Seek and you shall find

In July I celebrated two years as your pastor! (How time files!) The first year I just began settling into my new ministry setting. Getting use to a new routine and worship service. I spent hours working on power point slides for worship which was brand new and very exciting to me.

The second year I focused on getting to know the people of God a little more by spending time and having conversations. Lunch with the Pastor and Table talk was great for that and I pray for more time with you to get to know you more and for you to get to know me more as well.

Now in my third year I would like to spend time figuring out what it is that God is calling us to do. Getting clarity about our mission and vision and then with intentionality living that out. In this effort the Administrative Leaders have agreed to engage a Conference wide initiative call the Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) to help us in this process. This process focuses Leadership Development, Communication, Outreach and Evangelism and has 3 phases:

Phase 1: Continuous Learning Community

Phase 2: Consultation

Phase 3: Coaching

At each phase the Administrative Leaders choose whether or not to enter a phase so at this time we are just committed to engaging phase 1. But we need your help. We realize that the leaders don’t make up the church but rather all members and friends do. So we are asking for everyone to prayerfully consider taking part in phase 1. What is the commitment I hear you ask?

Your presence and taking part of the conversations

We will meet every 1st Wednesday of the month beginning September 5th ending May 1st from 6:00 – 9:00 pm.

One book a month, for a total of 8 will be used for each session beginning with the second session on October 3rd. (Assistance will be offered in purchasing books.)

All members and friends will be asked to pray for this process even if you cannot join these sessions and all will be asked to complete the Natural Church Development Survey that will establish a baseline in order to track results of the process.

If you will say yes and join us in these sessions please notify me or Debbie Wilson. Thank you for your prayerful consideration and I am excited to enter this 3rd year of ministry with HCI.

Loving God heart, mind, soul, and strength,

Pastor LaTonya


Laity Annual Conference Report

June 24, 2018                                                           2018 Annual Conference Report

Theme: Creating Difference Makers in New Communities of Faith

I was honored to be the Stuart Mt. Vernon United Methodist delegate to annual conference this year. I am pleased to report that the proposed budget for 2019 year is down $505,925 AND “ending net assets” continue to increase. Over the past few years we have had some honest attempts to critically analyze the work of the church and to budget for this work. The needs of local church work and an effort to balance with conference organization to accomplish this work has created a new format for income/expense and budgeting.

“We are in a covenant relationship.” reminded Jon Disburg prior to his presentation of the financial statement. We are not “kind of” or “sort of” married, baptized or in this case, a covenant relationship with God regarding our apportionments. Jon presented a very healthy budget. We are continuing to be better stewards of conference funds. Yet our responsibility in this covenant is clear.

One specific example of a conference committee’s efforts to be better stewards of our apportionments is found with the Iowa United Methodist Foundation.   This Foundation has not used any apportionment money since 2014. The Foundation assets will increase from 43 million to 49 million this year and will hold over $2 million in new investments to ministry. Certificates of deposit are available for purchase at higher rates of return than can be acquired in most banks. The foundation manages these funds well.

Although the Iowa United Methodist Foundation has done a fantastic job managing conference funds, the most important thing to know about the IUMC is how they use these funds. It is remarkable to see the work of Christ through projects in outreach,and partnering with local church missions, financial support for pastor’s education (loans and grants) and the other standing committees that are supported with funds from the foundation.

Beginning in 2019, the Rainbow Covenant Committee will cease to exist and the work will be organized through the IUMC and this board of Missions. For more information about the statistics of our conference financials, please visit the website:

The new way of conference operations and a new model for staffing design seems to be an effective transition for both the conference and for local churches. This new design has done a better job to align the structure with staffing resources and will continue to better address the challenges and opportunities of the church. This new design appears to offer many opportunities to meet our strategic priorities.

As always, if you have additional questions or would like to visit more in depth about the new design, please contact Pastor LaTonya or myself.

I am pleased with the direction our church is taking to better address our local work as well as the Iowa United Methodist Church. Methodists in Iowa continue decrease at an alarming rate. We heard the sad closing ceremony for too many church buildings again this year. It is time to continue our critical analysis of the mission of the church and to continue to make those changes to align with the call of Christ to make disciples of all men.

Thank-you for the opportunity to attend the United Methodist Annual Conference as your delegate.

Respectfully Submitted by: Carla Grasty


June Pastors Pen

June Pastor’s Pen

As we enter in this season of Pentecost, the birth and life of the church by the power of the Holy Spirit, I am ever so mindful of the words that Jesus left with us, ”lo, I will be with you always!” What wonderful comforting and assuring words from our Savior. To know that Jesus will always be with us through the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, but more importantly in this world as we continue to live out the Kingdom of God Jesus is with us.

How many times have we said or reassured ourselves when a loved one dies that even though they are not present with us physically on the earth they are with us always in our heart and minds for their spirit remains with us—that spirit that never dies. But the difference between the spirit of a loved one being with us and Jesus saying he will always be with us is in the intent. The former is to reassure us, make us “feel good” while the latter is to make us “do good.”

All too often pastors take on these words of Jesus… “I will be with you always” and live them out in their daily ministries of serving God’s people by doing good. They forget or neglect to take time and for themselves and care for themselves by rejuvenating their minds, souls and bodies. I am guilty! Pastors are to take 4 weeks of vacation and 2 weeks of spiritual renewal time. At the beginning of April I realized I had not taken any time off.

To that end I will be gone the following dates.

May 30—June 6 Vacation time

June 8—June 11 Annual Conference

June 13—July 5 Vacation time

During my time away the following people will supply the pulpit.

June 3rd Rev. Art Allen

June 10th Janna Nelson

June 17th Rev. Dennis Shepherd

June 24th Janna Nelson

July 1st Caleb Fairchild

As I will be away please know… “lo, I will be with you in spirit (smile)”

(If there are any “emergencies” please contact Rev. Ben Carter Allen at 515.745.0608)

Loving God heart, mind, soul, and strength,

Pastor LaTonya


Pastor’s Pen


Someone sent this to me in an email and it changed me:

A young lady named Sally relates an experience she had in a seminary class, given by her teacher, Dr. Smith. She says that Dr. Smith was known for his elaborate object lessons. One particular day, Sally walked into the seminary and knew they were in for a fun day. On the wall was a big target and on a nearby table were many darts. Dr. Smith told the students to draw a picture of someone that they disliked or someone who had made them angry, and he would allow them to throw darts at the person’s picture.
Sally’s friend drew a picture of someone who had stolen her boyfriend. Another friend drew a picture of his little brother. Sally drew a picture of a former friend, putting a great deal of detail into her drawing, even drawing pimples on the face. Sally was pleased with the overall effect she had achieved.

The class lined up and began throwing darts. Some of the students threw their darts with such force that their targets were ripping apart. Sally looked forward to her turn, and was filled with disappointment when Dr. Smith, because of time limits, asked the students to return to their seats. As Sally sat thinking about how angry she was because she didn’t have a chance to throw any darts at her target. Dr. Smith began removing the target from the wall. Underneath the target was a picture of Jesus. A hush fell over the room as each student viewed the mangled picture of Jesus; holes and jagged marks covered His face and His eyes were pierced.

Dr. Smith said only these words…

Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” Matthew 25:40 (NRSV).

No other words were necessary; the tears filled eyes of the students focused only on the picture of Christ.

Did it change you?

Loving God heart, mind, soul, and strength,

Pastor LaTonya


The U in Jesus


I do not know the author of this poem but I thought it was creative. Enjoy and be blessed!

Before U were thought of or time had begun,
God stuck U in the name of His Son.
And each time U pray, you’ll see it’s true,
you can’t spell out JesUs and not include U.
You’re a pretty big part of His wonderful name,
for U, He was born; that’s why He came.
And His great love for U is the reason He died.
It even takes U to spell crUcified.
Isn’t it thrilling and splendidly grand
He rose from the dead, with U in His plan?
The stones split away, the gold trUmpet blew,
And this word resUrrection is spelled with a U.
When JesUs left earth at His Upward ascension,
He felt there was one thing He just had to mention.
“Go into the world and tell them it’s true
That I love them all – Just like I love U.”
So many great people are spelled with a U,
don’t they have a right to know JesUs too?
It all depends now on what U will do,
He’d like them to know,
but it all starts with U.

Have a happy and blessed Easter!

Loving God with heart, mind, soul, and strength,

Pastor LaTonya


A Time of Reflection


Seriously, I cannot believe how time flies by. On February 14, we celebrated the beginning of Lent with Ash Wednesday and on April 1st we will celebrate Easter. Oddly enough, it seems as though the faster that time goes by, the more you have to do and the less time you have to do it in. Thank God for lent! Lent is the time for one to slow down, take some time for God and yourself and reflect, re-evaluate, repent, renew, re-energize yourself.

Recently I came across my quote book, where I write down meaningful quote that cross my path. In thinking about lent, I would like to share some of those quotes with you and hope they may be a blessing to you as you go through this Lenten season.


¨ Yesterday is but a dream tomorrow is only a vision but today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.

¨ Sometimes the hardest part isn’t letting go but rather learning to start over.

¨ Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

¨ I’m for truth no matter who tells it, I’m for justice no matter who it’s for or against.

¨ People often say that this or that person has not found themselves but the self is not something one finds it is something on creates.

¨ Forgiveness does not change the past but it does enlarge the future.


Loving God with heart, mind, soul, and strength,

Pastor LaTonya


2018 Better Decisions & More Choices


On November 26th, 2017, I preached on Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus is saying that when you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome a stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, and visit the imprisoned then we do it for him as well. That sermon way back in November has held my heart, mind and soul for some time urging me to do those things. It is my desire to love God more and serve God greater in 2018 than I did in 2017. I want to make some better choices, some better decisions for God. Stuart – Mt. Vernon, hear me when I say that when I stand before you to preach God’s Word it is not only for you but for me as well. If I expect you to be moved to follow God I must also be willing to be moved and follow God. Reflecting upon my life, one of the things that I have not done for quite some time is visit the imprisoned so on January 4th I went and visited the Women’s Correctional System in Mitchellville. I was able to visit with some inmates and worship with a group of about 60 inmates. It was an amazing experience and I am sure it made a difference in the lives of the inmates that someone cared enough to come visit. It made a difference in my life in that I decided to obey Jesus’ word. And I imagine that it made a difference in God in that God was pleased that I was living for God. I invite you to join me in making better decisions and more choices in serving God and in helping one another in 2018. With the joy of Jesus let us allow God’s love to overflow in our lives.


Loving God with heart, mind, soul, and strength,

pastor latonya


Gift Given, Gift Received, Gift Given

The Christmas message spoke of the gift we have been given through the birth of a Savior. I ask you, have you received and opened our gift? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior and are you living a life reflective of his life? Has the church accepted the teachings and revelations of Jesus Christ and allowed it to lead its work of ministry?

The New Year lectionary scriptures speak of the gifts that were brought to the Christ child. I ask you what gifts do we bring the Christ child? What will you prepare and offer the Christ Child from the way you live your life this year? What will the church offer as a gift of service unto the Christ child? Will the gifts we bring be our best and pleasing unto Christ?

In 2011 let us hear from heaven: Gift Given—Gift Received—Gift Given!

As the New Year blossoms may the journey of your life be fragrant with new opportunities, your days be bright with new hopes and your heart be happy full of joy! May you know the miracle of God’s love, the power of God’s presence and peace, and the hope of God’s promises and may the joy of the Lord be your strength throughout the New Year.

May 2018 be the best year of your life!!!

A Special Note: To Stuart – Mt. Vernon United Methodist Women, THANK YOU SO MUCH for the love and wishes extended to me through the gift given to me at Christmas. It is simply wonderful and meaningful to feel appreciated.


Loving God with heart, mind, soul, and strength,

pastor latonya


Come, Advent Spirit, Come!


‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ 45 Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’

Matthew 25:44-45

This scripture was part of the lectionary gospel scripture November 26th the Sunday before Advent. How fitting it is to hear these words as an end to our Christian year for it reminds me of what really matters throughout my Christian journey. It is also fitting to hear these words as an entrance into the Advent season for it was Christ who brought us our 2nd greatest commandment… to love one another. In receiving the gift of Christ we also receive this commandment of Christ and the two are not exclusive to one another.

I was so thankful to attend a workshop on poverty a few weeks ago. It helped me wade through some of my misconceptions, and privileges that hinder me from reaching out to those impoverished and less fortunate. Please take a moment and read Janna Nelson’s report (page 5) on this workshop for there are some good questions that I invite us to take some time and answer. If you feel that God is calling you to help us be more intentional about this work please have a conversation with me…the sooner the better!

Finally as we enter into this Advent season I would like to share with you series of sermons preached during the Iowa UMC Clergy Women’s Convocation held November 12-14. The four sermons that I refer to are: The Annunciation: Celebrating our Call, Mary & Elizabeth Pregnant Together, The Magnificat, and No Room at the Inn. I will not use these sermons in their entirety but rather share quotes and their message of inspiration to me during advent and I pray they bless you as well. I also want to invite you to attend the Adult Sunday School class at 9:00 am Sunday mornings as they spend time with Joseph presented by Adam Hamilton. I don’t know about you but all this sounds exciting! Come, Advent Spirit, Come!

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Pastor latonya


2017 State of the Church Address

    Stuart-Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church

Well we did it? One year down and only 49 to go! (Smile). It has been my joy, and pleasure being your pastor. This first year I have really just been getting my footing. Getting in the swing of things, and becoming more informed on how things are at Stuart-Mt. Vernon. IT is often said that the first year of an appointment is the honeymoon period. Well the honeymoon is over and now life begins. I must state that I have thoroughly enjoyed the way in which God has been leading us. Through some foundational review of who we are as United Methodist to the call of becoming more like Jesus Christ as his disciple, unto our current time of walking with Moses for a while to see what God may be speaking to us in new or different ways though Moses’ life. I have found it all a breath of fresh air, and look forward to what’s coming next.

The work ahead of us as a church is seeking God for what God has called us to do as this body of Christ, there are 2 questions before us. How do we, the members and friends of Stuart– Mt. Vernon, live out making disciples for the transformation of the world? How do we, live being a loving community strengthening ourselves and extending beyond our four walls meeting the needs of others. I pray you will pray with me as we seek God for the answers to these questions. While we seek these answers, I have come to understand that environment and attitude makes a difference. I invite you to join me in making an environment, and an attitude of JOY! I like to call it having “Jesus Joy”

Lets BE HAPPY and celebrate where God has brought us from. Let’s be happy about the members and friends we gather with. And let us say & do things to make one another happy.

Let’s BE EXCITED about what God is doing in the life of the church right now. Let’s get together, and have fun. Do God’s work on loving, and helping others.

Let’s BE GITTY about what god is preparing to do, a the way in which God is going to open windows, doors, hearts, and minds. Do mighty great things that we will have the blessed opportunity to testify about.

Until these things come to reality, let us be in an attitude of Joy, thankfulness, expectation, and FAITH! Praising God continually for the great things God has done. If we don’t have “Jesus Joy” who who will? Amen & Amen!!

Loving God Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength

Pastor LaTonya