By Jo Ella C. Mohr
FORT MILL—Forever Friends, an outreach ministry of Grace Community United Methodist Church, celebrated 10 years of ministry Sept. 20.
It was an amazing birthday party complete with singing, dancing, balloons, pictures, videos and, of course, a present for everyone. This year everyone received a special T-shirt commemorating 10 years in ministry.
Grace began this ministry to reach out to teens and adults with disabilities. It is an opportunity to meet friends and have social interaction in a safe and loving environment. The group meets the third Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. for contemporary worship and praise. It is a time of fellowship where everyone experiences unconditional love and acceptance.
The programs have a different theme each month presented in a way the teens and adults can understand and identify with. The program is always faith-based and taught through uplifting songs, interactive games and skits, all of which the group can participate in. Special guests often come and spotlight the program bringing extra joy and excitement to what we are doing. Past guests have included Chubby Checker the Charlotte ice hockey mascot, Homer from the Charlotte Knights, Sir Purr from the Carolina Panthers, Larry Sprinkle from WCNC television, and Santa Claus always finds us in December bringing a special present for everyone.
One of the favorite programs is talent night, when the teens and adults share their gifts and talents with all. There is nothing more wonderful than watching individuals step forward in complete confidence to share with others what God has given them. Their hearts are pure and wide open for God.
Forever Friends has always been an opportunity for those who are often overlooked, misunderstood and unaccepted in our communities. These individuals live in every community, city and county of every state. It is often difficult for a family with disability needs to find a place of worship where their needs can be met and each family member embraced.
Students with disabilities age out of the public school system at age 21. They have difficulty finding ways to integrate into adult life, jobs, skill training and social interaction. The State Department of Disability and Special Needs does a terrific job of providing services in every county and are to be commended for their service and support. There is, however, more that can be done in our communities to add and expand what they already provide.
Would your church be interested in learning more about this community outreach ministry? We would like to help you. Visit our website or contact our church office (www.come2grace.org or 803-548-4078) and they will connect you with the right person. Forever Friends is an amazing opportunity to reach out in love and watch what God will do. It is one of easiest and most enjoyable home mission efforts. One in which the entire family can participate and completely financially affordable. It becomes an ongoing program and volunteers can participate whenever they can and in whatever way they can. Churches can adapt a plan that fits the personality and gifts in their particular church.
Grace Community began Forever Friends when we were a plant church with 50 members and no church building. We didn’t have many financial resources but we did have two women with adult children with disabilities. They knew it was a great need in all communities. Our church family prayed and believed God had a plan for us. We borrowed a fellowship hall in a sister church, advertised and stepped out on faith. The very first meeting of Forever Friends brought us 150 new friends. Our church has been richly blessed in many different ways, and I know your church will, as well.
Every month, Forever Friends are celebrated and accepted for who they are. Our friends have so much to give and so much to teach us about God’s unconditional love and what faith in action looks like. We are Forever Friends—and friends forever.