xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Mid-Week Message: April 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

On Playing a Buddhist

April 30, 2013

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

194 lines.

By now, you may have heard the news that I have been cast in one of the lead roles of the Cherokee Community Theater’s upcoming production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.  I will be playing the King, which means that over the course of the next seven weeks, I will be memorizing 194 lines of dialogue, an array of songs, and – gulp – some dance moves.  (Those dance scenes may actually make me miss that flying harness from last time!)  Memorizing all those lines will be tougher than any sermon, speech, or presentation I’ve ever given.  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. 

As a result, I’ve been working on my lines for over a month now, long before rehearsals started last night, writing up individual flash cards that I have color-coded per scene, tucked in an index card box that I keep in my trusty backpack at all times.  I’ve pulled them out during occasional free moments, most recently during my flight back from Florida last week.

During one of my recent memorization breaks, I recalled a fascinating HBO documentary I watched eighteen months ago called Koran by Heart, about three ten-year old children competing in a competition to recite the entire Muslim holy book from memory.  That’s right, from memory:  all thirty books, one hundred fourteen chapters, and 6,236 verses.  I am now thinking to myself that if these kids can memorize something that long, then I have no reason to complain about 194 measly lines.  Clearly, this Methodist preacher has something to learn from these beautiful Muslim children.

I invite you to read that last sentence again.  Then check your own reaction and ask yourself:  Is it possible for a Christian to learn anything of value from a person of a different faith? 

A few days ago, a friend of mine asked me if I found the prospect of playing a Buddhist character like King Mongkut on stage at all troubling.  There will be moments when I will be chanting, praying, and bowing to Buddha, and commanding all of my subjects to do the same.  If you’ve ever seen the film version of The King and I, you know that that particular worship scene will be bold, bright, and unmistakably lavish, and it will be my goal to make you forget for a moment that I am a Filipino Methodist preacher living in Iowa, and have you think of me as a devoutly Buddhist Siamese king.

I told my friend that I wasn’t concerned about playing that character on stage, because I know most people will be able to delineate between my own convictions and those of the character I play.  But that isn’t the only reason:  I also do not see Buddhism as an inherent threat to my own Christian faith.  Just like the Muslim children in Koran by Heart might actually teach me something about my relationship with scripture, there are certain aspects of Buddhism that can strengthen my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Dr. Tyron Inbody, my favorite theology professor in seminary, taught me the concept of confessional pluralism as a way to deal with the thorny issue of Christianity’s relationship with other religions.  He suggests that for Christians, other religions can be true, and even may be true, when considered through the lens of one’s belief in Jesus Christ.  In other words, when I analyze the belief systems of other religions, there actually might be truths to be found in them, which may strengthen my own Christian beliefs. 

Buddhism, of course, is essentially an atheistic religion, at least in the way most Christians understand God.  That is an inherent point of diversion between the two faiths that cannot easily be bridged.  However, there are many examples of ways that Buddhist practice can strengthen a Christian’s own spiritual life, particularly in ways to pray, in non-attachment to earthly problems, and in compassionate generosity for all people.  Through my Christian lens, Buddhism can illumine for me Jesus’ call not to worry about tomorrow, or Paul’s charge to be anxious for nothing.  And the Buddhist principle of bodhichitta, which is the exercise of loving-kindness for all people, sounds quite consistent with much of what Jesus taught. 

Likewise, the children in Koran by Heart are inspiring examples of how one can develop such an intimate relationship with a sacred text that one internalizes it at the deepest possible level.  For those three young people, their engagement with their holy book was not just a perfunctory act of memorization, but a link to their ancestry, a discovery of their own identity, and a beautiful act of spiritual devotion.  I couldn’t help but think about how the opening words of the Psalms encourages us to develop that same relationship with the Scriptures:  These persons love the Lord’s Instruction, and they recite God’s Instruction day and night!  They are like a tree replanted by streams of water, which bears fruit at just the right time and whose leaves don’t fade.

The religious convictions of other people, then, need not be a threat to Christians who are seeking to deepen their own spiritual walk.  We live in a radically polarized world, in which our gut instinct is to react adversely to any belief system that is not perfectly aligned with ours.  These divisions can lead to prejudice, self-righteousness, and at worst, violence.   Certainly, while there is a core to the Christian faith that we cannot compromise – namely, our beliefs about Jesus Christ, the work of the cross, and the authority of Scripture – there is much that can be gained by embracing what the full panoply of religious traditions can offer us.  When we analyze other religions through the lens of Jesus Christ, we can see the beautiful array of God’s love poured out for all people. 

In this increasingly multi-dimensional world, it would behoove us to remember a few principles in the way we relate to people of different faiths.  First, we must be clear about what we believe as Christians, and be unafraid to profess that faith openly with people, even if they will not agree with us.  Second, we must adopt a spirit of humility in the ways we invite others to share with us their own personal convictions.  And finally, we must be willing to discover what truths their beliefs may contain, as we evaluate them through our Christian lens. 

Ultimately, in all things, there must be love.  That is the essential guardian against an extremism that can lead to violence, regardless of one’s religion.  It is love that can build bridges of peace and understanding, and draw us closer to God. 

Grace and Peace,


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA  51012
Ph:  712-225-3955
Email:  mdevega@sp-umc.org

Thank you, St. Paul’s, for an amazing Sunday!  Your efforts at the Imagine No Malaria pancake luncheon last Sunday served hundreds of people in the community and throughout Northwest Iowa, and helped raise over $1,000 to eradicate malaria.  Special thanks go to Sherry Held, Jeff Blum, and the wonderful team of people who set up, cooked, hosted, and cleaned up after the event.  Thank you to Carolyn Van Amberg and the Missions Team for distributing the educational material and helping raise awareness of our efforts.  Thanks to Mary Jo Carnine for selling her handmade scarves, raising $230 for the cause.  Her sales, along with the luncheon proceeds and the special offering during worship that morning totaled $2,000 to fight malaria!  And thanks to all of you who donated your time, money, and material goods to make last Sunday such a success on every level. 

We are also grateful to Bishop Julius Trimble and District Superintendent Tom Carver for joining us in worship that morning.  Bishop Trimble enjoyed his visit and shared with me his gratitude for the warm hospitality you all displayed throughout the day and into the District Conference, and was pleased to see the health and vitality of the St. Paul’s congregation.  Well done, St. Paul’s!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Taking a Bite Out of Malaria

April 23, 2013

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

I was only two years old when I first visited the Philippines, so I have only a few vivid memories of that experience.  One, however, sticks out among the rest.

At night, while staying at my mother’s childhood home on the island of Mindoro, my family would sleep in one of the bedrooms, nestled together on the same bed, under the protection of a large net that hovered over us.  I remember being warned that, under no circumstances, was I to sleep anywhere but under that net.  Even in the middle of the night, when I got up to go to the bathroom, I can remember scurrying quickly down the hall back to the bedroom in order to get back to the net as soon as possible.

It was not until later that I found out that those preventative nets did more than ward off itchy mosquito bites.  Those nets were there literally to save my life from the bit of a mosquito that contracted the deadly disease of malaria. 


After worship two Sundays ago, Walt Pritts approached me in the greeting line with a simple message:  “I had malaria when I was in the Philippines, and it was awful.”

Later that week Walt dropped by my office to tell me more.  He had served in the Philippines with the U.S. Army as a staff sergeant during World War II when he was bitted by the mosquito.  At first, he thought he had contracted the flue:  aches, fatigue, and general discomfort.  Then, in a matter of mere minutes, he started sweating profusely, shaking uncontrollably, and nearly passed out outside the mess hall.  He knew right then that he had something much, much worse than the flu.

Some fellow soldiers saw him and quickly helped him over to the nearest Army hospital, where he was given quinine, the best the Army had to give him at the time.  It didn’t help much.  The tremors were compounded by poor eyesight and hallucinations, such that the next time he sat down for meal time in the mess hall, the peas on his spoon looked like giant marbles.

Over the span of two or three weeks, and with constant medical attention, Walt gradually got over the worst of the symptoms and finished his tour of duty in the Philippines.  But when he returned to the United States, the malaria continued to flare up periodically.  “Once you get malaria,” he told me, “you never quite get over it.” 


Walt knows first hand the severity of malaria, a disease which claims the life of a child in Africa every sixty seconds.  I asked him if he had any sympathy for the families who are being ravaged in Africa or anywhere else in the world.  “Oh, yes,” he said, rather emphatically.  He wouldn’t wish this disease on any person, anywhere, at any time. 

Walt is not alone.  In fact, he is one of countless United Methodists who agree that it is not only our opportunity, but our responsibility, to fight and beat malaria.  Joining forces with the agency Imagine No Malaria, the Iowa Annual Conference is determined to totally and permanently eradicate malaria from this planet by the year 2015. 

We are certainly making progress.  Over the last three years, United Methodists have raised $7.5 million to support Nothing But Nets, an effort which has cut the rate of malaria deaths in half.  Now, the program is called Imagine No Malaria, expanding the effort to include preventative education, cleaner water, improved communication, and better transportation in even the remotest Africa villages.  With this expanded effort, the United Methodist Church hopes to raise $75 million dollars over the next three years, which we truly believe will make malaria extinct from our planet once and for all.


That is why this Sunday, St. Paul’s UMC and the town of Cherokee will be one of seventy-nine communities throughout Iowa hosting pancake meal fund raisers.  Ours will take place from 11:00am to 2:00pm in the upper level of the Cherokee Community Center.  Thank you to all of you who have signed up to volunteer throughout the weekend to set up, host, cook, and clean up.  Your efforts will help make this a truly successful day.  For those who aren’t helping out, please make it a point to come to the luncheon, enjoy some delicious food, and contribute to a worthy cause.  And, of course, we encourage you to bring friends along!

We are also honored that day to welcome Bishop Julius Trimble, the episcopal leader of our Conference, who will be joining us for worship, flipping a pancake or two afterwards, and presiding over our District Conference at 2:00 in our sanctuary.  Please join us in worship to meet him and thank him for his leadership of our conference. 

Together, as we enjoy every delicious bite food, we can take a bite out of malaria, and work to make it extinct forever.  This may be the most important stack of pancakes you’ll ever eat. 

Grace and Peace,


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA  51012
Ph:  712-225-3955
Email:  mdevega@sp-umc.org

I am sending this message this morning from Tampa, Florida, where I am honored to be participating in the Large Church Initiative, a gather of over five hundred church leaders from some of the largest congregations in United Methodism.  Thank you for your prayers as I offer the second of my two workshops this morning, and then have the privilege of preaching to the assembly at 6:30 Central Time.  I am grateful for the chance to share the good news of what God is doing in and through the people of St. Paul’s in Cherokee, and am thankful for what we have been able to accomplish together.  I will return Thursday evening in time to preach this Sunday. 

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Tears from Boston

April 16, 2013

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

The story that begins in a garden ends in a city.  And in between, there’s a whole lot of brokenness.

With that brokenness, there is deep mystery.  What would compel someone to devise and implement a coordinated attack on innocent people, such as that which we witnessed yesterday in Boston?  How can we feel safe when random acts of terror strike within our shores?  What can prevent a seemingly endless string of tragedies from desensitizing us to evil?

The answers to those questions are not simple, nor should they be.  The greatest folly of responses to these kinds of tragic events are ones that are eager to categorize them.  Our handle on reality seems more secure when we immediately explain them as “politically motivated,” or “calendar coordinated,” or “message intended.”  Speculation is only a temporary salve for shock.  Even our best efforts to rationalize senseless acts only last until the next tragedy tears them apart.

There is an analytical response to these events, of course.  It’s an alternative that embraces complexity, rather than shies away from it.  This world, after all, is not a simple place.  It is diverse, rich, complicated, and unpredictable.  Those same qualities that invite chaos, disruption, and disorder are also the essential ingredients for beauty, spontaneity, and innovation.  We cannot increase our capacity for good without corresponding increases in our capacity for harm.  Yet, in the end, that kind of notion is hardly comforting in the midst of suffering.

Perhaps the best response is one that neither trivializes tragedy with simple thinking or desensitizes feelings with cold analysis. 

When I first heard the news from Boston yesterday, I was in the midst of reading the text for Sunday from Revelation 21.  Reading about the “holy city” in John’s vision was an odd juxtaposition to the news from one of our most beloved cities.  In that moment I remembered how author Rob Bell once remarked that if sin had never entered the world, the Bible would be a very short pamphlet of only four chapters:  Genesis 1 and 2, and Revelation 21 and 22.  A story that began in a garden ended in a city.  “And what is a city,” Bell said, “but a collection of organized gardens?” 

Most of the biblical narrative, then, exists between the garden and the city, between simplicity and complexity.  The essence of the sacred story is the steady advancement of God’s love over and against sin and darkness.  It is here that we find our best response to the evils of this world. 

1)  First, we can lament.
Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches!  Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!  Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.  (Lamentations 2:16)

We grieve the deaths of innocent people, mourn with families dealing with sudden loss, and hurt for those dealing with unspeakable injuries.  The author of Lamentations, witnessing the tragic destruction of Jerusalem, could find no words except those that bellowed from his deepest aches.  When our hearts are rendered unable to offer polished and nobler prayers, we have the freedom to lament.

2)  We can resist. 
Together as one body, Christ reconciled us to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.”  (Ephesians 2:6)

We remember that our very membership vows require us to “resist evil in whatever forms they present themselves.”  Tragedies like this one trigger our innate instincts toward revenge and hatred, and corollary feelings of prejudice and discrimination.  We already live in a deeply polarized and factionalized culture, in which we point fingers and fix blame at anyone and anything for everything, and an event like this one can further the fissures of our society.  Yet, in the wake of tragedy, it is unity, rather than animosity, that move us toward healing. 

3)  Finally, we can be agents of transformation. 
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:21)

Instant tragedies summon us to acts of self-sacrifice and heroism, such as those exhibited by first responders who leapt into the debris, and by marathon runners who concluded the race by running immediately to donate blood.  “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars,” Dr. Martin Luther King once said.  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."  In the end, we are called to compassionate action, rather than cold resignation and passive analysis.

We can take heart as residents of this side of Easter, for we have an abiding belief in the promise of new life and a hope in the resurrection.  Let us pray for all those affected by yesterday’s events, and work together toward a future in which God is making all things new.

Grace and Peace,


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA  51012
Ph:  712-225-3955
Email:  mdevega@sp-umc.org

We are honored to announce that Bishop Julius Trimble will be in attendance at our worship service on April 28.  He will then join us for the pancake luncheon in the community center, then return to preach at the District Conference in our sanctuary at 2:00.  You are encouraged to come to worship that Sunday to meet him and thank him for his leadership in our Annual Conference.

The Trustees and Building Committee have met twice in the last few weeks to determine further direction on our reconstruction efforts.  They decided on Tuesday, April 2, not to proceed with the entire design plan for the kitchen and dining hall, but to look for ways to cut costs.  We anticipate that much of those cuts will occur in areas of code compliance related to environmental and energy management that are not required by state and local officials.  Last Tuesday, April 9, they decided to proceed with Grundman Hicks as the general contractor, who will work with us on taking a comprehensive look at the plans for all cost cutting possibilities.  The result of that work will be a revised plan, a new overall cost estimate, and a timeline to begin construction, all of which we hope to present to the congregation in a matter of weeks. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Writing and the Pastoral Life

April 9, 2013

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

For the past twenty-seven years, Disciple Bible Study has been the flagship Bible study program for United Methodists and much of the mainline church.  It has transformed countless lives through the belief that an earnest engagement of scripture can lead persons along a path of discipleship and a fuller commitment to Christ. 

About a year ago, Abingdon Press, the publishing arm of the United Methodist Church, asked me to participate in the development of a new, long-term, comprehensive Bible study curriculum, that they hope will parallel Disciple’s continued success.  It is called Covenant Bible Study, and it will feature the freshest biblical scholarship from today’s leading scholars, along with engaging and informative video segments, and the latest digital and multimedia technologies.  Being involved with this project over the last year has connected me to an amazing team of writers, scholars, and publishing professionals, working diligently to release the new curriculum by the spring of next year.

They have asked me to oversee the development of the weekly classroom experience, which includes writing the Leader’s Guide that small group facilitators will use to lead the sessions.  In addition, I am being filmed for training videos that will equip and encourage small group leaders.  It’s why I spent the better part of yesterday in Nashville being primped and pampered by a video crew, complete with a makeup specialist who dabbed my face with powder in between takes whenever I started sweating.  (Alas, she told me she was unavailable to assist me in the pulpit on Sundays.)

Working with Abingdon Press is just one of a handful of exciting writing and speaking projects I have over the next several weeks.  At the end of this month, I will be heading down to Tampa, Florida, to present and preach at the annual Large Church Initiative, a gathering of five hundred pastors and lay leaders from some of the largest churches in the country.  I will be leading a workshop called “Claiming the Vision,” in which I will share the wonderful story of how you and I worked collaboratively to discern and adopt God’s mission and vision for our congregation back in 2008.  I’ll also lead a workshop on staff development, in which I will assist multi-staff churches in improving interpersonal dynamics using the Enneagram, a personality type indicator.  I have also been given the privilege of preaching a sermon for their worship service on Tuesday night, April 24.   I am humbled by this tremendous honor, and I am grateful for your prayers leading up to the event. 

Finally, Westminster/John Knox Press has asked me to contribute to their upcoming preaching resource called Feasting on the Gospels, a sequel to their popular, multi-volume Feasting on the Word series.  I will be submitting essays next month on 1-3 John that will assist preachers looking for insights into those texts. 


It is for reasons other than conceit that I share these upcoming projects with you.  Instead, my feelings are grounded in a profound gratitude to all of you. 

I’m grateful for the ways in which the wider church will hear the story of how God has been working through our St. Paul’s congregation.  Your faithfulness will be an encouragement to churches that are discerning their future together.  Mostly, I give thanks to God for the way that you have fostered my development as a pastoral writer.  I am well aware that my principal vocation is not to be an author, or a popular speaker, or a spotlight celebrity of any kind.  I am called to be a pastor, lived out in my relationship with all of you.  You have given me not only the space and the freedom to write, but also the context in which my skills as a writer continue to emerge.  Because writing has made me a better pastor, you have made me a better writer.  So I’m grateful for all the wonderful opportunities that now offers us. 

Our time together truly continues to be incarnational, as the Word made Flesh inspires me to put our life into words.  For that, I give thanks. 

Grace and Peace,


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA  51012
Ph:  712-225-3955
Email:  mdevega@sp-umc.org

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lessons from a Taxi Cab

April 2, 2013

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

By the end of our brief visit to New York City two weeks ago, we were ready to return to the wide open spaces and familiar faces of Iowa.  Younger daughter Madelyn, who can be crowd averse and a bit wary of strangers when she’s tired, was particularly ready to head home. 

The night before our early morning flight, she confessed to me that that riding in a taxi to the airport in the middle of the night worried her.  At 5:00am, I flagged down a taxi outside our hotel, and the girls and I clamored into the back seat.  I held Madelyn’s hand.

We looked around the cab’s interior and noticed some unusual items in the front seat.  Framing the top of the Plexiglas separator was a long evergreen branch, and a sprig of English ivy outlined the bottom.  Wrapped around the driver’s headrest was a stuffed toy monkey, with its face and winsome smile positioned toward us. 

Just a few blocks into our trip, our cab driver broke the silence to introduce himself as Boharem, a native of Bangladesh.  I complimented him on the plants in his cab - - a feeble attempt to return his gracious self-introduction with some small talk.  Little did I know that it would launch him into a veritable “Better Homes and Gardens” tour of his taxi cab.

He held up a small glass vase containing another flowering plant.  “It’s an orchid,” he said.

Then, one by one, he held up additional objects as he drove, pulling them from his front seat as if from nowhere.  “These are two of my goldfish that I decided to bring with me on my shift,” he said, holding up a small spherical bowl containing his swimming companions. “They looked like they could use a fun little ride around the city.” 

It was like riding in a mobile Vaudeville magic act.  I looked at the girls, who returned their glance at me.  We were both baffled and amused.  I realized then where the word bemused comes from. 

Boharem turned on a CD recording of soft, instrumental Bangladeshi music. “Is this too loud?” he asked?

“No, it’s quite nice.” I responded.  “You’ve really created a cozy environment in your cab.  Is it because it helps you stay calm during your long, hectic shifts driving through New York traffic?”

“No, that’s not why,” he chuckled.  “When people come into my cab, I want people to feel like they are coming into my home.  I want them to feel welcome, just as if they were visiting my house.  I want them to be comfortable.”

“You know,” he continued.  “People in the city get stressed.  They are in a hurry.  They are worried about something.  I want to give them a break when they ride in my cab.”

He pulled another object from his front seat and pushed it through the partition window.  “Here, smell this.” 

It was a glass jar containing a scented candle from the Yankee Candle Company.  It said, “Green Grass” on the label. 

“It brings back memories of my parents, from my childhood home in Bangladesh.  Do you like it?”  I passed it to the girls, who each took a deep sniff.  They nodded their heads.

We chatted for the duration of our trip to LaGuardia Airport, as he told us stories about growing up in Bangladesh, living in New York City, and driving a taxi for almost twenty years.  Every once in a while, he’d show us another home accessory in his cab, and asked us throughout the trip if we were comfortable.

At one point, I leaned over to Madelyn and asked her, “Are you still feeling nervous about riding in a taxi in the middle of the night?”

“No, she said.  “He seems really nice.”


There are over seventy commands and stories in the Bible related to hospitality.  Though it is not nearly as well known as the higher profile commandments, the call to hospitality is one that appears in every major section of the Bible (Torah, History, Wisdom, Prophets, Gospel, and Epistles), as well as every major genre of biblical literature (narrative, poetry, instruction). 

Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it.  (Hebrews 13:2)

Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.  (Leviticus 19:34)

Open your homes to each other without complaining.  (1 Peter 4:9)

Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.  (Romans 12:13)

Make no mistake:  caring for strangers, making visitors feel welcome, and putting guests at ease is a vital part of our calling.  We are to practice hospitality in every aspect of our lives, from creating a welcoming environment at the church for visitors, to opening our homes and businesses to fellows and strangers alike. 

In a mere twenty-five minute cab ride from Queens to LaGuardia Airport, our taxi driver Boharem impressed me as a man who practiced a radical kind of hospitality that made an impressionable difference in young Madelyn, and subsequently the three of us.  Consider how you, too, have the same capacity to make a profound difference in the lives of unsuspecting strangers, with even the smallest token of grace and openness. 

Every time you:

·      Serve as a greeter at the doors of the campus and the sanctuary, and extend a warm smile to people who come to worship,
·      Purposely seek out new faces during the service rather than greet the people you already know,
·      Transform your work space – and your attitude about your work – as an outpost for welcoming the public,
·      Learn the names of your neighbors, greet passers-by with cordial smiles, exercise patience and gentleness when waiting in lines, and perform random acts of kindness to strangers with no expectation of reward,

You practice the gift of hospitality.

No, you don’t have to turn your taxi cab into a mobile home.  But you can find a unique way to open up your life to the guests around you.

Grace and Peace,


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA  51012
Ph:  712-225-3955
Email:  mdevega@sp-umc.org

St. Paul's UMC is hosting a pancake luncheon on April 28, from 11:00am to 1:00pm, in the upper level of the community center, and the proceeds from the free will offering will help combat malaria through the Imagine No Malaria program (www.inmiowa.org).  Sign up in the narthex or the church office to help out throughout the day.  Enjoy a bite of pancakes, and stop the bite of malaria!

In addition to the Pancake Luncheon, Bishop Julius Trimble will be paying his annual visit to the Northwest District on April 28.  He will be joining us for the luncheon, then preaching at the District Conference taking place in our sanctuary at 2:00pm.  If you would like to serve as a greeter to welcome United Methodists from across Northwest Iowa, contact the church office.