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Pastor Les Green

The Rev. Les Green stands in the sanctuary of the United Methodist Church in Forest City. 

The Rev. Leslie "Les" Green's 40 years of ministry have taken him from South Africa to Forest City. 

Green, pastor at the United Methodist Churches in Forest City and Crystal Lake since 2016, was born and bred in South Africa, the descendant of settlers from England who arrived in 1820. 

“I felt the call of God all my life," said Green. “I never really considered anything else (than becoming a pastor)." 

He was born in the early 1950s during apartheid and grew up in white society, which was totally separate from black South Africa.

By the time Green enrolled at Rhodes University, protest against apartheid was stirring there. 

The students and professors participated in marches and were “in the front line of the struggle for freedom," he said. 

The fight against apartheid “really started as a student movement,” Green said, noting young black South Africans were demanding improvements in the education they were receiving, which only prepared them to be laborers. 

Green, who was studying English, speech and drama at Rhodes, transferred to a seminary and was ordained in the Methodist church in 1978.

He said the Methodist church also had become engaged in the struggle against apartheid.

The Methodist Church of South Africa has its roots in the British Methodist Church.

The church went from having entirely white leadership under apartheid to majority black leadership, which more accurately reflects the demographics of the country, after apartheid ended in the early 1990s. 

This meant the worship style became more African than English. 

Green said there’s "just an amazing natural spontaneity” in the worship services.

Green's wife, Sandy, also was born in South Africa. Their middle daughter was offered a full-ride swimming scholarship to Iowa State University in 2000.

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She married a farmer and they settled in Iowa. 

During one of his visits from South Africa to see her, Green introduced himself to United Methodist leaders in Iowa, who began offering him pastoral positions. 

He accepted one of them and because the pastor of a church in suburban Council Bluffs in 2010.

Six years later, he was re-assigned to Forest City.

“This is our first time ever in any kind of small town,” Green said.

“We found the people to be really warm and responsive.”

In a smaller town like Forest City, it’s “a lot easier to make an impact on the community,” he said.

The church as an after-school program called Faith Village that provides “snacks and fun and music and a message,” he said.

Sunday services also are broadcast on local radio. 

Forest City has a strong ministerial association, so there's lots of cooperation among the various denominations, according to Green. 

He said churches do things together, such as an outdoor block party and an ecumenical Good Friday service at Waldorf University. 

Green's parishioners organized a celebration last month in honor of the 40th anniversary of his ordination. 

"We are blessed to be here," Green said. 

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