From the Pastor~
Two years ago, Mark and Laurel Fleming began sharing about a ministry that they had started in their home congregation in Illinois, about being intentional in welcoming children with special needs and their families in their church gatherings.
I believed it was a great idea, but I just did not know how we would ever put this together for ourselves here at Central. It would require a group of members to guide the ministry here at Central. It would involve training “buddies,” volunteers who would be with the children during church activities like Sunday School. These children often have their own signals as to what they need, and buddies must be trained to be aware of those verbal and non-verbal clues. But first of all, this ministry would involve finding and reaching out to families with special needs, not something the church has been very intentional about.
As it turned out, the Holy Spirit led us to Kylynn Kummer. Her spirit in life inspired several dedicated Central members to join the effort, which later was named Kylynn’s Hope Ministry in her memory. Over the past year, the initiative has attracted other families and individuals with special needs, and Meghan Mathis stepped forward to chair the steering committee. It’s marvelous ministry of welcome for all God’s children.
However, to be welcoming also meant dealing with the barriers in our own building. Especially for persons in wheel chairs, the stairs in the education wing presented such a barrier. It could be difficult and potentially hazardous for anyone to carry a person with limited mobility up and down the stairs.
The Kylynn’s Hope steering committee found a solution in the Garaventa Lift Group, which manufactures the Super-Trac, a portable electric tractor lift that can safely transport wheelchair-bound children and adults up and down stairs. It was a much less expensive alternative than installing a vertical wheelchair lift or an elevator. It was demonstrated here on February 1 to a group of 15 members of the steering committee and the church council. The functioning and ease of use of the machine exceeded our expectations were big hits with those that used it.
The cost of the Super-Trac is $12,800. We received a $5000 bequest gift for the lift, and the steering committee applied to the ELCA Office on Disability Ministries for a $5000 grant, which was approved recently.
Thanks to your generous contributions, we have raised sufficient funds to issue a purchase order for the machine, which is required to have the ELCA disburse the funds to us. That is presently being taken care of.
The next phase will be to do some altering of the glass partition between the hallway and the education wing. This is needed to make the use of the Super-Trac easier on those stairways. The expense of that renovation has not yet been determined. We anticipate that it may be $2000 at the most—hopefully, a lot less.
The amazing part for me has been my and the congregation’s growing awareness of just how important it is for us to be intentionally welcoming of these children (adults too) and their families. Just to watch the joy on their faces, as these individuals realize that they are important to the congregation and can participate fully in our activities and for us to see how they give to us a reflection of God’s love. Thus, we are the ones who have been blessed by these children and those who are differently-abled who become part of our ministry in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Keeping Christ Central,
Pastor Rolf G. Morck