More than 1300 members of the 2018 Iowa Annual Conference gathered in downtown Des Moines last week. The Connectional Ministries Council staff were among the many conference staff members who were working behind the scenes to help assure that the event went smoothly. They devoted days both before and after the event moving furniture and equipment from the Conference Center to Hy-Vee Hall to enable them to have remote offices to care for the business of the conference.
Even more important, however, was the impact of their work on the ministries of Difference Makers who were recognized at the Celebration of Ministry on June 9th. The School for Lay Ministry honored 27 new graduates. The Board of Church and Society announced three recipients of Peace with Justice scholarships and recognized Doris Knight with the Beje Clark Restorative Justice Award. The Commission on the Status and Role of Women presented their Ambassador Award posthumously to Eileen McPherson. The Academy for Spiritual Formation announced their four graduates. Sixteen churches were recognized for completing the Healthy Church Initiative process.
The Connectional Ministries team provides administrative support throughout the year for several conference agencies and their related ministries. Their 2018 budget of $937,321 supports the work of the Leadership Development Minister for Camping and Christian Formation plus four administrative staff persons. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
Friday, June 1st, was the first day for the 2018 Sheldon Summer Lunch Program. This ministry is beginning its fifth year of serving meals in the basement of the Sheldon United Methodist Church. The program offers food each Monday through Friday from the day after Sheldon’s school year ends until the day before the next school year begins.
Originally developed for children receiving free or reduced-price lunches at school, the program has grown each year. Tricia Meendering, the Summer Lunch Program Coordinator and the Children’s Ministry Coordinator for the United Methodist Church, said, “We feed kids with a hungry belly or a hungry soul. Sometimes people just don’t want to be alone. We don’t turn anybody away.”
Volunteers help with baking, shopping, serving, and other related tasks that keep the program going throughout the summer. Teachers, parents, and kids all appreciate the importance of this ministry for the health and welfare of the entire community.
Financial support comes from businesses, churches, and individuals who want to make a positive difference for the children and families of Sheldon. Last year the Northwest District provided a grant for the Summer Lunch Program of $5,200 from their Matthew 25 fund, which was made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
Mobile United Methodist Missionaries is using the latest Cokesbury curriculum, Rolling River Rampage, for their summer Bible school season. MUMM’s staff hosted some VBS fairs in Chariton, Atlantic, and Mount Pleasant earlier this year to introduce church leaders in the southern districts of the conference to the material.
Romper, the puppet, helps kids have fun as they learn five different Bible stories about Jesus, the disciples, Mary, Martha, and Zacchaeus in five sessions. The children enjoy “a white-water rafting adventure to experience the ride of a lifetime with God!”
Life with God, they will find, is an adventure full of wonder and surprise, and they can trust God to be with them through anything. The theme Bible verse is “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” from Isaiah 43:2 (CEB), riding the rapids of amazing grace!
These Bible school events help MUMM’s participants fulfill their mission to make disciples of Christ in rural southern Iowa. Visit them on Facebook to follow the ways they are helping small rural churches reach out and share God’s love in their communities, especially youth.
Apportionment gifts of $35,000 from the United Methodist churches of Iowa are budgeted in 2018 to support Mobile United Methodist Missionaries.
ACE Community Center is a one-of-a-kind, nonprofit organization in Webster City. ACE, which stands for All Cultures Equal, exists to empower people and communities through a unique combination of opportunities to bridge communication gaps, connect cultures, construct pathways to residency in the United States, and enjoy healthy ways of living.
They offer language classes in Spanish and English, workshops on immigration rights, a youth program, an outdoor park, and a meeting hall available for rent by community groups.
Their bakery pantry is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. They offer free food for persons in need, including occasional donations of locally-grown produce, frozen meat from local processors, canned goods, and baked goods.
ACE depends on the generosity of volunteers and donors, like the people of Asbury United Methodist Church in Webster City, in order to sustain and grow the educational programs and outreach services it provides. Their contributions make a big difference in the lives of others and bring people, businesses, and organizations together in healthy, productive ways.
The North Central District is providing a $1,500 Matthew 25 grant this year in support of the ACE food pantry. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state of Iowa.
MissionInsite provides demographic information to local church and conference leaders to help them in their outreach efforts. One way of learning about new people in our communities is to study statistical data provided through the U.S. Census. Demographics assist both established churches and new communities of faith better understand and engage their mission field.
Local church leaders participating in Healthy Church Initiative consultations, for instance, prepare a demographic report provided by MissionInsite to help them assess their outreach potential. The material can identify persons or groups who are not being reached by our churches and offer insights about how we can develop relationships with them.
In addition to HCI and other church revitalization processes, the demographic information is used by superintendents as they consider pastoral appointments and by conference leaders to identify and start new communities of faith. Bruce Wittern, the chair of the Iowa Conference Standing Committee on Parish Development said, “We have seen a great increase in the use of MissionInsite over the past couple of years.”
His committee invests $10,000 annually in a contract with MissionInsite so that this demographic information can be available free of charge to all churches and leaders within the Iowa Conference. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
The Southwest District is celebrating Difference Makers in their part of the state. Two of their disciples from First United Methodist Church in Carroll were featured recently.
Sara and Lisa are a mother/daughter team who feel God’s call to help children. They are active in UM Kids on Wednesdays after school, and they teach Sunday school. In addition, they invest in community ministries that affect the lives of children. Here are just two examples.
Lisa is one of two people working with the Carroll Community Schools to find volunteers through the Parent School Cooperative. PSC volunteers help with many different things from picture days and health checks to classroom support, book fairs, and fundraisers. And the list just goes on and on.
Sara has started a program called Carroll Cares, a community toy drive that assures that children have a good Christmas. Donations of money or gift items can be dropped off at the church, and Sara will help take care of the rest. Last year, for example, this ministry collected games, balls, sweatshirts, dolls, trucks, and more that were split between different community services that could get them to children in need.
The Iowa Conference is investing $10,749 in the ministries of the Southwest District to develop leaders and celebrate Difference Makers like Sara and Lisa. These funds are made available from the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches throughout the state.
Last month many new members from Africa joined St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, the result of the work of Pastor Daniel Niyonzima. He was appointed in 2016 as a full-time pastor through a $90,000 grant from the Iowa Annual Conference made possible with apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state.
The new members of the church come from several countries including Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. St. Paul’s UMC has responded to the growing population of African National immigrants in their community by developing worship services and other ministries in which the principal languages are Swahili and Kirundi. These ministries are intended to help these new residents from Africa grow in their faith and retain their heritage while becoming American citizens.
In 2007 Pastors Carol Sundberg and Harlan Gillespie received a call from a St. Luke’s Hospital social worker requesting a pastoral visit for Daniel Niyonzima and his wife, Perpetua, who had just given birth to their eighth child. Daniel explained to the hospital staff that he and his family were immigrants from Burundi and a refugee camp in Tanzania. In his homeland he was trained as a pastor by United Methodist missionaries. A close relationship developed and within a year an African National (AN) congregation of 130 was worshiping at St. Paul’s.