Okitakoyi “Michel” Lundula, the pastor of the United Methodist Church of Le Mars, is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has served three other churches in Iowa communities, including Nashua, Ionia and Dubuque. His passion for ministry is “to proclaim Christ to all God’s people, meet people in their context of life, celebrate with those who celebrate and cry with those who cry.”
Before completing his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture and Natural Resources from Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe.
The United Methodist churches of the Iowa Conference are supporting Africa University in 2018 with a $38,195 general church apportionment gift. This helps the university pursue its mission “to provide quality education within a Pan-African context through which persons can acquire general and professional knowledge and skills, grow in spiritual maturity, develop sound moral values, ethics and leadership qualities.”
Another Iowa connection to Africa University is Larry Kies, a United Methodist missionary supported by many of our churches, who is serving as technical advisor to the Africa University Farm. The farm operation recently made news with an upgraded water system that minimizes water loses from irregular and inefficient methods of irrigation.
“If you have something new you want to try,” says Pam Kranzler, the pastor at the Wapello United Methodist Church, “find two or three other people and let’s talk.”
The church has been cultivating a spirit of ministry experimentation since their involvement in a Healthy Church Initiative study group in 2014. During that time, they learned about a community meal that the neighboring Letts United Methodist Church had started. The Wapello church had recently built a new social hall that was ideal for starting a similar ministry. Now several other groups in town participate as hosts and sponsors of the monthly meals.
Soul Sisters is another example of this spirit of experimentation. A group of working women began meeting out of a need for fellowship. They couldn’t meet during the day with other groups, said Crystal Wiley, so they started meeting on Monday evenings for about an hour to “chat about life.”
The group’s ministry to each other has grown to include a shared devotional life together and community service projects. This experiment in ministry has blossomed. “We’ve become a tight-knit group,” said Katie Walker.
The Iowa Conference is investing $70,000 in the Healthy Church Initiative in 2018. These funds are made possible from the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
Three students received $1,000 Student Day Merit Scholarship awards presented by the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry (BHECM) in 2017.
Jonathan Cox is a member of Salem United Methodist Church in Council Bluffs and plans to prepare for a career in youth ministry while a student at Simpson College.
Leandra Martins from Cedar Rapids and a member of First United Methodist Church in Marion is a second-year divinity student at Duke.
Annika Wasson is a member of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Iowa City, majoring in elementary education at Simpson College.
Awards are for merit in terms of academic performance; church, campus, high school and community involvement; financial need; and special vocational preparation for ministry or other service. The most recent Student Day Offering was on November 25, 2017. The board will use 10% of the total amount raised for 2018 awards in Iowa. The other 90% supports scholarships across the United Methodist connection.
BHECM helps to promote higher education and campus ministry throughout our conference and around the world, including Africa University and the Black College Fund. In 2017 the board has received $635,000 to support the campus ministries at our colleges and universities in Iowa. These funds are made possible with the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches throughout the state.
Diana is a high school junior from Osceola and a member of El Pueblo de Dios United Methodist Church who is teaching nutrition classes to elementary students in her area. She learned that her county has one of the highest rates of overweight children in the state of Iowa, and she wanted to address the problem.
She has been participating in the Simpson Youth Academy at Simpson College. The program challenges students to design and implement a project to make a difference in their communities as an expression of their faith.
Diana’s project also includes connecting members of her community to an immigration lawyer so they can have access to the resources that they need. “I want to take action and advocate for things that really matter,” Diana says.
“Everything that we have learned and discussed in the program has unleashed in me a deeper desire to follow Christ.”
El Pueblo de Dios works in partnership with the Osceola United Methodist Church. Members are working with their pastor, Rosa María Rodríguez, to develop new communities of faith among Hispanic residents of the South Central District. The Iowa Conference has committed $84,500 to this ministry in 2017 with apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches throughout the state.
St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Iowa City has just completed a series of workshops as participants in the Healthy Church Initiative. They received support for this purpose from the East Central District, which has earmarked funds in their annual budget to purchase books for such studies.
The congregation’s leaders have committed to continuing their monthly studies together as they pursue God’s mission in their community. Now they are offering their gently used books to other potential HCI groups as a way of paying the ministry of their district forward.
The East Central District is pleased to have piloted HCI in the Iowa Conference. They are seeing the fruits of their labors as congregations and individuals are enlivened for Christ and engaging their communities and growing disciples.
District leaders are also working together to strengthen a variety of ethnic communities of faith in their area and to guide new and existing churches towards health and vitality through spiritual leadership and organizational transformation. They are encouraging all clergy and laity to practice healthful leadership through fellowship, spiritual guidance and attention to self-care.
The Iowa Conference has earmarked $19,500 for the ministries of the East Central District in 2017. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches across the state.
The Northeast District sponsored a training event last month at First United Methodist Church in Jesup. Jackie Bradford, the superintendent, announced that Dr. Lilian Gallo Seagren and Dr. Gideon Gallo, a sister and brother team, would be coming to the district on Saturday, October 14 to “help us explore the Gospels to discover what we can learn about making disciples.”
The Iowa Conference has embraced a Wildly Important Goal (WIG) to see that “All United Methodist churches in Iowa will have a process of intentionally forming disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by the year 2020.”
Fifteen leaders attended the event in Jesup. They focused on what a disciple is, in order to help their churches design a process for developing their members more and more into the likeness of Jesus. A disciple, their presenters noted, is a learner who has a confession and conviction about who Jesus Christ is and a commitment to the mission of the church in a community of faith shaped by the example of Jesus.
Leadership development is a major focus of the Northeast District budget in 2017. Apportionment gifts of $13,400 are dedicated to the district from the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
Dr. Mary Lautzenhiser Bellon is the Director of the Office of Pastoral Care and Counseling. Her ministry provides confidential counseling and consultation for clergy and ministerial professionals of the Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church and their families.
She provides approximately 1200 hours of direct counseling and consultation to over 250 pastors annually. Her office is in Urbandale, and once each month she travels to satellite locations in Waterloo, Mount Vernon and Atlantic.
Dr. Bellon teaches about ethics and care and nurture at the School for Lay Ministry and in the Course of Study and provides consultation and support at the School for Ministry. She leads staff days apart and district support days for groups desiring coaching and leadership development.
She employs a range of mental health techniques, such as mindfulness, humor, spirituality and listening, to help people strengthen personal practices of wellness, contemplation and relaxation. Her ministry also gives people opportunities to address issues from spiritual growth, depression or burn out to anxiety or concerns with family relationships.
The Iowa Conference is investing $162,164 in the work of the Office of Pastoral Care and Counseling in 2017. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.