I’ve had a hard time sleeping this week. It started on Monday after a long drive from North Central Iowa to Southwest Iowa and 3 hours of Vacation Bible School in the Coin United Methodist Church. I was spending a couple of days with Cherie Miner, the new director of MUMMS (Mobile United Methodist Missionaries), and my sleeplessness started with the excitement and passion which Cherie brings to her position.
She brims and bubbles with love for the rural churches MUMMs serves. One of the things she and her Senior Summer Assistant, Alison Engel, do is bring Vacation Bible School supplies, curriculum and support to churches in the three southern United Methodist Districts of Iowa. The VBS in Coin was a joint venture of a seven-point charge under the pastoral leadership of James Buckhahn, or Pastor Buck as he is known in the Iowa Annual Conference.
Using Cokesbury curriculum and providing the supplies for arts, crafts, service, and creative learning projects allows MUMMs to help jumpstart Vacation Bible School, after school meals and activities and other programmatic outreach to the sparsely populated towns and counties it serves.
Another way in which these Mobile United Methodists are in Mission is to supply and coordinate volunteers for “hammer and nails” projects for churches across the region. Especially as hail, floods, and storms have taken their toll on these counties, this mobilization of United Methodist resources is particularly needed. Cherie is looking for someone with both passion and expertise to help design, implement and manage work projects throughout the three Districts. If you sense this may be a niche you are called to fill, you should drop Cherie an email.
Yet, the work MUMMs is doing is not really what kept me jazzed up for the few days I got to spend in Elliot, Coin, Clarinda, Corning, and Grant dodging road construction and learning songs in the Workshop of Wonders. It was the white hot energy of Cherie Miner, passionately describing all the directions in which MUMMS outreach can grow. It was the no-nonsense assessment of church longevity and mission potential given by the kitchen volunteers and the lay leaders who showed up to support VBS. It was the power that School for Lay Ministry has to stoke a fire in people. It was the humble gratitude of a pastor whose call was finally recognized by the United Methodist Church, a gratitude which gives thanks for part-time employment and three churches who were willing, for a time, to join as one in worship to give her the time she needed to heal.
United Methodist mission is mighty in this Southwest corner of Iowa. Age, gender, population, distance, and local affiliation play no role in peoples’ willingness to serve-to be available to serve-whether as musicians, cooks, chauffeurs, preachers, knitters or visiting messengers of peace and good will. Connection is flourishing-as people roll up their sleeves and step up to the challenges of dwindling populations, physical limitations, and resource scarcity; as people decide they are the ones who have to do a thing if it is to get done.
So, I had a hard time sleeping this week because I was so energized by the people I met, the places I saw, the possibilities laid out before us, and the absolutely monstrous amount of work it is going to take to get it done; the hope we will need to reach out to the people in our communities who are not us; the faith it will require of us to believe in ourselves and the good will we have to share; the call that is upon us United Methodist Christians to not only serve, but to transform; and the deep concern I carry that economics drives more of our decisions than it should.