HINTON, Iowa | This Sunday will be busier than normal for The Rev. Kolleen Queener, who will lead four services at two churches in two different Northwest Iowa cities.
Many churches in larger cities like Sioux City hold more than one Sunday service to accommodate its worshipers, but smaller Siouxland churches, particularly in rural areas, typically offer a single service. That changes in years, like 2017, when Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday.
"I had double services to plan this week. My kids are coming home. I am trying to clean my house, wrap my presents, so yeah, it is a challenge," Queener said.
Like many pastors for smaller churches, Queener serves two congregations -- Hinton United Methodist Church in Hinton and Merrill-Melbourne United Methodist Church, which is located in rural Plymouth County between Hinton and Merrill.
Queener will conduct regular Sunday morning services at 9 a.m. and 10:30 p.m., then shift gears for Christmas Eve services at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
At Merrill-Melbourne, she noted there often are less than 20 people attending Sunday morning services. After more than seven years as the pastor there, she's noticed Christmas Eve can draw nearly four times that number. Queener said many people travel back to their hometowns and attend church, since that is important to them.
"There is a very strong tradition of Christmas Eve at both churches," she said.
Both candlelight evening services will have worshipers sharing flames across pew to pew. Queener said she won't give a sermon on Christmas Eve. The service will be heavy on scripture reading and holiday songs. She settled on a lineup of eight songs that included "O Come, All Ye Faithful," "Silent Night" and "Away in the Manger."
She said people relish comforting reminders about the birth of Jesus Christ.
"I just like to let the story stand on its own...People want to have what they expect. It is not a time for experimenting," Queener said.
Queener said the only other busier time of the church year comes at Easter.
A few miles farther east in rural Plymouth County, Steven Stoll serves as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, 29014 Lake Ave. Stoll said the annual Christmas children's program will be held during the regular 9:30 a.m. service Sunday morning. Many of the same people will attend a 7 p.m. candlelight service.
He said the Christmas Eve services draw about 130 people, or roughly double a normal Sunday morning.
Stoll said people have expectations for a memorable service, but it doesn't result in a surge of adrenaline for him to specially deliver that evening. He won't polish his sermon longer than normal, saying his usual preparation of 10 to 15 hours will fit well for his Christmas Eve message.
"The (main) story is the fulfillment of the promise by the birth of the child, of the Old Testament prophecy," he said.
In Elk Point, South Dakota, Elk Point Baptist Church Pastor Jesse Hailey said there is no trouble getting enough people to serve in church roles even in a day with two services. Hailey said the pastoral duties over two services isn't anything he remotely dreads.
"It is work that isn't a chore. It is my life, it is what I love to do," he said.
Hailey said the Christmas Eve service will be heavy on reading the nativity story from the Second Chapter of Luke, plus the candle lighting that people enjoy.
"I am a nostalgic guy. It just has a cool effect to it," Hailey said.
Stoll said the Christmas period is taxing. He has weekly Wednesday Advent services along with the Sunday services, and admitted he'll be tired by the end of the long December month on Sunday night.
"You just have to manage your time a little better," he said.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions against North Korea on Friday in response to its latest launch of a ballistic missile that Pyongyang says is capable of reaching anywhere on the U.S. mainland.
The resolution adopted by the council includes sharply lower limits on North Korea's refined oil imports, the return home of all North Koreans working overseas within 24 months, and a crackdown on ships smuggling banned items including coal and oil to and from the country.
But the resolution doesn't include even harsher measures sought by the Trump administration that would ban all oil imports and freeze international assets of the government and its leader, Kim Jong Un.
The resolution, drafted by the United States and negotiated with the North's closest ally China, drew criticism from Russia for the short time the 13 other council nations had to consider the draft, and last-minute changes to the text. Two of those changes were extending the deadline for North Korean workers to return home from 12 months to 24 months — which Russia said was the minimum needed — and reducing the number of North Koreans being put on the U.N. sanctions blacklist from 19 to 15.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said after the vote that "the unity this council has shown in leveling these unprecedented sanctions is a reflection of the international outrage at the Kim regime's actions."
The Security Council has stood united for the 10th time "against a North Korean regime that rejects the pursuit of peace," she said.
President Donald Trump tweeted the 15-0 vote, adding: "The World wants Peace, not Death!"
China's deputy U.N. ambassador, Wu Haitao, said it's "imperative" to pursue a peaceful settlement and resume dialogue and negotiations at an early date, warning that resorting to force "will only lead to disastrous consequences."
Deputy Russian Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov also demanded that key parties display "openness to genuine, meaningful political dialogue." Stressing the importance of "creative approaches," he said that "isolation and pressure must give way to dialogue and talks."
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called for a political solution, "which requires de-escalation and open communication channels now," his spokesman said.
Haley recalled that the previous sanctions resolution approved in September, when combined with earlier measures, would ban over 90 percent of North Korea's exports reported in 2016.
That resolution, adopted in response to North Korea's sixth and strongest nuclear test explosion on Sept. 3, banned North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates. It also banned all textile exports and prohibited any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers — two key sources of hard currency for the northeast Asian nation.
Haley told the council Friday that the new resolution "bans all remaining categories of major North Korean exports — a loss of nearly $250 million in revenue to the regime."
Here are key provisions of the new sanctions:
• The import of refined oil products, including diesel and kerosene that are key to North Korea's economy, is capped at 500,000 barrels a year. That represents a reduction from the 4.5 million barrels North Korea imported in 2016, and a cap of 2 million barrels in September's resolutions. And it means the North's refined oil imports have been cut by 90 percent.
• The import of crude oil is capped at 4 million barrels a year and countries supplying oil are required to provide quarterly reports to the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions on North Korea.
• North Korea is banned from exporting food and agriculture products, machinery, electrical equipment, earth and stones, wood and vessels — and all countries are banned from importing these items.
• All countries are banned from exporting industrial machinery, transportation vehicles, iron, steel and other metals to North Korea.
• All countries must expel North Korean workers and safety monitors by the end of 2019. The resolution expresses concern that earnings from these workers are being used to support the country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. According to the U.S. Mission, there are nearly 100,000 overseas North Korean workers, with about 50,000 in China and 30,000 in Russia.
• U.N. member states are authorized to seize, inspect and impound any ship in their ports or territorial waters suspected of being involved in illegal smuggling and evasion of U.N. sanctions. The resolution expresses "great concern" that North Korea is illegally exporting coal and other prohibited items "through deceptive maritime practices and obtaining petroleum illegally through ship-to-ship transfers."
North Korea's test on Nov. 29 of its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile yet was its 20th launch of a ballistic missile this year, and added to fears that it will soon have a military arsenal that can viably target the U.S. mainland.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the Security Council was sending "a very strong united signal to the North Korean regime that enough is enough — that they must stop their nuclear program and they must stop their intercontinental ballistic missile program."
The new resolution reiterates the Security Council's regret at North Korea's "massive diversion of its scarce resources toward its development of nuclear weapons and a number of expensive ballistic missile programs." It notes that 41 percent of the population is undernourished.
SIOUX CITY | Iowa 4th District Rep. Steve King said Friday he had a productive personal talk with President Donald Trump about the need to block a program that gives undocumented workers who entered the U.S. illegally as children the chance to apply for citizenship.
The Kiron Republican said he and Trump spoke Thursday about DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which King called an "unconstitutional" program set up by former President Barack Obama "for illegal aliens that undermines the rule of law in America."
Starting in 2012, an estimated 1.2 million undocumented young adults were allowed to live and work in the United States. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was barred from deporting those covered to their home countries.
Trump rescinded the program in September and gave the GOP-controlled Congress until March 5 to agree on legislation that would offer similar protections to those covered by DACA.
Minority Democrats were denied a vote earlier this week to take up the program. Republican leaders said they expect compromise legislation to emerge early next year. Trump and Republicans are pushing for additional security at the Mexican border and other immigration steps in exchange for keeping DACA.
"The vast majority of Republicans want to see a DACA solution. They just want to see a DACA solution that's balanced," House Speaker Paul Ryan said.
King, who has long been a hardliner on immigration, said he "encouraged the president to keep the promise, first articulated by candidate Donald Trump on June 16, 2015, to end DACA."
In a news release and accompanying video, King shared policy proposals he would like Trump to address in DACA negotiations in 2018. Those included "making English the official language of the United States; ensuring illegal aliens are not counted by the census for purposes of Congressional apportionment; ending tax deductions taken by employers of illegal aliens; and ending the current practice of granting automatic US citizenship upon birth to the children of illegal aliens."
Back in September, King used his Twitter account to write that Trump would blow up his base of conservative support and have no credibility, if the president takes what King considers a soft stance on immigration.
King retweeted a Tweet linking to an Associated Press story that cited Democratic leaders and read, "BREAKING: Schumer, Pelosi announce deal with Trump to protect young immigrants; will include border security, but no wall."
King then topped that tweet with his own take, writing, "@RealDonaldTrump If AP is correct, Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible."