritual formation and growth of youth and families.
The 2017 budget of the Iowa Conference earmarks $671,316 to support our three United Methodist-related camps in Iowa: Wesley Woods near Indianola, Lake Okoboji in northwest Iowa and, of course, Pictured Rocks. These funds are made possible with apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches throughout the state of Iowa.
Kathy Martin received the Francis Asbury Award this summer in recognition of her service to and support for campus ministry as chaplain and director of church relations at Morningside College. The Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry of the Iowa Conference highlighted her deep care for the students, faculty and staff with whom she worked. She is known as a mentor and a compassionate advisor that they can trust.
During her tenure, she expanded the number of campus ministry events and opportunities for students. She led mission trips to Gulf Coast communities devastated by hurricanes and assisted residents in many other areas. She also invested in collegial relationships and advocated for strong connections between United Methodist-related colleges and local churches.
Although she retired from full-time ministry in 2014, she willingly stepped back into service as interim chaplain at the college for the 2016-2017 school year. She continued her work seamlessly and passionately, raising up leaders for the church and providing ways for students to engage in the needs of the world through service and mission opportunities.
The Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry has a budget of $632,000 in 2017 to support ministries throughout the state, including $20,000 for Morningside College. These funds are made possible with apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
The Simpson Youth Academy successfully completed it’s first Summer Residency from June 24 through July 2, 2017 at Simpson College for seventeen rising high school juniors and seniors from Iowa. The students, thirteen of whom were from United Methodist churches, joined college-aged mentors, Simpson professors and guest teachers from two United Methodist seminaries for a challenging experience of worship, service and reflection.
Participants explored the central question of what God might be calling them to do in the world: “Where does my deep joy meet the world’s deep need?” The students engaged with twelve churches and social service agencies and learned from sixteen guest practitioners, including eight United Methodist clergy.
“The students will now return to their home churches,” says Eric Rucker, the program direction, “where they will continue in a mentoring relationship with their pastor.” The goal is for each student to plan and implement a worship or service project based on their gifts and passions.
The Simpson Youth Academy is looking for high school students who might find this experience intriguing next year. Please contact Eric Rucker at email@example.com to get more information about the program.
Simpson College is receiving $20,000 in apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa to support their ongoing efforts to develop a new generation of leaders.
The Compass is a contemporary worship service that welcomes everyone, no matter where they are in their faith journey. The Casey United Methodist Church began this new ministry less than a year ago, and now they have expanded its reach through their Facebook page.
“It’s phenomenal,” exclaimed their pastor, Melodee Carstens. “We decided to begin posting videos a couple of weeks ago when some folks really wanted to hear the message, but were unable to attend The Compass.” Their first worship video appeared on June 21 and received 982 views—in a town of just over 400 people!
Their decision to post the videos felt a little risky. “It made us a bit nervous, because we wondered what it would do to attendance, but so far it hasn’t had an effect.” The feedback has been positive, often because the videos can be watched whenever a person’s busy schedule allows.
Church leaders decided to pursue their Wednesday evening service during their discernment of God’s vision through the Healthy Church Initiative process. Apportionment gifts of $60,000 from the United Methodist churches of Iowa in 2017 support the workshops, consultations and coaching associated with HCI. The Healthy Church Initiative is an intentional leadership development process designed to enhance the skills of pastors and laity to lead growing, vibrant, spirit-filled congregations.
An immigrant nearing retirement is receiving legal support from Justice for Our Neighbors at their Marshalltown clinic to obtain benefits she has earned. Emily Sohn Rebelsky, an immigration attorney with Iowa JFON, tells her story.
Carmen currently works as a bilingual tutor with the Marshalltown school district and hopes to retire soon. In order to collect the retirement benefits she has earned, she needs to apply for naturalization.
Carmen first got her lawful permanent residence in the United States in 1978. Her permanent resident card is so old that it has no expiration date.
She meets all the qualifications for citizenship. She has lived continuously in the U.S. for nearly 40 years. She speaks fluent English and she is a person of upstanding moral character. She never naturalized because she did not know what the requirements were and could not afford a lawyer to help her through the process. And JFON “is happy to help Carmen through her citizenship journey!”
JFON is a faith-driven ministry, welcoming immigrants into our churches and communities by providing free, high-quality immigration legal services, education and advocacy. Apportionment gifts of $45,000 from the United Methodist churches of Iowa are helping to support JFON in 2017, but individuals, corporations and churches which contribute to Iowa Advance Special #375 are funding the majority of JFON’s annual budget.