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Builder's Call gifts support two of Iowa's newest UMC communities of faith
United Methodist Builders have been an important part of developing churches across the Iowa Annual Conference. United Methodist Builders have helped new congregations buy land or build their first church facility. United Methodist Builders have provided funds to help established congregations update their facilities or build new additions.
Grace Ottumwa United Methodist Church, one of the two recipient churches who will receive Builder's Call funds, is the vital merger of three United Methodist churches who all said they could do a lot more for the Ottumwa community if they came together instead of staying separate.
"We closed the door on each of these three churches to start something new so that God could create new life," said Rev. Chris Childs. "And that's what we've gotten to see."
Grace Ottumwa applied for the Builder's Call to assist with the costs to renovate the main floor of their building, located at the northern entrance to Ottumwa, just off of Highway 63. The renovation of approximately 10,000 square feet includes space for worship and fellowship, a kitchen, rooms for discipleship activities for all ages, offices, and restrooms. The project also includes several exterior updates and increasing parking from 55 spaces to 129.
Childs writes in the Builder's Call application, "Our discipleship process centers on relationships. We start by forming relationships with people in our community. As people form a relationship with the people of this congregation, we engage in spiritual conversations. Ultimately we invite people into a relationship with Jesus. Rather than stop there, we continue discipling them in relational small groups. Because relationships form the center of our ministry, we have designed every space, from the kitchen to the worship area, to the offices and classrooms, with relationships in mind."
Watch the video below to see how Grace Ottumwa UMC is impacting the lives of Ottumwa area residents.
The second recipient church is Johnston River of Life in Johnston, Iowa.
Johnston River of Life (JROL) has been meeting nomadically in a school, people’s homes, and parks around the community for the last ten years. During that time, they have built up strong relationships and connections of service within their community.
"We are a church that lives the mission. In fact, our mission statement is simply to be Christ. And that's our mission. That's our focus," said Rev. Craig Ferguson.
In the application, Ferguson writes that from its inception, JROL has been community-focused and has been adapting to the aspects of being a portable worship community. After JROL chartered in 2018, they began looking for a building that would allow us a space to connect with our community and host regular small groups, meetings, youth activities, and outreach events. Still, the real estate prices in Johnston have been exorbitant.
"Since the beginning of 2021, we have been praying that God would open a door and prepare a place for us by fall. That door did not open until the second week in September 2021 when the owner of 6212 Merle Hay offered to let us utilize his building for worship for three weeks," said Ferguson.
The building is a former dance studio in the heart of Johnston, located right across from the brand-new City Center and splash pad.
The congregation voted to commit to a four-month lease to see if they could afford to sign a 1-year lease. After a few weeks and conversations with the owner, they realized there was the possibility of a purchase. The purchase option comes with the possibility of downstairs rental income or increased ministry space for less cost than a lease of just the first floor.
Watch the video below to see how JROL is impacting the lives of its members and community.