Minnesota UMC Conference Celebrates Women Living Out the Gospel

The Minnesota Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church presented the Harry Denman Evangelism Awards to two individuals in May. The following article appeared on their website.

Rev. Faith Totushek accepts the Denman Award from Rev. Fred Vanderwerf.

…These shining examples of United Methodists making a difference in their communities and across Minnesota by living out our gospel imperatives to grow in love of God and neighbor, reach new people, and heal a broken world. Here’s a look at each of the recipients and their contributions:

Denman Evangelism Award: Rev. Faith Totushek and Fabiola Rivera, Grace UMC and Yom Kippur Iglesia Methodista, St. Cloud
Since Rev. Faith Totushek began serving Grace UMC, she has fostered key cross-cultural relationships, including with Fabiola Rivera, which led to Spanish-speaking visitors expressing interest in the church. Just as these relationships were developing, a hurricane hit Puerto Rico, which led to an influx of Spanish-speakers migrating to the St. Cloud area. Grace UMC responded to the community need with bedding, towels, and household supplies.
Two years ago this spring, Rivera and her husband Juan launched a Hispanic Saturday dinner church and Bible study at Grace UMC, where 20-40 people gather to break bread and be in community.

Rev. Faith Totushek (second from right) and Fabiola Rivera (fifth from right) celebrate at a Hispanic Heritage Month event.

Rivera holds a deep-seated passion for serving others, particularly those who are new to the country and may feel isolated or disconnected. By partnering with Grace UMC, local organizations, community groups, and the church’s food shelf, she has established a comprehensive support system—of both spiritual guidance and practical assistance—that meets the needs of newcomers and their families. Rivera believes that by building relationships based on mutual respect and empathy, she can effectively share the message of God’s love and redemption.

Inclusion of the Hispanic community has spilled over into Grace UMC worship services. The scriptures, communion liturgy, and songs are shared in both English and Spanish. Congregants can read a Spanish translation of the sermon.

Rev. Dr. Fred Vanderwerf, who presented the award, said that Totushek’s greatest contribution to evangelism efforts at Grace UMC has been her intentional commitment to supporting Latino people in leadership. In the church office, in the Bible study ministry, and in the flourishing church food shelf, new life has come forth under Latino leadership.

Totushek readily admits: “It’s hard. It’s not easy. It takes energy to be in community cross-culturally, but it’s worth it!”

Armanda Vanderheiden accepts the Denman Award from Rev. Fred Vanderwerf.

Denman Evangelism Award: Armanda Vanderheiden, Christ UMC, Rochester

In 2023, Armanda Vanderheiden—a member of Christ UMC in Rochester—started a ministry for women called Tea & Tacos to highlight female voices in theology and to cultivate strong intergenerational relationships. The Saturday morning gathering regularly includes 10 to 12 people of all ages for discussions. She also holds monthly social or outreach events. Tea and Tacos has welcomed women beyond Christ UMC, who are drawn to the discussion topics and the supportive community that Vanderheiden fosters.

In 2023, Vanderheiden also organized a Teen/Tween Pride after-party during Rochester Pride weekend. She partnered with a local arcade to host the event and reached out to LGBTQ+ affirming congregations in Rochester to help sponsor and staff the gathering. More than 70 youth attended the after-party in a safe and welcoming space, and a donation of $500 was made to the Trevor Project through ticket sales and church support.

Vanderheiden’s heart for creating safe and inclusive spaces reflects the radical welcome of Jesus. She understands the value of personal invitations, trust, loving acceptance, and creating physical welcoming spaces. She is not afraid to speak openly about her faith and her love for Jesus, and she understands the value of listening as a form of evangelism. These safe spaces and loving relationships have made a tangible impact at Christ UMC and in the greater Rochester community.

This article originally appeared at https://www.minnesotaumc.org/newsdetail/awards-given-for-evangelism-faith-professions-healing-a-broken-world-18382910. It has been reprinted with permission.

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