A thank you from Hamburg UMC

A thank you from Hamburg UMC

published 7/11/2019

We recently received a letter from Hamburg Methodist Church thanking all who donated to help the town recover from the flooding. You can still donate to Iowa Disaster Recovery by visiting:

The letter reads:

"Our Hamburg, Iowa church family is very grateful for your donation to aid us in our recovery from the recent flood that affected much of our community. We were fortunate that our sanctuary was not flooded and that we only have a flooded basement to contend with.

We were blessed with volunteers from the United Methodist Church, Shenandoah, IA that arrived with supplies and equipment and encouraging words.

We are still without gas and water as many underground lines and pipes in the community were affected and are being replaced. Four of the churches in our community were affected by the flood but the remaining church opened their doors and hearts to all of us for worship and meetings that we might all continue to thank God for his blessings and goodness.

Please continue to keep our church and town in your prayers as we go forward...and again, thank you for your gift that will be a great help in getting us on our feed and back to the work of helping others."

Are you participating in the Iowa State Fair?

Are you participating in the Iowa State Fair?

published 6/25/2019

Every year hundreds (maybe thousands!) of Iowa United Methodists are present and participate in the Iowa State Fair. In the past, we have met up with several people showing animals, hosting food booths, entering photo competitions, and more.

Please email us and let us know if you or your United Methodist church will be participating in some way, receiving an award or be honored at the 2019 Iowa State Fair. 

Calling UM Churches preparing for RAGBRAI

Calling UM Churches preparing for RAGBRAI

published 6/25/2019
The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) is only a few weeks away. According to RAGBRAI's official website, since its inception, more than 326,650 people rode at least some part of the 46 RAGBRAIs. Nobody knows how many people have been touched in some way along the 19,542 total miles covered by RAGBRAI since 1973.

With that in mind, several United Methodist churches have begun preparing for the approximately 8,500 registered riders that will descend on towns from Council Bluffs to Keokuk. If your church is hosting riders this year for a meal or event, let us know!

Glenwood pulls together to help

Glenwood pulls together to help

published 5/24/2019

Disaster Response in Glenwood and Pacific Junction from Iowa Annual Conference on Vimeo.

Updated May 24, 2019

"This to me has been what it means to be the church and to be part of the connection," said Pastor Kimberly Bowles. "The calls from clergy across the conference saying, 'What do you need? What can we do? How can we help?" It's everything that I believe the church should be. To see your neighbor in need and say, 'What can I do?.'"

Pastor Kimberly Bowles isn’t surprised at the way the people of the Glenwood United Methodist Church have pulled together to help neighbors in need following the devastating 2019 flooding. “People are just doing whatever they can to work together…it's been inspiring to see.”
The March flooding has made the lives of people in the western part of Iowa particularly difficult. Even though they’ve seen waters rise in the past and had begun to prepare again this year.

“When the levee broke they only had about an hour to evacuate,” Bowles reports. “A lot of people ended up walking away with literally what was on their backs."
Pacific Junction was inundated. Water completely covered the roof of many houses “and it’s still fairly high on those homes” Bowles said on Friday afternoon (March 29). 

Click here to listen to the conversation with Pastor Kimberly Bowles 

Glenwood United Methodist Church swung into action.

“Monica Mayberry realized that people needed to be fed and so she started,” Bowles said. “ She got some folks at the church to start preparing meals, and since then we have been serving three meals a day.”

Sometimes more than 200 people show up for a meal.

“This week, we started getting some other churches to come in and do some of those meals, including Broadway UMC from Council Bluffs,” Bowles said.
Providing meals is made more difficult by the fact that the water plant for all of Glenwood is out of service, and will likely be so for at least the next 30 days. Water needs to be boiled to wash dishes. 

“Some of our members live outside of town with their own wells…they'll take dishes and the big pots and pans we've cooked with and take them home and wash them there,” Bowles said.
In addition to feeding the community, Glenwood “started collecting things for folks — bleach and mops and all the things they're going to need to start cleaning up homes once they can get in. We collected toiletries and food so they had stuff they needed. It's just been amazing to see,” Bowles noted.

With the water plant being out of service the town is existing on bottled water. 

"We can use water to flush toilets but are trying to limit that,” Bowles reported.

View photos of Glenwood and Pacific Junction

They’re doing so for several reasons: water is being trucked in “but that's $15,000 a day for the water we're bringing in” and “if we completely drain the water tower then they can't have school or anything because then there wouldn't be water for the fire system,” Bowles said.
As in other communities that have experienced the impact of the flooding, portable toilets are evident in abundance. Bowles said, "The schools have port-a-potties some of the businesses have port-a-potties trying to [provide facilities and] reduce water usage.”
Reflecting on how fellow United Methodists across the Iowa connection can help, Bowles said, “We know that we're going to need more water going forward.” Beyond that immediate need, “once we're truly able to get in and see how much damage there is and begin the clean up we're going to need mission teams who can come and help muck out houses and to assist in those first steps to clean up.”
Asked about the focus of the Glenwood congregation in the midst of this year’s flooding, Pastor Kimberly Bowles had a ready answer, “We see the other people in the community that are in need and we just want to do whatever we can to help take care of them. Everybody has just been wonderful pulling together for that diversity in the midst of difficult circumstances.”

A New Way to Support Camping

A New Way to Support Camping

published 5/15/2019

A New Way to Support Camping

Iowa United Methodist Camps are excited to launch the Kindling Club, a new way to ensure the sustainability of camping across the state for the next generation of youth and adults.

Okoboji, Pictured Rocks and Wesley Woods United Methodist Camps have impacted hundreds of thousands of lives over the past 100+ years. Many people, myself included, look at their time at camp as the single most formational faith experience of their lives. If you weren’t already aware, let me tell you that camping is a powerful experience for both youth and adults.

In my role as Director of Camps and Retreats for the Iowa United Methodist Church, I am tasked with guiding the Camping Ministry across the state in conjunction with the Board of Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries. One of our biggest challenges is how to effectively steer the camping program through a divided United Methodist Church not just from a theological standpoint, but a financial one. 

How Camp Budgets Work

As explained in the video above, no non-profit residential camping program that I am aware of makes enough money through registrations and usage alone to sustain itself. To most people this is surprising. However, after staffing, utility, insurance, upkeep, maintenance and marketing costs, it’s easy to see how expenses outweigh revenue. United Methodist Camps are not unique in this way. This is true for other non-profit residential camping programs as well, including YMCA, Boy Scout, Girl Scout and other Religiously Affiliated Camps. Most camping programs generate approximately 1/3rd of their revenue through summer events, 1/3rd of their revenue through year-round retreats/rentals and the remaining 1/3rd comes from partners and donors. 

Why Do Our Camps Need Financial Support?

Due to diminished apportionment receipts, we are already seeing changes to how ministries are financially supported in the Iowa Annual Conference. In 2015, Iowa United Methodist Camps received nearly $800,000 through the apportionment system. In 2020 it is scheduled to be just over $600,000. We anticipate that number continuing to decrease, putting greater stress on the Iowa Board of Camps to appropriately fund camping in this conference. The bulk of our donor funding as a camping ministry comes directly from the Iowa Annual Conference Apportionment System and we are finding that system to be too strained to adequately support Residential Camping Ministry.

This is causing a variety of changes within Iowa Camps, see the adjacent article entitled FAQ’s about a sale of Pictured Rocks United Methodist Camp, but mostly it is a case study of the risk associated with what is called a “single donor model”. In a single donor model, the bulk of the funding comes from one person or entity. It is a risky model because if the single donor were to be unable to fully fund a ministry, the ministry would quickly experience financial problems. The single donor of the Iowa United Methodist Camping Ministry is the Iowa Annual Conference. While grateful and supportive of camping, the Iowa Annual Conference is unable to support it financially in the way that is necessary to reach its full potential.
How Can We Afford a Ministry We Can’t Afford to Lose?

What we are proposing is changing the Iowa United Methodist Camping Program from a Single Donor Model to a “Diversified Donor Model”. The way we do this is by engaging our churches, former campers, former staff and general camp supporters directly and asking them to give a small amount, on a sustainable monthly basis, as a way to help Okoboji, Pictured Rocks and Wesley Woods reach new heights as we work to decrease our apportionment footprint. To do so, we are inviting supporters to become members of the Kindling Club. The Kindling Club allows you, a camp supporter, to contribute directly to a camping ministry of your choice. 

Why is it called the Kindling Club? Campfires are a tradition in any camping program. Songs are sung, S’Mores are eaten, skits are performed and Christ’s love is shared. What many people forget, is that to build a roaring fire it is important to start with small sticks, twigs and paper. We call those small pieces Kindling. Not everyone can give thousands of dollars, but most of us can give $10 per month. Some can give $20 per month. A few can give even more. With enough Kindling Club members, the financial future of Iowa United Methodist Camping is secure. 

There is a tremendous amount of change happening in our denomination. While change can be scary, it doesn’t always have to be. What if 5,000 people across our United Methodist System in Iowa become direct camping partners through the Kindling Club? What if our partner churches and church members say they will step up individually, contributing to a campsite directly? I think that we would find camps better positioned to sustain their operations, retire debt and ultimately impact more people in the name of Jesus Christ.

How Do I Sign Up?

If you haven’t watched the video above yet, please take a few minutes to do so. To sign up for the Kindling Club, feel free to find information online or via paper copy on Or, contact your favorite Campsite and the friendly staff will happily guide you through getting on board.

Happy Camping, Friends! We are blessed to have your support!

Bryan Johnson
Lake Okoboji UM Camp – 712-336-2936
Pictured Rocks UM Camp – 319-465-4194
Wesley Woods UM Camp – 515-961-4523
Director of Camps and Retreats – 515-974-8913

Hamburg Flood: Residents find strength through church, community

Hamburg Flood: Residents find strength through church, community

published 4/12/2019
Virginia Lynn, 93, has lived in Hamburg, Iowa, her entire life and not once experienced the floodwaters that have hit the town. Until now.
Lynn moved to the Park Washington Plaza apartments in July from the home she raised her family in after her husband passed away last January.
“I kept telling everybody I was so blessed because after I lost my husband my kids took me to visit, I sold my house and then I moved,” she said. “It’s just mind-boggling to me. I have literally lost everything. It’s just hard to understand how much I have lost.”

Watch Virginia Lynn's Story

The low-rent apartments housed several elderly residents who were evacuated at 4 ‘o clock in the morning the day the floodwaters began to rise. Many only escaped with the clothes on their backs and were left to wonder what had become of their homes.

A flagpole stands in the middle of Main Street near the apartments are located. Residents of Hamburg say that the water has never made it past that point. This year was different.
“The water was rising an inch every 15 minutes when it was coming in,” said Pastor Luke Fillmore, who serves United Methodist churches in both Hamburg and Shenandoah. “They put a berm up trying to stop it. It came crazy fast and it just flowed over.”
A response crew helped Lynn walk through her mud-filled apartment and showed her what could and couldn’t be saved. She lost important papers, her entire billfold with her drivers’ license, and her Bible that she always kept close to her.
“I had my “Mornings with Jesus”, “Upper Room”, and my Bible on an end table, and of course it’s gone,” Lynn said. “The Bible was just corroded with mud, so now I’m going to start over with a new one. It's not going to be any different. It’s still going to have the same words in it.”

How to help flood relief efforts

Donate directly to Iowa Flood Relief and other disaster response efforts by credit card, or by mailing a check with Advance Special #223 to Iowa Conference Treasurer, 2301 Rittenhouse Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50321.

Give to UMCOR by visiting its website.
Lynn is thankful for her church family and for Pastor Fillmore, who has only been her pastor for seven months. Now, he’s working on building “social capital” in his new communities.
“There’s a lot of trust I’ve already built and a lot of trust being built, but it’s taken a lot of humility to step back and say ‘I can only do what’s been put in front of me,’” Fillmore said. “God has only given me so much to do, and the rest of it I have to trust is being taken care of both physically and spiritually.”

Watch a tour of Downtown Hamburg, Iowa, with Pastor Luke Fillmore 
View photos of Hamburg, Iowa

Members of both churches have stepped up and begun helping others that have been affected. A group got together and helped serve meals for the community in the elementary school cafeteria, including Lana Brandt, Deb Robinson and Judy Holliman.
The three have known each other since they were children, and are now leaning into what they were taught by a former pastor’s wife.
“This is our community and our town and our home," Brandt said. "She taught us that we are our brother's keepers, and I think that's what we're doing without thinking about it."

Watch Lana, Deb and Judy's story

Now, the whole town can’t stop talking about dessert. 

“We served cheese sandwiches, soup and root beer floats,” said Dave Newlon, Administrative Council Chair of Hamburg UM Church.
Newlon has been farming for about 45 years in the area, and he and his son farm about 3,400 acres together with two hired hands. Newlon was able to get his machinery to higher ground, but some of his buildings were not as lucky.
“We got hit pretty hard with the water so far,” he said. “My shop was near a break (in the levee) and I can’t even get to it right now because there’s too much water around it.”

Watch Dave Newlon's story

Carla and Jim Nahkunst are church members in Hamburg who also farm near the town.
"As of right now, about eighty percent of the ground we farm is underwater, but we're blessed because we live up on the bluff so our house, our buildings, our shop are high and dry," Jim said.
Carla added that they were also lucky to not lose any cattle, but about 100 bales of grass and corn stalks floated down the river during the flooding.

Watch Carla and Jim Nahkunst's story

“It’s kind of amazing how much power water has,” Greg Warden said. “You can’t imagine. Someone can tell you, but you just can’t picture it.”
Warden is a church member in Hamburg and works in the agricultural business selling chemical, seed and fertilizer to area farmers. He and coworkers tried to get as much product either out or high up on pallets, but they did not expect the water to get to the roof of their building.
He’s worried about how the flooding will continue to affect farmers this spring. If the farmers can’t get into muddy or water-filled fields to get a crop in the ground, he won’t be selling his products.
"Probably going to be a lot of acres that won't get planted this spring, and that's a lot of our business," he said.

Watch Greg Warden's story

Gary Barrett, a longtime church member in Hamburg, remembers several of the floods that have hit the town and knows that this is in God's hands. 
"I believe the good Lord's with us," he said. "If we don't have that hope and don't have that faith what's the use? I trust in the Lord and I think we'll get through it."

Watch Gary Barrett's story

That hope has been found in the people who have continued to step up to help in the community.
Judy Crain, the recently retired Fremont County Treasurer, has been working 12-hour days with several others in the community to organize the donations that have flowed in faster than the flood waters.
“We have been receiving pick-up loads from Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, all over — we're even getting Amazon packages in the mail," she said.
She works in the small music room in the Hamburg Elementary School to sort soap, toothbrushes, canned goods and other items. They have stopped accepting clothing donations and have begun taking items to other locations in Fremont County so more people can access them.

Watch Judy Crain's story

"Our mission to reach out is why we're here," Newlon said of the work being done. "I think that's what we're called to do as United Methodists."

While the future is uncertain for many residents in Hamburg, Virginia Lynn doesn’t plan on going anywhere else.
“God provides and God will give me the strength to carry on,” she said.

Iowa Communicators Rev. Dr. Art McClanahan, Liz Winders communications@iaumc.organd Courtney Levin contributed to this story. To contact them, email or call 515-974-8907.

Video tour of flooding in Hamburg, Iowa

Video tour of flooding in Hamburg, Iowa

published 4/1/2019
Pastor Luke Fillmore gave the Iowa Communications Team a brief tour of the devastating flooding in Hamburg, Iowa. Fillmore is appointed in Hamburg and also the nearby town of Shenandoah and has been balancing two congregations and building new relationships.
“There's a lot of trust I've already built, and there's a lot of trust being built, but it's taken a lot of humility to step back and say ‘I can only do what's been put in front of me and God has only given me so much to do,’” Fillmore said. “The rest of it I have to just let go and trust that it's being taken care of now.”
You can help the recovery efforts by donating to Iowa Disaster Response Advance Special #223 online, or by mailing a check to the Iowa Conference Office 2301 Rittenhouse Street, Des Moines Iowa 50321. If you need help or want to learn more about Disaster Response in Iowa, go to

Flood recovery in Hamburg, Iowa from Iowa Annual Conference on Vimeo.


Iowa Conference creating bi-district offices

Iowa Conference creating bi-district offices

published 3/29/2019
As a result of the Budget Team’s recommendations, the Iowa Conference will be creating bi-district offices and reducing the number of District Administrative Assistants. Iowa will continue to maintain eight districts with eight District Superintendents. The locations of the bi-district offices will be announced at a later date.

"What is already happening is that we have been creative in realigning our resources in order to empower and develop more leaders. As a District Superintendent, I have been spending more time in connecting with local churches and pastors. That is one of the positive outcomes from the bi-district office structure," said Rev. Dr. Heecheon Jeon.
The districts that will be combining offices are as follows:
  • Central and South Central, Sue Booth
  • Southeast and East Central, Ann Zeal
  • Northeast and North Central, Alanna Warren
  • Northwest and Southwest, Judi Calhoon
The combination of offices will result in the loss of three respected employees, Jamie Newbury (Southwest District), Karen Wersinger (Northeast District) and Sherry Swanson (Southeast District). All eight of the current District Administrative Assistants will work together to complete this transition by Dec. 31, 2019.
"We have been intentional about creating a space of grace for flexibility and permission to give to each other." said Rev. Jeon. "Even though we don’t have a clear picture on what the transition looks like, it will take more time for us to adjust to the new reality with a bi-district office."

The current Central District Administrative Assistant, Wendy Lubkeman, has begun a new position as Executive Secretary of the Appointive Cabinet. In her new position, Lubkeman will take over some administrative work during the appointive process, arranging clergy housing moves, and releasing appointment notifications, and will report to Assistant to the Bishop Harlan Gillespie. Previously, this work has been done several persons throughout the conference staff, including the district administrative assistants and the former position held by Sara Carlson as administrative assistant to the assistant to the bishop.
These changes have been implemented due to the decline in apportionment receipts, the Iowa Conference must reduce the 2020 budget by 1.3 million dollars, an 8.5 percent reduction from the 2019 budget.
More information on the Budget Team recommendations can be found on the Iowa Conference Website.

Building Relationships to End Poverty

Building Relationships to End Poverty

published 5/24/2018
Food pantries, free clinics, and education opportunities are just a few of the things the congregation of Greenfield United Methodist Church has its hands in after a Rural Poverty Workshop held in November 2017 at the church. It has joined forces with other churches, the school, and local Crisis Intervention and Community Action services to begin relationship building with those struggling in the community.
“Many people in our community have been transformed in their thinking toward those who are in poverty, and especially the children of those in poverty,” said Pastor Eric Schubert of Greenfield U.M. Church. “They are able to see others in a much more compassionate light than before.”
More than 90 people came to the workshop that day from at least 25 churches in six different denominations, schools, and non-profit groups from six different counties. The six-hour workshop focused on the difference between the middle-class mindset and poverty, relationship building, poverty in Iowa and across the United States, and how past programs have worked or didn’t work.
The workshop was led by Susan Pennock, a layperson who currently guides United Methodist Churches in the Western North Carolina Conference through Congregation 4 Children, a non-profit that helps churches build relationships with children in generational poverty.
“Through her passion, as well as through her own experience, Susan helped us see persons in poverty through their eyes,” said Terra Amundson, Southwest District Superintendent. “Her message will help us be in ministry with, rather than to, those in our communities for whom poverty is their lived reality.”
“God's presence was so much a part of the of workshop, and people are still talking about it,” said Schubert. “Susan was an incredible blessing to us, and as we switch gears and rethink our approach to people in poverty God has been guiding and prodding us along.”
Part of switching gears is figuring out how to help people in the long-term and also building new relationships outside of the church walls.
“Before we were basically seeing how we can quick fix things – pick up the yard, mow the lawn, make the community look nicer,” said Schubert. “We have for several years been talking to and building relationships with those who are using our food pantry, but now we are looking to help people in the community make real connections with their neighbors.”
Schubert said this is a long process that is based on trust, and once that happens they can begin the work of solving problems within the community.
“I'll be honest – it was a lot to take in, and we are still trying to figure out how and where we go forward from here,” said Schubert. “We are working hard to break down the silos of people only knowing the thing they do, working at cooperation throughout our community, getting as many volunteers in the school as we can, and working on building relationships first. We will not be able to solve problems at this point, we are working toward that, but relationships and a sense of trust must come first.”
For more information or to get involved, contact the Greenfield United Methodist church by calling 641-743-2715 or emailing