God’s Choice Canfield
It’s been too long since Shirley asked us to write something about our location of God’s Choice. I apologize to Shirley for this delay.
Pastor Shirley asked us to provide Highlights of the last three months but for our first write up I feel led to share our whole story to this point. It is my hope that our story will encourage others to keep trying even when things seem hopeless. God will bless your ministry; more than you could ever imagine. He may just test your faith and resolve first, and maybe from time to time along the way.
Our First Attempt
The Midway Mennonite congregation in Columbiana Ohio, after having Pastor Shirley preach, decided they wanted to open a God’s Choice. Midway’s church building/meeting house, is not readily accessible to handicap individuals, so another site was sought out.
Several other area churches offered to help and it was decided to utilize the Upper Room facilities. Their church offered an ideal location with easy access. However, we had a hard time getting any participation from local Special Needs/Disabilities agencies or families. After several months with little success it was decided to temporarily shut down and regroup. We felt God was calling us to start this type of ministry, so we met and decided to change the location to a church closer to the Mahoning County agencies. We did this because we had heard most of the agencies didn’t want to travel too far, but did like the idea of a Church that would minister to there Individuals.
Second Attempt/ Success
After an extensive search and much discussion and prayer, the Presbyterian Church in Canfield Ohio was chosen as a place to reopen. Their Pastor was very gracious and welcomed us with open arms. We had cards made up, to pass out, advertising the new location and talked to members of DD in Mahoning County. We opened our doors In September of 2016.
The first couple weeks seemed just like before, with nobody but the volunteers showing up. But God was not ready for us to give up, and soon provided us a surprise of a bus full of Special Needs/Disabilities (SND) Individuals. Too my surprise, I knew several of them from playing Santa Clause at their Christmas Party . The agency that was bringing them was only able to bring one bus each time but had enough interest for two buses, so they alternated each week. This was an answer to prayer and a Praise The Lord Moment for us. GOD’S CHOICE CANFIELD was a reality.
Having visited, East Liverpool to visit with the God’s Choice there, were we witnessed several of their SND individuals taking an active part in the singing and playing music. So that inspired us to invite anyone who may want to assist in leading music to come forward during the time of singing. Surprisingly most of our SND individuals came forward to help. Talking with a couple of them afterwards, I discovered that some of them played the guitar. So I told them to bring them and they could help by playing during the time of singing.
The next week we had two guitar players and a harmonica player. What fun and enthusiasm this brought to the service. I thanked one of the guitarist and received a huge smile and a thank you for letting me play. I told him he could play every week if he wanted; “Really”, He said, with a huge smile. Now, still to this day he brings his guitar to play along. Now every week we have possibly two or three guitar players, sometimes a harmonica player, and several tambourine or Maraca shakers. This makes for a very lively time of worshiping. We are not always on the same page but we make a joyful noise to the Lord.
We meet each week on Monday. Our service originally was to start at 5 pm. But after several weeks of our group showing up late, and even once showing up after we had closed up and were ready to walk out, believing no body was coming. We realized that our service time needed to change. So Now we advertise that we start at 6pm but often don’t get started till 6:30pm.
Early on in our ministry as God’s Choice, one of our Volunteers over heard the SND individuals talking, One said to the other;” I LOVE MY CHURCH”. What a great affirmation of this ministry that God has lead us to.
Our group has continued to flourish, the agency that could only bring one bus at a time, soon managed to get enough bus drivers and caregivers to bring two buses most every week. We also have a couple families that bring there SND individuals with them (including children). Many weeks we leave surprised and blessed by things we see, hear and experience that just blow us away.
We have had many special programs and times of worship. This past summer, the Presbyterian Church that hosts us, had three different youth groups come and live in the church for a week. They spent time working at service projects in the community. All three chose to extend their stay to be a part of our worship service. God Blessed these services in a very special way. Many of the youth took time to get to know our SND individuals and one group even offered special music for us. Everyone had a great time. One of the groups even sent the host church a thank you letter. Included in this letter was the statement that “God’s Choice was the highlight of their week”.
Midway invited the Gods Choice Church to our annual “Galilean Service” that we hold at the one of our Midway members home. They have a pond and a pavilion, were we can hold our service and share a carry in meal. For this service though we opted to have hot-dogs and hamburgers, to limit the choices and simplify things for everyone. It was at this service; that we had two of our SND individuals, baptized. Another, “PRAISE THE LORD” moment.
Also at this service by the pond, we had a puppet show, for our worship service message. We conducted the worship service in the God’s Choice style. Everyone, spent extra time afterwards visiting, fishing and watching the birds fly around. We are already anticipating doing this again this year. This time we anticipate 3 baptisms from our God’s Choice Group.
Another special service was having a guest (Bryan Moyer Suderman) who is a song writer, singer, and comedian. He shared with us his music while playing a guitar and teaching us to sing his songs and providing accompaniment for our usual songs with a bit of a flare added in. For this service we invited each of the churches that support us and any friends and family that wanted to attend.
These special services have helped us to grow our volunteer base. As well as to increase involvement of the caregivers and families that attend. We have been very fortunate to have as many volunteers as we do. There is enough help in the kitchen to allow volunteers to take time off when they need to. We also enjoy the help provided by the church janitor and his wife, who have now become regular volunteers, although we have our own volunteer that heads up those duties as well.. The janitor’s wife has been active at being our second piano player. In addition we now have three individuals that are capable and willing to lead the worship service. Typically the service is lead by our leader but I take over one week each month and our third is available on an as needed basis. God has really blessed us with our volunteers.
Volunteers? and Caregivers?
The caregivers have been a real blessing to us as well. Sometimes it is hard to draw a line between caregivers and volunteers. The leader of the agency that attends each week, is very active and supportive. Her along with another caregiver or two often (most every week) bring our service to a close with a song of praise. We then end with a closing prayer that is offered up from a caregiver that introduced herself as a pastor of the streets, when she first started coming. These ladies have a very dynamic worship style that is different to that of a Mennonite Church. It is a very welcome and exciting mixture for all who attend. Typically after the prayer we conclude by singing “And the Church Said Amen” while walking around greeting each other.
Our services also include a time of prayer for any needs or praises that the group wish to share. This time of prayer has transformed into many of our SND individuals coming forward and praying individually for their caregivers, prayer concerns, and anything else they wish to share. There prayers are not always fully understood by everyone but it is obvious that they are heart felt prayers. Sometimes it is very difficult keeping this from going on too long. It could be just one sharing or a line may form each waiting to say their own prayer. Sometimes, the same person will say two or three prayers in one service. The care givers and volunteers are always told “Thank You” and “I love you” during this time of sharing.
We have had many opportunities to pray for very special requests. Cancer, Hospitalizations, and other injuries. We even had a family link to one of the people injured on the ride at the Ohio State Fair. On one occasion, we were asked to pray for a SND individual that was diagnosed with cancer. Without an invitation many of the SND individuals and caregivers along with volunteers swarmed (gathered) around this person and we prayed for her. Today she is doing very well. Praise God most of these prayer concerns have brought about amazing healing.
If I were to offer any advice, it would be simply “Step Back and Let God”. When you do this amazing things seem to happen. Trying to be to rigid can hinder the work of God. Sometimes this is hard, and sometimes you do need to keep things under control. Just let things happen and be prepared for whatever does happen. When those unexpected things happen, that is when you will be blessed the most.
Feel free to come and Enjoy our service at anytime. You, will be met with a warm greeting, and if you want suggestions, everyone will be willing to share on their experiences.
Volunteer at God’s Choice Canfield.