During last year’s Advent season, Whitefish Bay UMC collected money for a cistern project in Ghana. The project has now finished construction. The church received pictures from their sister church in the village of Kokodo. Rev. Tshishinen Mpoyo, Minister of Outreach, said, “God has blessed the project beyond human understanding. It is so exciting to see the work that has been done by the church members, as well as people from the village; all are excited and praise God for this blessing.”

Numerous Wisconsin churches gave back to their communities while celebrating Christmas. Here is a sampling of those stories.

First UMC Racine hosted Breakfast with Santa Claus for their city in mid-December. It was a huge success, and they served more people than they have in the past few years. Jeanne Whiteside, Media Coordinator for the church, said, “The joy on the children’s faces when they met Santa, and the fellowship we had with our neighbors was a wonderful way to start the holiday celebrations. This is a tradition that has gone on for many years at First Church and we are thrilled to see it growing!”

Rhinelander First UMC challenged their congregation to give donations for clean water and other supplies in honor/memory of someone for Puerto Rico as Christmas gifts. They raised $1,508.60. The money will be donated to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to provide clean water, food, and supplies to the people of Puerto Rico.

On December 9, 2017, the following individuals were elected to the Hispanic Caucus for leadership during 2018 through 2020:

On Christmas Day, Baraboo First UMC hosted their 14th annual free Baraboo Area Community Christmas Dinner. When this Christmas tradition started 14 years ago, they made food for about 50 people. It has grown each year, and this past Christmas they served food to more than 300 people. Judy Ellington has helped put this event on from the start. She said, “There are numbers of people that don’t have families right here, but it doesn’t matter because when you’re here, you’re family. At the end of the day when I go home, I put my feet up and just remember, remember all the people, all the people that helped, all the people that ate, all the people that made this meal what it is each and every year.” Ellington wrote a letter published in the Baraboo News Republic thanking those who had contributed to this year’s success. The event was also featured on NBC15 news.

Westby UMC focused on sharing Christmas with their neighbors this past December. One of their sharing activities was to purchase gifts for residents of the Norseland Nursing Home, who otherwise may not receive any special gifts this Christmas. They provided gifts for 18 of the residents this year. Another sharing activity was Christmas Caroling to residents of several of the senior living centers in Westby, Norseland Nursing Home, Friendship House, Old Times – Assisted Living and Halverson Apartments. They also sang Christmas carols for some members of the congregation.

Bristol UMC prepared a feast for 51 U.S. Navy recruits for the annual Naval Station Great Lakes’ Christmas Adopt-A-Sailor programon Christmas. Through the program, local civic organizations “adopt” recruits unable to spend the holiday with their family. This is the 10th consecutive year that Bristol UMC has participated in the program. They have welcomed more than 600 recruits since 2008.

In November 2016, Chapel Heights UMC opened the doors to a new Food Pantry in Eau Claire under the leadership of Bob and Sue Everson. The Food Pantry is open each Wednesday from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Thanks to a grant from the Wisconsin UM Foundation, food pantry fundraisers held by many businesses, and support from members and friends of Chapel Heights UMC, the food pantry has been a success, and is continuing to grow. The Food Pantry is open to all. In one year, they have provided 333 families (4,418 people total) with over 45,025 pounds of food, including meat, fresh produce and canned goods. Chapel Heights is looking forward to helping curb hunger for families in Eau Claire, and the surrounding area in 2018.

Thanks to a grant from the Wisconsin UM Foundation, New Hope UMC was able to host the faith-building outreach “A Night in Bethlehem” on December 6. Nearly 20 members and friends of New Hope volunteered in dinner preparation, decorating, and role-playing many marketplace scenes of Bethlehem at the time of Christ's birth. Participants could enjoy each station at their own pace, and make relevant projects to keep. Over 70 people enjoyed a free dinner, and were impacted in their faith through this "Night in Bethlehem." Due to New Hope’s advertising for the event, over 160 people visited their website for the first time, and 25 first-time guests came to the event. They would like to thank the WI UM Foundation for the grant that allowed them to reach out in this way to build their church’s mission and God’s Kingdom. 

On Wednesday, December 6th, the New Hope UMC Food Pantry in rural De Soto received a wonderful Christmas blessing! The food pantry was presented with a $1,000 check from the Vernon Communications Cooperative to aid in the fight against hunger in the Driftless Region. The donation was a part of Vernon Communications' annual "Season of Giving" campaign through which they make $1,000 donations to various food pantries across their service area.

On Sunday, December 3, members and friends of the Retreat UMC gathered for an annual tradition. Each year, members and friends of the church come together to celebrate the Christmas season with a shared meal and fellowship followed by a cookie workshop. During this workshop, those in attendance brought in and assembled packages of homemade Christmas cookies for local shut-ins and friends of the church who needed a little extra Christmas cheer during this time of the year.

On Sunday, December 3, Rhonda Grabko, Sr. Community and Provider Engagement Specialist of Wisconsin United Healthcare, drove four hours from Wausau, and showed up at Faith UMC with everything needed for a pork loin meal for Faith United Methodist Church’s free Sunday community meal, called “M.O.M.” (Meals Outreach Ministries). This ministry is organized and led by Bonnie Thoorsell and Alvina Tinsley. Rhonda worked with the crew peeling potatoes, cooking, serving, and even helping with clean-up. The meal served about 110 people.

On November 4, Our Savior's UMC in Mondovi held its 56th Annual Christmas Walk, an event that is anxiously awaited by the community. Tickets were purchased for touring three homes and the church, all which were decorated for Christmas. This year's theme was "Reflections." Decorating around this theme, the Fellowship Hall displayed many mirrors. People enjoyed Christmas cookies, coffee, and punch with each other as they took in these unique displays. Historically, ten percent of the proceeds from this event are given to a community project.

Wisconsin United Methodist Camps had an initial goal to raise $30,000 on #GivingTuesday to pay for a new roof for Amphlett Hall of Pine Lake Camp. They received a $10,000 challenge grant from a generous donor where all gifts up to the first $10,000 on Tuesday were doubled. The staff at WIUMCamps were thrilled to see how quickly they reached that goal.