God’s Choice Church – Canfield
Several churches continue to support the God’s Choice Church a ministry for people with special needs. Pastor Shirley Elosh is the founder. This vision for ministry grew out of her own special needs son, Jonathan. There are now 14 churches operating in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan and one in Africa. The ministry continues to grow with 2 or more potential locations.
We are also blessed to have volunteers from several churches, including Canfield Presbyterian, Common Ground, and Midway Mennonite. Attendance is 50 – 60 including volunteers, caregivers and the clients. I know all of us can say we are truly blessed knowing this group of people. Each week we see people growing in love for God, each other, their caregivers and their God’s Choice Church family. Each week we see people standing in line to offer their prayers and expressions of love. We see one or two new people coming each month. Some return and some do not. Unfortunately, there is limited transportation available from their facility, so that can affect attendance. Others have moved into different locations and can no longer attend.
One of the highlights of the year was in December, Scout troop #116 visited God’s Choice. There were approximately 44 scouts, boys and girls, plus many of the parents. The troop provided us with cake for dessert and handed out Christmas gifts to the people. Dan Kloos is the scout leader and he reported the scouts had a wonderful time. We also enjoyed having mission groups from three Presbyterian churches visit this summer. The youth from the mission groups really got involved in the service and were alway willing to help with the singing. We loved having them with us.
This ministry is a wonderful non-traditional outreach. What a privilege it is for us to serve God in this ministry. We present Jesus in a unique way that special needs people can understand. The highlight again this year was our Galilean Service at the home of Ralph and Doris Witmer. We gather around their lake for our worship service. The Galilean Service finished with the baptism of two people. I had the honor of baptizing, Richard and Paul. A couple of weeks later, God’s Choice returned to the lake and we baptized another man, Reynaldo. He was unable to attend the day of the Galilean service.
I want to thank the Canfield Presbyterian Church for all their love and support. Your church is just perfect for our services and we so much want to thank you for all you do for God’s Choice. Special thanks to David Goddard for setting up the tables and piano every week. Thank you to Sherri Goddard for playing the piano two times each month.
We continue to look for volunteers to help with meal preparation, clean up, and other jobs. Volunteers do not need to be present each week, just help when you are available. In conclusion, I say, “Come and be blessed.”
PS: If you would like to have your church’s End of year report published here, Just send it to [email protected] and I post it on the web site.
Gods Choice Cove Run Highlights
- Over the last three months, what “glorious moments” has your ministry experienced?
- We’ve had a change in leadership in our kitchen staff to a more team-oriented model rather than a single “overseer.” We saw inherent problems with that model, which drove some of the volunteers away. It has since changed and we’ve seen God bring some of the kitchen volunteers back.
- The menus have also changed for the better to be healthier as well as more cost-effective. The girls have implemented a “summer” and “winter” two-menu system that really will work and save cost. As a result, we’ve had more houses ask how they could help than ever before. It’s amazing to see how little changes make such a deep impact.
- We’ve experienced a little more growth and more reach into the community.
- Have you had any learning experiences, good or bad, which may help others?
- We learned more about the causes that our special needs participants and their caregivers care about, such as the Autism Day, Special Olympics, and “Spread the word to end the [“R”] word” campaign. I think it is absolutely vital to involve the God’s Choice volunteers and the host church in these community events whether or not they’re attached to the Christian church/movement at all. Why? Because it’s a way to learn, a way to interact, a way to meet many others who aren’t attending God’s Choice because they don’t even know about it, a way to minister to more lost people, etc. It’s an extension of service. It’s easy to sit back and let them come to you and the church, but we must also go to them. Jesus didn’t tell us to “sit” and make disciples when at church, He told us to “Go, and make disciples…” That’s a huge learning experience and it’s paying dividends both in communication and our spiritual growth.
- Training of new volunteers is important, and we have learned that we need to schedule it bi-annually at the very least. Volunteers, especially teenagers, come in without having been through our initial training and we expect them to understand. They don’t. Train often. Make time for it.
- We learned from a recent Caregiver Meeting that their loved ones and “clients” don’t like to be called “clients.” I’m sure this is a regional thing, but I was informed that the word around this area is “participant.” To be frank, I never liked the word “client,” and we’ve since stopped using it. Reeducation and listening are two things we must do for our individual God’s Choice ministries. We tailor likewise if it makes sense. Thankfully, no one was offended, just wanted to let me know. I was so very thankful and gracious to them for bringing it up (which was the whole point of the meeting). As a result, we’ve stopped using “mainstream” and “client” and began using other regionally accepted terms.
- Another good thing was re-branding God’s Choice Church to God’s Choice Ministries at Cove Run. The reason is because too many from the community were disassociating God’s Choice from Cove Run, when we’re partners in this endeavor. People have asked all sorts of strange questions: “Is that a church that thinks its people are perfect or what?” Yes, that happened, a couple of times. They see “perfect in the eyes of God” on our sign and thought that our people think we’re sinless. Not kidding. Blew me away. Or, “We thought there were two churches operating in the same building.” To clear the confusion, we’re re-branding it to God’s Choice Ministries and changing all of our signs to reflect this necessary change. I would assert that to call God’s Choice a “church” disassociates the host church from the ministry to special needs persons because, sadly (but it’s a reality), people in America today don’t understand church, so they see a sign that says “God’s Choice Church” and make wild speculations. We want to clear that up and we think this will be a positive change.
- We started to use our own curriculum for the Bible lesson. Since we’re almost two years into this ministry, we felt it time to move away from the manual’s lessons and use our own material that we use for Sunday School for our children. They’re not “better”, they’re simply different and gives a different way of presenting the material in a positive way. We still do the discussion questions at the end – sans the prizes – and the participants love to answer them even without the promise of a prize. 🙂
- What is the average attendance for you weekly? 45, including volunteers
- How many volunteers do you usually have? 5-6 kitchen, 4-7 youth, 1-3 “floaters”
- Please share any stories from your ministry that have stirred your hearts.
- I (Pastor Branden) attended my first Special Olympics basketball tournament this past Saturday. Two years of God’s Choice at Cove Run and I never knew that SO events were open to the public. I just showed up and ended up spending 2.5 hours with well over 100 people (possibly 150+) from the Knights of Columbus to Special Olympics and many volunteers. They asked me to pray for the pizza, and three of the mothers who attend God’s Choice all but forced me to “plug” God’s Choice to the crowd! Needless to say, God used it to spur on this wonderful ministry in our communities.
- Any other thoughts/ideas/events/questions you want to share?
- Not at this time, except to communicate that our God’s Choice Spring Dance this year will be held at the Free Methodist Fairchance Campground (the hall was donated) on Saturday evening, May 19, 2018. 🙂 We’re so excited to see the 2nd anniversary of our annual prom/dance event!
God’s Choice, Growing Fast
Shirley is busy doing God’s work. She started out working with one church in East Liverpool. Today there are 14 locations of God’s Choice special needs churches. Shirley and her family are as surprised as anyone at the growth of God’s Choice. Much of her time is spent setting up the next locations. Training sessions are held at each new location. Volunteers are trained to run the ministry on their own.
Every time I (Ron Wehr) talk to Shirley she is excited about a new inquiry of someone wanting to start a God’s Choice church in their area. Currently God’s Choice is In Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan, and Africa. Only God knows where this ministry will expand. With God’s leading, the Elosh family is willing to go wherever he sends them.
Donations are much appreciated. Shirley receives some travel expenses (mileage) from the Free Methodist. An offering is taken up at every service. These funds go toward supporting the location that they come from. Beyond that funds are needed for office supplies and other expenses. Please consider donating through the “Donate” button in the side bar. More importantly, Shirley asks for prayers to continue finding leadership in each location as well as the overall ministry as well.