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June 27, 2018

This blog is is changing hands at the end of this month. Phil Carver, who has been collecting and editing Faith Partners stories since 2012, will be transitioning from his role as a Field Outreach Minister in the Southeast District to a new set of responsibilities as an Associate for Congregational Excellence in the eastern third of Iowa. The expanded territory includes the Southeast District as well as the Northeast and East Central Districts. Phil will continue to work with Southeast District churches and their leaders in their ministry development, but he will be limiting district-related responsibilities to allow more time to work with the churches in the other two districts.

Rachel YochumAs a result, Rachel Yochum has agreed to post occasional stories about the mission work of our churches in this Faith Partners blog. Some of you may have noticed that she has already contributed a few stories this spring. She is a laywoman from Burlington, serving as the Southeast District representative to the Iowa Conference Board of Global Ministries. To share a story with her, you can email or call her cellphone at 515-509-3513.

Faith Partners will continue to highlight local church and shared ministries of United Methodist churches in southeast Iowa to encourage and inspire you. Philemon 6 is the scripture that helps to define the purpose of the blog: “I pray that your partnership in the faith might become effective by an understanding of all that is good among us in Christ” (CEB). We encourage you to share these Faith Partners stories with the people of your congregations.

Day Camp in Sigourney

June 20, 2018

May 7th was a professional development day for the Sigourney school system. So, since teachers were busy and the children of the community had a free Monday, the United Methodist Church decided to sponsor a day camp. “We had so much fun at our fall day camp,” said their pastor, Shannon Pascual, “we decided to do a spring day camp, too!” event matched a typical day at school, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and concluding at 3:15 p.m. All children in preschool through the fourth grade were invited to attend.

The theme for the day was taking a “Friendship Ride with Jesus.” It was a great way to teach kids about faith, building on the ideas that many of us grew up singing in the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” but giving it a contemporary flair.

The day was “filled with fun, music, snacks, games, crafts, science, lunch, and JESUS!” No fee was charged for the day camp, because church leaders wanted to assure that there were no barriers that would keep anyone from attending. Instead, students were encouraged to bring a donation of canned food or paper products for the local food pantry.

The day camp was good example of how our United Methodist churches consistently unite practices of faith and good works by both loving God and loving neighbor.


Women Helping Women

June 13, 2018

Wesley United Methodist Church in Muscatine has been reaching out with Christ’s compassion to women in need as they leave a local domestic violence shelter to begin new lives. Inspired by Changing the World Through Kindness by Steve Sjogren and conversations with local leaders, Mary Whitacre of Wesley UMC (pictured above) helped advocate for keeping the doors open at the shelter despite state funding cuts. She also saw a need to provide additional support for the women served there as “those who were starting over often left the shelter with almost nothing.” When Mary approached the Hospitality and Outreach Mission group at Wesley with the idea of giving each woman a basket of practical supplies at the time of their departure, “they were behind it 100%” and soon the rest of the congregation was too. They currently have 18 women from Wesley and the community who have committed to donate a particular item for each basket (plates, canned food, etc.). Mary says, “One of the really heartwarming things that happens every time are the things that just appear in the baskets that no one has signed up for. The idea…is just to give them a start and to let them know we care.” Also included with each basket is a card with an inspiring quote from Eleanor Roosevelt and a note saying Women Helping Women of Wesley United Methodist is praying for them and hoping for their success. This ministry has provided 27 baskets so far and has expanded to include a donation of air mattresses and a set of sheets for anyone who doesn’t have a bed when they leave the shelter. So far 19 beds have been donated. Proverbs 3:27 says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to act.” Praise the Lord for the mission work of this congregation as they answer God’s call to make a difference in the lives of women in their community!

Support for Displaced Children

June 6, 2018

United Methodist leaders from the southeastern part of Iowa responded compassionately to the ICE raid at Midwest Precast Concrete in Mount Pleasant on May 9th. Thirty-two families were suddenly dealing with dads and uncles who were taken from their workplace by immigration officers.

The Des Moines Register reported that one teenager, Oscar Lopez, learned that his stepfather was initially detained in Cedar Rapids then later held in the Hardin County jail in Eldora. He had to travel multiple times to Nebraska to arrange for bond payment for his stepfather’s release.

Screenshot (80)First Presbyterian Church in Mount Pleasant was designated as a “safe place” for students and their families affected by the arrests. Church members, pastors, and volunteers from many organizations in the area prepared snacks and were available to talk that day as people waited to hear whether children whose guardians were arrested needed assistance.

Our United Methodist churches in the Southeast District contributed $1,000 toward this effort, using Emerging Ministries funds from our District Askings to help with food and housing assistance for these families.

Iowa WINS, or “Welcomes Its Immigrant Neighbors,” a group connected with the Presbyterian Church, and Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors, a United Methodist immigration ministry, are providing ongoing legal support and advocacy assistance.

A Church That SINGS

May 30, 2018

The Fort Madison United Methodist Church has introduced a new cover photo on their Facebook page. The image builds on their love for music as well as their desire to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ in their ministry and outreach with their community.fort.madison.sings

Their vision is to see the congregation “bringing God’s transforming love to Fort Madison and the world.” Further, they declare that “We are a church that SINGS.”

The acronym SINGS describes the various parts of their discipleship pathway. They send their members out into the community where they can invite others into a relationship with Christ.

As people become involved in their ministries, they nurture one another through strong, caring relationships and grow as disciples through prayer, Bible study, and other Means of Grace that keep them connected to God each day. And, as all new and long-time disciples deepen their spiritual lives, they serve others in the community and world, using each person’s God-given gifts for ministry.

All of these developments have been encouraged through the involvement of their leaders in the Healthy Church Initiative. They participated for a year in workshops with neighboring church leaders and completed a consultation last fall. One of their action steps was to focus and align their ministry, which their new discipleship pathway has helped them achieve.

Avengers Sermon Series

May 23, 2018

James and Helen Parks, the pastors at Christ Church in Davenport, developed a sermon series this spring, using this year’s popular Avengers sequel as inspiration. They have been featuring one superhero each week and relating the character to one in the Bible.


James presented a sermon based on Esther 4:10-17 recently, entitled “Right Where You Are,” featuring the Black Widow character from the movie. Esther has an opportunity to save her people. Mordecai says to Esther in verse 14, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” She puts her life on the line with the courage of a superhero.

Likewise, the sermon message for the day was similar. “God has you in place on purpose,” James told the people of his congregation. “Find someone to love” and be a sign of God’s grace for them.

Each week the Avengers character for the next week was announced as people left worship. They were invited to consider which character from the Bible might be compared to the featured superhero. This teaser added mystery and anticipation for the next sermon—something you might want to invite a friend or neighbor to hear with you.



“Go With God”

May 16, 2018

Is your church looking for a little something different for a benediction at the close of worship? Many of you were introduced to one called “Go With God” at last fall’s charge conferences. This summer might be a good time to try it out with your congregation.

Screenshot (75)“Go With God” was inspired by the book Power Surge: Six Marks of Discipleship for a Changing Church by Michael W. Foss. As the Southeast District Operational Team was discussing the book early in 2017, one of the members noted a commitment card that the author had used in his local church to guide people in deepening their discipleship as followers of Jesus. “Wouldn’t it be great,” he asked, “if we could use this as a benediction every Sunday?”

Phil Carver took up the challenge, and the song “Go With God” is the result. You’ll notice how closely the text of the song reflects our United Methodist membership vows of prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. It provides a way to reinforce our emphasis on discipleship pathways, the techniques we use to help one another grow in our faith as disciples of Jesus Christ. Feel free to use this music in your local churches with appropriate references to the sources of the material.

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