The Harvest of Hope Fund (Conference Advance #7020) was created to provide financial assistance and hope to Wisconsin farm families in difficult financial situations. In 2016, the organization passed the $1 million landmark. Since the fund was started in 1986, Harvest of Hope has granted more than 1,600 gifts totaling over $1,010,000 to Wisconsin farm families in crisis situations. Click here to read the full press release.

AHyun Lee, Mayville UMC Pastor, recently took a trip to Haiti. Her trip is a story of connection between Mayville UMC's mission and Haiti; between pastors and seminarians; and of God's ministry. Click here to read her trip report and see pictures from the trip.

Yorkville UMC is celebrating its 175th Anniversary year in 2017. The first event of the 175th Anniversary (1842–2017) Celebration at Yorkville United Methodist Church was Marriage Sunday. At the event, Pastor Sue Leih led a brief Marriage Vow Renewal and Blessing during morning worship. The 23 couples who chose to participate represented a total of 819 years of marriage. They stood across the front and down the side aisles of the sanctuary, facing each other and holding hands. The organist played “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “Canon in D”. Soloists sang “The Wedding Song (There Is Love)” and “Remember When”. Everyone enjoyed a guessing game of identifying the couples in the wedding pictures displayed in Fellowship Hall. Cake and punch was served. “It was a lovely day of love,” Carol Knight, Chair of 175th Task Force, said. Additionally, the drama rotation presented by the combined classes during Sunday School was a puppet show of Jesus’ first miracle, when he turned the water into wine at the wedding at Cana.

Children at Kenosha: First UMC raised just under $1000 for Kenosha's Shalom Center Soup Kitchen in their yearly fundraiser. In addition to selling ceramic bowls the Sunday School children had made, they collected donations after each service. They also organized a soup luncheon that day to collect more donations. Congratulations kids!

On an overcast day in January, forty grandparents gathered at Christ UMC in Watertown to learn how to help their grandchildren grow in their faith. Circuit SE-06, including the Concord, Johnson Creek, Oconomowoc: Good Shepherd, Sullivan, and Watertown: Christ UMCs, sponsored a Conference on Christian Grandparenting. The featured speaker was Rev. Tanya Campen Ph.D., an ordained Deacon serving the Rio Texas Annual Conference. Dr. Campen’s keynote address, which is available online as an mp3 recording along with her notes, describes six gifts grandparents can give to their grandchildren. These include: Presence & Time, Respect & Value, Story, Liturgy & Ritual, Wonder, and Blessing. Additional breakout sessions on using the internet, developmentally appropriate faith building activities, and ritual and worship, along with a panel discussion of grandparents active in the lives of their children’s children filled out the rest of the day. “Of all the positive comments on the evaluations, one which stood out was, ‘I didn’t know our job as grandparents was so important.’ Everyone went home understanding that fact,” Christ UMC pastor Ron Kral said. “Thank you to the United Methodist Foundation for awarding us a grant that allowed this training to happen.”

In celebration of Stanley Cottrill’s 93rd birthday and his life-long commitment to mission, New London United Methodist Church collected soup for the Souper Bowl of Caring. Over 93 cans and packets of soup were donated to the Community Cupboard food pantry in New London.

On January 29, the congregation of the Juda Zion United Methodist Church welcomed Bishop Hee-Soo Jung of the Wisconsin Conference as part of its 150th Anniversary Celebration. The congregation shared short monologues, gifts, and birthday cake as part of the morning's festivities. Click here to read more and see more pictures from the event.

On January 29, Ho Chunk musicians and dancers Elliott Funmaker and Destiny Whitecloud shared drumming, singing, dancing, and stories with the Trempealeau UMC. The event, called God’s People Together: Celebrating Our Native American Brothers and Sisters, included the dedication of a new display of artifacts on permanent loan from the University of Wisconsin. UW curator Danielle Benden and archaeologist Ernie Boszhardt told about the Native American peoples who produced and used the items. The artifacts were discovered during a dig on church grounds in 2015. The special Sunday also served to kick off TUMC’s study of On This Spirit Walk.

A Milwaukee mom who makes the dangers of distracted driving real to students, a local chaplain who comforts families during traumatic events, and officers who spend extra time in neighborhoods were among those honored during the 68th Annual Crime Prevention Awards in Milwaukee. The event drew more than 300 people and was sponsored by AAA Wisconsin and the Salvation Army. Lynne Hines-Levy, a member at Milwaukee: Albright UMC, was honored for her work in the Salvation Army's chaplaincy program, which serves victims of violence and residents in city neighborhoods. She also helps lead faith-based initiatives through Albright UMC in District 7, and she organized evening meals for district officers after the unrest in Sherman Park. Salvation Army Chaplain Coordinator Alexis Twito said, “[I’m] so proud of Lynne for her dedication to the chaplaincy program! She gives tirelessly of herself to minister to those experiencing trauma in our city… that was why I nominated her for this award and why I'm so excited that she won!” Click here for the full story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Rev. Young J. Choe, a retired pastor of The United Methodist Church in Wisconsin, has published his second book in English. “Do You Want to Save The Church?: A Handbook for Pastors and Lay People” was published by Hamilton Books and was released in December. It is available on Amazon. According to the description: The book attempts to inspire both church leaders and lay people through serious discussion of strategies as to how to restore the church in the midst of a struggling and declining age. The author identifies the factors that have contributed to the decline of the Church. Choe utilizes his experience working with a struggling ministry to propose 24 ideas and programs for the restoration of the Church. He calls specifically on church leaders to inspire others to come together and to rebuild the Church. Click here for more information.

On January 28, the Wisconsin Conference Hispanic Caucus held a united service for all Hispanic churches at Luz a Las Naciones UMC in Milwaukee. This is one of several events scheduled by the Caucus each year, but the 230 participants – including Bishop Jung - had something special in mind for this gathering: honoring Rev. Rosita Mayorga and her abundant ministry. Heidi Careaga, South East District Office Manager, said the celebration was a surprise to Rosita. “Most of the churches participated with either a song or a poem dedicated to Rosita, and some also gave her gifts,” she said.

Rev. Rosa Maria Mayorga, affectionately known as Pastora Rosita, immigrated to New York from El Salvador In 1981 with her husband Jorge Mayorga. There, Pastora Rosita began her journey as a leader in the Church as an SPRC president and lay preacher. In 1990, the Mayoraga family moved to Waukegan, Illinois, and became members of the Hispanic Ministry at Kenosha: Emmanuel UMC. Over the next seven years, Pastora Rosita would lay the foundations for La Resurrection of Lake Geneva UMC, Vida Abundante UMC Hispanic ministry in Delavan, and Cristo la Roca UMC in Whitewater. She has served as a pastor in eight congregations – two Hispanic and six English-speaking – and has served in leadership roles in numerous caucuses, boards, and agencies at local, jurisdictional, and national levels. She became an Ordained Elder in The United Methodist Church in 2015.

Other highlights from the event included keynote speaker Ricardo Torrez from the Hispanic ministry of Green Bay Vida Nueva UMC. The evening ended with dinner, and before Bishop left, he made friends with one-year-old Mariely Esther Santiago Medina, daughter of Maryselis Medina and Wilfrido Santiago of Vida Nueva UMC. Click here to see pictures from the event.

This past Sunday, Racine: First UMC held its annual chili cook-off and fundraiser. Jeanne Whiteside, church media coordinator, said, “This is a fun tradition that helps to raise money for our youth group and projects. This year we raised over $200, had wonderful fellowship time, and crowned a new Chili Queen with a vegetarian chili that was an overwhelming success. We are so thankful to be able to involve so many members of our church and raise money for a great program.”

Life on the street is not something anyone would like to have to face. Some, however, live with it every day and every night. Some of them have the luxury of a sleeping bag, but others huddle under cardboard boxes. Fortunately there are places that can offer them at least a couple hours inside, out of the elements; and the All's Bright project at Milwaukee's Albright UMC is one of those places. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays when the high temp for the day is predicted to be below 20 degrees, All's Bright opens its doors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. as a safe, warm place where those on the street can come to warm up, have a cup of hot coffee, and socialize. Most of the overnight shelters open at 6 p.m., so Albright can make the calls for them to find a bed for the night.

Twice a year, Albright UMC has also acted as the Northwest location for the Milwaukee Continuum of Care's Point In Time You Count Homeless Survey & Mapping. On these two nights, officers and other volunteers hit the streets for 12 hours to locate the homeless, and attempt to bring them in to a safe location for the night. Lynne Hines Levy said, “This year, our wonderful partners ensured that we and our guests had plenty of food to last through the night, as well as a good supply of coats, hats, gloves and socks to send along with them as they went out on their way. They also had the golden opportunity to spend one-on-one time with volunteers from the veterans association (yes, many homeless are vets), and a transitional housing specialist, as well as our wonderful volunteers from Albright and from New Hope Hmong UMC.” This year, for the first time, Point in Time kicked off with a "Homeless Resource Fair" on the afternoon before allowing those involved in this ministry to network and trade contact information to help each other.

“As the weatherman says that temps are dropping again, it looks like we'll be back in business, but, with God's help and working together, maybe we can be chipping away at this problem and bring everyone in off the street for good,” Levy said.

The Wisconsin State Patrol has started a chaplaincy program with the assistance of 20 clergy, including Rhinelander: First UMC pastor Ellen Rasmussen, on a volunteer basis to work with agency staff and their families in crisis situations and for other needs. Rasmussen, the only woman among the State Patrol's initial corps of chaplains, said the availability of clergy for the agency comes at a critical time. “There’s a lot of stress and pressure put on our law-enforcement folks,” she said. “It’s not just the law-enforcement officer that it serves. It’s the entire family.” An installation ceremony was held for the chaplains in Madison in early December. Many of them were recruited for the program because they play similar roles with police agencies in their home communities. Click here for the full story from the Appleton Post-Crescent.

On January 29th, the congregation of the Juda Zion United Methodist Church will celebrate its 150th birthday. Special speaker for the event will be Bishop Hee-Soo Jung. Historical items to be displayed during the year will include a copy of the original Incorporation Certificate dated Jan. 31, 1867, a copy of the warranty deed to purchase land for the original church, copies of the 75th, 100th, and 125th anniversary booklets, the original Martin Luther edition of the Bible in the German language, photos of all 41 pastors, and many other items. Click here for more information about the celebration from the church.