Slate Hill Mennonite Church near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has found that a significant part of their mission in their community is to be with people from the Cumberland Vista Group Home for adults with developmental disabilities.
The congregation orchestrates monthly events to strengthen ties between the people of Slate Hill and these neighbors. Church members join in various events and activities with the residents of Cumberland Vista throughout the year, including picnics, bonfires, and monthly church services planned with the needs of those with intellectual disabilities in mind.
Ulli Klemm told about a recent fun event in the Slate Hill newsletter:
“From traveling country fairs to full-blown amusement parks, most of us, young and old, have enjoyed carousels, ridden a few roller coasters, and have ventured into a few haunted houses. But for most of the residents at the Cumberland Vista group home, a recent visit in late June was the first time they ever visited an amusement park.
Ulli Klemm (right) and friends from the Cumberland Vista Group home enjoy the log ride
"Unsure how the event would unfold, several volunteers from the congregation took the plunge and scuttled off to a local amusement park with Cumberland Vista residents. Packed lunches and discounted ride tickets in hand, the gang arrived at the park when it opened. They divided into two groups -- one for those folks game for faster rides and the other group to enjoy the slower rides.
“The amusement park visit was a godsend for one family whose mom was still recovering from a surgery. She was especially glad that her daughter, Sue, could enjoy a day with her friends. From train and ski-lift rides, to swaying through the breeze on the big swing, taking boat rides and getting soaked on a few water rides, the day could not have been more enjoyable. Additionally, the crew enjoyed several musical and magic shows, and of course, the international food court was a must for supper! And, by 9:00 p.m., the gang was back home again.”
What a fun activity for Slate Hill Mennonite and their friends from Cumberland Vista! I would have been game to go along, too.
Not every congregation has a nearby amusement park, but every congregation does have members and neighbors with disabilities and limitations. Whether the disability is hearing loss, limited mobility, autism, Down syndrome, a form of mental illness, or something else, opportunities for community-building and engagement exist. The challenge is to find that place where our passion connects us with the mission of God in the world and local community.
Kathy Nofziger Yeakey is Executive Director for Anabaptist Disabilities Network.