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High School Student Starts a Choir

December 27, 2017

Katie Palmer is a difference maker at the West Chester United Methodist Church. When she was a sophomore in high school, she had the idea to start a children’s chime choir. She presented a proposal to the Administrative Council of the church, complete with PowerPoint slides, to ask them to buy the chimes.
West Chester chime choir

She sent letters to all the parents in the community who had children in kindergarten through the fifth grade to invite them to participate in the chime choir. Only two of the first dozen kids to join the choir had attended Sunday school.

Children and their families have become more active at the church because of Katie. As a result, she received the Harry Denman Youth Evangelism Award in 2015 from the Iowa Conference. “Parents of the children, some of whom had not ordinarily come to church,” Kim Palmquist said, “have attended because of her efforts.”

Katie’s initiative has sustained the chime choir to this day. Earlier this month on December 17th, they shared their music in worship in preparation for Christmas. Now a senior at Mid-Prairie High School, Katie is planning to attend Central College in Pella as an elementary education major with a specialty in reading.

Lessons and Carols

December 20, 2017

Iowa Wesleyan University hosted a Christmas celebration of Lessons and Carols on Sunday evening, December 3rd in their University Chapel. The “Gloria” by Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi was the featured musical work with scripture readings interspersed between movements.

The Iowa Wesleyan Concert Choir, Primae Voces, and the Southeast Iowa Symphony Chamber Orchestra combined their musical talents for the occasion under the artistic direction of Blair Buffington, Director of Choral Activities at Iowa Wesleyan University. Other area groups also contributed to the evening, including the Mount Pleasant High School Chamber Singers, Mount Pleasant Choral, Sound Appeal Bell Choir, and Acapella Women’s Ensemble.

“The culmination of our semester’s work is here,” said the director, “and we’re so pleased to showcase the talents and hard work of our student and community musicians. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be have the Southeast Iowa Chamber Orchestra involved with our festival of Lessons and Carols.”

Iowa Wesleyan University seeks to promote spiritual development as well as intellectual growth in all of its students. The university encourages its students to participate in the worship, study, and fellowship of the religious community of their choice in the area. District Askings gifts from the United Methodist churches of Southeast are earmarked for the religious life of the university.

Keota United Church of Faith

December 13, 2017

Local missions are at the heart of the outreach ministries of the Keota United Church of Faith. In their small community of approximately 1,000 residents west of Washington, “we focus primarily on the needs of the children,” says Vicki Fagen. They provide school supplies in August and Christmas presents for the children and a food box for each family in December.

keota.christmasThe church also operates a food pantry which is open one day each month. Participants can receive nonperishable items and “a voucher for perishables at our local grocery store.” Members of the church, community and local organizations, particularly Holy Trinity Parish Catholic Church, help to support their mission efforts as volunteers and with donations.

“Not only do we supply food, but also our friendship and love,” Vicki says. “We try to make them feel comfortable in our church and encourage them to join us worship.”

Born of a union between the United Methodist and Presbyterian U.S.A. churches in town two decades ago, “The United Church of Faith seeks to be a light in the Keota community and beyond. We reach up: in worship as a family of God. We reach out: demonstrating God’s love and acceptance. We reach in: to become more like Christ.”

UCF local missions received a $1000 Matthew 25 grant from the Southeast District in 2017. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches throughout the state of Iowa.

Can Drive in Delta

December 6, 2017

Teresa Dawson is a Difference Maker in the Delta United Methodist Church. For the last two years she has worked with their Sunday School Kids to collect gloves and hats to be given to local schools to help the youngsters stay warm in the cold winter weather.

Screenshot (62)This year the kids decided to do something a little different. “They wanted to gave back not just to the kids, but also to their families,” Teresa said. So the Sunday School Kids are collecting non-perishable food items for their local food pantry at their sister church in neighboring What Cheer.

The food pantry is made possible through a partnership with the Food Bank of Southern Iowa in Ottumwa. Over 160 affiliated nonprofit agencies, including groups such as churches, senior centers and daycare centers, distribute food in a 13-county area of southern Iowa through the Food Bank.

On average the food pantry in What Cheer serves between 60 and 90 families a month from the basement of the What Cheer United Methodist Church. This season the food pantry is providing a Christmas Store where families can buy new, donated gifts for $1.00 each. The food pantry serves the Tri-County Community School District and the people of Delta at the What Cheer location.

Hunger Ministry

November 29, 2017

Each of the eight districts of the Iowa Conference has a modest sum of money for distribution to hunger related agencies within the district from offerings received for the Thanksgiving Ingathering. For the last two years Trinity United Methodist Church in Keokuk has been the recipient of such a grant. Screenshot (58)Most recently, their pastor, Jeff Bixby, is pictured here presenting a check for $225 to Pastor Sylvia Tillman, who directs the God’s Way Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen in their community.

The Outreach/Missions Committee at Trinity UMC selects projects for the congregation to support and gathers information and resources to communicate the story of each ministry. For example, they help to serve lunch at God’s Way Church once each month. Other outreach includes the U Can, I Can project, the blanket project and a ministry to adopt a family at Christmas.

The congregation embraces our shared mission as United Methodist people to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. “To make disciples, we reach out and receive people, help them build a relationship with God, and nurture and strengthen them in the Christian faith.” This discipleship pathway, they profess, “is possible only by God’s grace, the love of Christ and the power and company of the Holy Spirit.”

Year Four of “The Club”

November 22, 2017

Joyce Orcutt is a difference maker from the Eldridge United Methodist Church. She has been helping to coordinate outreach to young students in Park View, a community just a few miles northeast of Eldridge in the North Scott Community School District.

“The Club” is an after-school program at Neil Armstrong Elementary School in Park View. The devoted members of this ministry team are teaching children about God as they earn and build their trust.

Difference+Maker2017Bishop Laurie Haller, in her address to the 2017 Iowa Annual Conference, said, “Every time you show grace to someone, treat someone as a child of God, help someone in need, pray for someone, advocate for positive change in the world, or share the love of Jesus with someone—you are a difference maker.”

Joyce says, “The majority of the children who attend The Club are from lower income families. Some go home to empty homes because parents are still at work. Some are hungry because the breakfast and lunch they receive at school and the nutritious snack we give them may be all there is for them to eat that day.”

The Club received $567 in 2017 from a budget of $18,317 for the Southeast District Matthew 25 fund, which is made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.


Women at the Well

November 15, 2017

A woman we’ll call Sophie came to the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville on a prostitution charge last December. “Right away after her arrival,” said Brenda Hobson, the Reentry Coordinator for the Women at the Well United Methodist Church, “Sophie got connected with our grief group and shared some incredibly personal and horrific circumstances of her early life.”

watw2Eventually, a more complete picture of her struggles came out. For the past five years a “boyfriend” arranged for her to be with other men for money, which she would then turn over to him in return for meth and what passed for affection.

“There’s just a few of you who have helped me know what love looks like,” she said to Brenda as she prepared to leave the prison. “I can count you on one hand.”

Brenda replied, “I look forward to a time when you can’t count all the people who have been that for you.”

Sophie said, “Me, too. But I’ll never forget the first ones.”

A Matthew 25 grant of $2,500 from the Southeast District helps to support the ministries of the Women at the Well United Methodist Church, a congregation within the walls of the prison. Their purpose is to “gather together to share the teachings of Jesus Christ and to experience the life transforming Spirit of God.”