2018 Spring Newsletter
God has given us a clear vision for what he wants, and it is all about relationships.
It is exciting to see God at work in the many Friendship groups, but it is much more than a scheduled gathering. The relationships that have formed make an eternal impact on both our friends with intellectual disabilities, and the volunteer companions that become their friends.
Building authentic Christian community is about investing ourselves in relationships with God and each other and allowing God to change us. These changes will influence every relationship in our lives; with roommates, spouses, children, and the people with whom we work. Jim and Pat Palecek are part of the Friendship group at King of Glory Lutheran Church. Jim shared that his involvement in the weekly group has been critical for his own spiritual growth. He has been shown the unconditional love of God through the adult friends with disabilities. Both Jim and Pat agree that being involved in this group together has been beneficial for them as a married couple.
We are seeing more of these relationships with our friends with disabilities extend far beyond the Friendship groups. This was evident with those who celebrated their friendships at the Night to Shine Proms held on Valentine’s Day weekend. The Tim Tebow Foundation sponsored these events in 537 churches from around the world and honored approximately 90,000 honored guests with the help of 175,000 friends and volunteers! Two of these events were here in the Indianapolis area.
Christian community looks beyond its own group for ways to connect with others in the larger church congregation, and beyond. Terry Turner shared with us why he is involved with the Friendship group at Brandywine Community Church; “It’s fun… and God called me to do it.” Terry was in an accident that left him in a coma for three weeks. Afterwards, he went through weeks of therapy with others who had head injuries. Terry was a bit slow on his left side but able to talk just fine. Others were much worse off. He asked himself, “How did I survive this? It must be for something!”
Later, he was invited to the Friendship group that met at his church. He said, “I checked it out and it changed my life.”
Terry later attended a SonRise Retreat with his friend David, from the Brandywine Friendship group. He was amazed by the number of people willing to spend a weekend with someone with a disability. He reflected, “The Holy Spirit was there the whole time…Our friends with disabilities prayed like they were theologians…I had to ask God to help me pray.”
Terry continues his friendship with David in their Friendship group, but they do all sorts of things together. David loves to have Terry to pray with him. Terry said, “He will shake the tar out of me and ask if I will pray with him.” They frequently attend church together, and sometimes afterward, they stop by a nursing home to visit and pray with the folks that live there. Their friendship started in a weekly Friendship group, but it is bearing fruit far beyond the group. The weekly gathering is a great point of entry, but Terry and David, along with many others involved in Friendship groups, are living in authentic Christian community like we read about in the book of Acts.Acts of Service have become an important component of community building in many of the Friendship groups. Several times a year, the Friendship group at Messiah Lutheran Church in Brownsburg host a food drive to stock the shelves of their food pantry. The weekly group at St. Andrews Lutheran Church fills Easter eggs with candy for the church’s Easter egg hunt, which is an outreach into their community.
The Friendship group at Outlook Christian Church has done service projects, such as making welcome baskets for Fair Haven that provides a comfortable place for families to stay who have loved ones in the hospital. They also made school supply kits for a Christian ministry that provides tutoring for an inner city school. The group also assembled bags of crayons for children in Nairobi.
Events are a great way to raise awareness for your ministry in your church. Many times church members don’t even know their church has a Friendship group.
We enjoy visiting all the Friendship group Christmas parties, and enjoying the meals and deserts. Cross of Grace Lutheran always puts on a good party. They invite their members to help with the event and all can see first-hand the impact the ministry is having on their church.
Summer Friendship Gatherings are events that can help churches raise awareness before Friendship groups start up in the fall! This summer, eight churches will host Gatherings for 13 Friendship groups. If your church is involved with one of these Gatherings, be sure to attend and invite your friends to join you to experience your Friendship group. This year’s theme for the Gatherings is from Ephesians 2:10 and personalized; “In Christ, I am God’s Masterpiece.” We will spend three evenings learning how in Jesus we are recreated, motivated and empowered for the good works God has planned for us. All participants need to register. Call for an application, 317-646-5067, or download one from our website under resources.
Woodcrafts can be used for a special event to help illustrate Bible lessons and introduce more members of your church to your Friendship community. Connection Ministries has woodcraft kits available that were left from the camp ministry. We want to give a giant shout-out to the men that designed and built these kits. Over the past few months, more than 300 kits have been distributed to Friendship groups.
Our Vision for the churches with Friendship groups is that we will be authentic Christian communities that reach out beyond our present communities with the love of Jesus, we will truly embrace our friends with intellectual disabilities along with their families and caregivers, and that the Lord will bless our labor and add to our numbers daily those who are being saved (taken from Acts 2:47).
Your Financial Support is Needed!
Please consider making a gift today! It costs Connection Ministries about $5,000 to put on each Gathering.
This would be impossible if it were not for your support.
Gifts can be made online at https://connection-ministries.org/support/
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