First Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, finds joy and unity ministering in diverse ways
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
MT. PLEASANT, Iowa — “Our church’s commitment to Matthew 25 is important to us,” says Ashlynn Beauchamp, a 15-year-old member of First Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. “It gives us the opportunity not just to better ourselves and follow Jesus, but to branch out and work in the world to improve others’ lives, not just our own.”
Together with FPC ruling elders Linda Albright and Lynn Ellsworth, who are members of the church’s Matthew 25 task force, Beauchamp this week shared explanations for how the PC(USA)’s Matthew 25 invitation has helped the church reach out effectively to the surrounding community, including after an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid on a Mt. Pleasant factory five years ago.
In the video above, Ellsworth discusses how IowaWINS, a commission of FPC formed to support area immigrants, helped several members and friends, including Ellsworth, become legal guardians for young people from other countries. Hers, a young man named Jonathan from El Salvador, was detained for three weeks following the raid. Upon first meeting Jonathan, “I knew at the moment I set eyes on that kid I was going to do it, whether it was practical or not, and it’s been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Ellsworth said. While Jonathan is still waiting for an interview that could grant him a green card, “he’s had a job and he just got a better job,” Ellsworth said. “I’m so proud of him — and he calls me mom! It’s just been wonderful.”
“I’ve learned how willing he is to work hard to get what he wants, and how much love he has to give,” Ellsworth added. “He’s like young people everywhere.”
The Sunday after the ICE raid was the first time Albright worshiped at First Presbyterian Church. “The church was full, with several rows of Hispanic families,” she recalled.
Albright said it “took a lot of courage” to leave the church she used to attend and join First Presbyterian Church. “We were looking for an inclusive church and we found one here,” she said. “We joined and never looked back.”
Ellsworth also credits FPC for helping build God’s kin-dom in Mt. Pleasant through its support of PFLAG Mt. Pleasant, an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, their parents and families, and allies. “It’s not really part of our church, but the church has a welcoming statement that welcomes LGBTQ people,” Ellsworth said. “We’re saying, ‘You’re welcome here at the church.’”
“It’s really important to go to a church that’s inclusive,” Beauchamp said. “My family isn’t subject to racism like others, but it hurts to see friends at school not get the love they deserve because they have a small difference.”
Beauchamp said that once each month, the youth “do a small mission project,” such as “praying at the house of a hurting family, picking up trash, making dog toys for All God’s Creatures. Even though the time is short, we try to make it meaningful. We can help even though we’re young.”
“As individuals, we go out into the community,” Albright said, affirming along with the church’s pastor, the Rev. Trey Hegar, that outreach “is in our church’s DNA.”
“It’s part of who we are, and we continue that with Matthew 25. I’m proud of that,” Albright said.
To Hegar, the Matthew 25 movement is a way of “doing the good news instead of talking about the good news. It’s something anyone can participate in no matter where they are in life, in their faith journey or economic situation, or race or health. It’s something that’s the basic foundation of what Christ was teaching his disciples to do. The work is guided by that teaching and by the Golden Rule. How do we negotiate helping someone with enabling them? We use the Golden Rule … This is bigger than us, bigger than the PC(USA) or Christianity. It’s reaching back to the very basics of what Jesus was teaching.”
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