First United Methodist Church in Omaha is working to develop city housing policies that support racial equity. Their partners include the North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance, Omaha Together One Community, and Claire United Methodist Church.
Strong race relations requires a commitment to engage in sacred conversations so that civil rights can become a reality for the next generation. To empower the residents of North Omaha to improve their quality of life, they begin by get acquainted. They meet in one-on-one conversations with individuals and house meetings with neighbors to build trusting relationships with residents in North Omaha.
Together, they hope to influence the city council to change specific housing policies that are perpetuating poverty in North Omaha. They encourage members and other supporters of this initiative to live their faith in mission and service fueled with the spirit of God’s love. “We have a diversity of ways that we work to make the world a better place,” their website on ministries of mercy and justice says.
The congregation’s efforts are being supported with a $34,575 grant from the General Commission on Religion and Race. The Iowa Conference contributes gifts from United Methodist churches throughout the state to support these efforts through our General Church apportionments.
“There is a message in our bricks,” declares Wesley United Methodist Church in Mason City. “They aren’t your usual bricks. They are rejected bricks—the ones that had flaws and imperfections, the ones who had been judged to be ‘not good enough.’ ”
This understanding of themselves has helped them embrace ministry to care for persons struggling with mental health issues. Their Wesley Family Outreach Ministry offers free, informal consultations with a trained and experienced clinical social worker at no cost to anyone in the community.
Ken Zimmerman, a licensed independent social work with forty years of experience who serves as the ministry’s director, is a difference maker. “Life isn’t easy,” he explains. “A lot of us struggle and have questions.” When individuals are feeling overwhelmed with worries or hang-ups, he is available to talk.
The Wesley Family Outreach Ministry has been supported in part by a Matthew 25 grant of $3,000 from the North Central District, which is made possible with apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state of Iowa. “If you are looking for a church of people just like you who want to experience God’s love and be transformed by that love,” their website boldly states, “welcome to Wesley United Methodist Church!”
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.
Joe Marnin of Anita, Iowa, is a difference maker who was featured in the Southwest District newsletter earlier this fall. Some years ago, he met Mel West, the founder of the P.E.T. (Personal Energy Transportation) Organization, and his life was transformed.
The faith-based, volunteer-driven ministry, recently renamed Mobility Worldwide, builds and distributes hand-cranked wheelchairs with solid rubber tires for persons who suffer from mobility issues due to polio, landmine explosions or other afflictions.
Joe converted an old hog house on his farm into a workshop where he and his volunteers sort, cut and make eleven different wooden shapes and parts for the vehicle. He purchases 10′ pieces of 1’x6′ treated yellow pine. It takes 512 of these 10′ boards to make 35 P.E.T.’s for one shipment.
When all of these pieces are ready, Joe hauls them to Hawarden where another crew assembles the cart. The Mobility Worldwide program is a United Methodist Church Advance Special: #982665. It is an Iowa Advance Special (in the Blue Spectrum): #386, with funds going to the Hawarden affiliate.
The Southwest District shares monthly stories of mission like this one to help our churches be more aware of the impact we have together in meeting the needs of our world. In 2017 their district ministry budget of $12,749 is funded through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches of Iowa.