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Earlene Lekwa retires

June 28, 2017

“Seven years went by in a flash,” writes Earlene Lekwa in her final article to the Kingston United Methodist Church. She has been commuting about 40 miles from her home in Columbus Junction to serve in Kingston as a Certified Lay Minister. Now she retires from this ministry at the end of June.lekwa-earlene

Her training through the School for Lay Ministry required attending four weekend classes each year for three years at Cornell College in Mount Vernon. She studied a range of topics with lay people from other communities in Iowa to equip her for leadership in a local church.

The Kingston United Methodist Church is nestled along the bluffs of the Mississippi River on scenic Highway 99. Although the church is a small and rural, Pastor Lekwa has encouraged the congregation to serve not only the needs of members but also the needs of their community as well. Their mission remains the same: to worship God, to serve others and to be Christian disciples.

In her final goodbye, she writes, “I hope I was able to serve you and help you just half as much as you have helped me in my faith walk. I thanked God every day I was here for giving me the opportunity to serve the Kingston church family as pastor.”

Celebrating Change a Child’s Story

June 21, 2017

Change a Child’s Story (CACS), the literacy initiative of the Iowa Conference, was recognized at the 2017 Iowa Annual Conference Session. Begun in 2015 by Bishop Julius C. Trimble, CACS provided a way for the church to respond to problems related to poverty and hunger in Iowa. Many children from low-income families find themselves at a disadvantage because of poor reading skills.

musserville2017juneTogether, the United Methodist people of Iowa have donated 84,406 books during the last two years, advocate Patty Link reported, and church members provided 29,631 hours of reading to children in poverty. More than a million stories have been read, and the impact has been unbelievable both for the students as well as the volunteers—unpaid servants—who were involved. “The kids we got to interact with made our lives richer.”

Although Change a Child’s Story is coming to an end officially, the ministry continues. Cindy Axtell, our pastor at the Musserville United Methodist Church on the south side of Muscatine, photographed these children choosing books earlier this month at the church’s Little Library.

The Southeast District and the Iowa Conference also thank Marsha Gerot for her countless hours of work with the Change a Child’s Story committee, collecting data and stories about this exciting ministry as it has expanded across the state.

Shared Mission Trip

June 14, 2017

Five United Methodist churches in Henry County sent a joint mission team to St. Louis earlier this month. Jim Stiles, the pastor at Finley Chapel, worked with his colleagues Luann Benge at First UMC in Mount Pleasant and Randy Moser at Winfield and Mount Union, to set up a shared mission trip to Isaiah 58 Ministries in St. Louis, Missouri.isaiah58ministries

Isaiah 58 Ministries, a cooperative ministry on the near south side of St. Louis, has been “dedicated to helping our neighbors in the city through our many varied services” since 1970. The mission CARES by Connecting services and resources to those in need, Advocating for the poor to restore dignity and hope, Referring individuals to critical community-based resources, Educating clients in nutrition and health and Supplying emergency provisions and basic needs through their food pantry and thrift store.

Thirty youth and adults from our Iowa churches traveled to Missouri from June 4th to 7th to help with this ministry. Even more exciting is that a second trip is set for June 21-23, because twelve people from Finley Chapel weren’t available to travel earlier in the month.

We “want to celebrate” that these churches came together, said Jim Stiles, “to make a difference in the world.” Even though “one church was not able to do it on their own, five churches were!”

Learning Exchange

June 7, 2017

The Columbus Junction United Methodist Church hosted a workshop on May 25th to examine “how current ideas about race have been shaped by history, social institutions and cultural beliefs.” A team from the Iowa Department of Human Services led a “Learning Exchange” with about thirty participants to address two key concerns about race.

Disproportionality refers to the over-representation of minority children in the welfare system compared to the general population. Disparity refers to unequal treatment of minority children in the welfare system.

The concept of a Learning Exchange, a safe place to discuss difficult issues, is built on an idea that is summarized in a quote from Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Participants last Thursday included pastors and other church leaders as well as teachers, case workers and other professionals in the region. The event is one of several being sponsored by United Methodist Women in their ongoing work toward racial justice. One primary resource for the day is a video series called RACE: The Power of an Illusion.

The Southeast District Latino Task Force was a co-sponsor of this workshop. They are one of our District Askings, shared ministries funded in part by the United Methodist churches in southeast Iowa.

Mission to New York City

May 31, 2017

Sixteen youth and eleven adults from Asbury United Methodist Church in Bettendorf traveled to New York City during spring break to work with hungry and homeless people.

A guiding scripture for their “divine adventure” was from Micah 6:8 which asks, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Students named the One World Tower: 911 Memorial Museum and Times Square as their two most significant tourist stops.

Even more important were their observations about how they experienced God in the city. Alex Melvin said, “I saw God in our group and in the people we served.” As students provided meals to hungry persons, they saw how their actions helped others. Even more, God “was also working through us by opening our eyes to the real world and maybe positively changing the way we think.”

“So many people showing up,” exclaimed Ben Black, “made me go ‘Whoa!’ The number of people on the streets who are homeless” was surprising. Jean Black reported “being humbled by the experience. I have witnessed so many acts of compassion. . . . The people that work at the sites are so full of joy and love for the people they serve.”

Strengthening Leadership

May 24, 2017

The Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) team at the High Prairie United Methodist Church in rural Muscatine has been pursuing the development of new leaders. The process began for them in the fall of 2015 as they received their new pastor, Paddy Druhl.high.prairie.remodel

They explored how God was calling them in this new season of ministry together to serve their community. As a result, they developed a mission statement that proclaims they are “a community striving to live in and be healed by relationship with Christ.”

One of the goals that emerged was a desire to equip new leaders to serve the ministries of the church. This spring they are celebrating three new leaders who have been invited and stepped forward to serve as the church treasurer, chair of trustees and worship leader, respectively.

In addition, they have recently completed a remodeling project in their basement that has brightened up the space and made the church a much more hospitable facility. They are planning an open house soon to introduce their new Fellowship Center, including a kitchen, meeting space and bathrooms, to their friends and neighbors in the area.

They continue to make plans for their future, including the goal of being known throughout the region as a praying church.

McCausland Anniversary

May 17, 2017

The McCausland United Methodist Church packed the sanctuary last month for their 125th anniversary. Sherrie Ilg, the lead pastor of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, was the guest preacher for the morning.mccausland.125

She reminded the congregation of several events that happened 125 years ago, including the premiere of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker. She talked about taking dancing lessons as a teenager. One member of the church, knowing of her interest, asked her about preparing a liturgical dance to the hymn, “Lord of the Dance,” for worship some Sunday. As it turned out, she declined the invitation. But given that April 23rd was the second Sunday of Easter, she reminded the congregation of the central message of the song and the season: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The anniversary celebration gave members and friends of the church a chance to remember their incorporation as a community of faith on April 18, 1892. Generations of Christians were nurtured through their ministries over the years, and several former pastors were present for the day’s events.

Pastor Ilg concluded by thanking church members for the ways they nurtured her in the faith. She recalled how Jesus sent the disciples out into the world. “Keep sharing the love” of God, she encouraged them, so that people “will find in each one of you good and gracious and generous friends.”