Freeport Mennonite Church (Illinois) rejoices that their building is now fully accessible, on one level. Minister of Community Chris Zettle shares the story of this accomplishment:
Man in a walker approaches level building entrance.
"Our journey began roughly eight years ago. At that time we were without a pastor. We contacted Mark Vincent of Design For Ministry to guide us through challenges we were facing as a congregation.
"One area of concern that emerged was the difficulty our older members had in getting to the basement for fellowship meals and Sunday school classes. Our chair lift intended to offer access to our three levels was in a back stairwell and rarely used.
"Another area of concern was our existing wheelchair ramp. Although sturdy, it was too steep. One of our wheelchair-using members called it a ‘scary’ ride,” as I would help him into the church.
"As the congregation's leadership board looked into options, we undertook an accessibility study. The results were sad, but true: We were not very disability friendly! Nor were we very hospitable to our older attenders. We looked into options of installing an elevator, a new wheelchair ramp, and an accessible restroom. The restroom decision was easy. It was funded and completed in a timely manner.
"The elevator question took much longer. Being an older, rural Mennonite church, we tend to be deliberate in our decision making processes. Providing disability access throughout the building would not be easy, given the layout of the building, not to mention the high cost of an elevator. It was a challenge to know where we could put it that would allow access to all three levels.
Man in wheelchair framed by doorway, with view of washroom sink behind him
"As we explored our options, a vision emerged for a new structure that would house a new kitchen, enable us to host our MCC meat canning project, and facilitate potential outreach through other programs. A capital campaign was launched, and through much prayer, God’s faithfulness, and many sacrificial hours from members of the congregation, the money came in to move forward on a building project. We celebrated the project’s completion and dedication on October 16, 2011.
"We are now fully accessible from one level, with access to our new multi-purpose room, kitchen, and restrooms. We can also enter the pre-existing sanctuary, library, offices, and several classrooms, all with no steps!
"Although we have a nice mix of age groups, it sure is nice to see the older members of the congregation not struggle getting in and out of church! We continue to look for ways that God can use our new facility for outreach purposes.
"Although the last five years of the building process have been a struggle at times, it is a blessing to see the results of our labors. Entering the building and getting around inside are easier. We are grateful that people with disabilities and age-related challenges can now come without hindrance and worship the Lord Jesus Christ with us."