Bill Truebenbach, JCM Program Coordinator, shares how the JCM volunteers in Niles, Illinois, worked to serve present and future JCM participants’ needs:
I always enjoy visiting the the simplified “Worship at the Cross” service held by St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Niles, Illinois. Pastor Nathan Cordes and the Jesus Cares Ministries volunteers are committed to sharing God’s Word with as many people as possible.
St. Matthew’s JCM program started a few years ago. In the fall of 2009, JCM was contacted by a member of St. Matthew’s. He had attended a JCM workshop and inquired what it would take to start a simplified worship at his church. After we connected with Pastor Cordes, a date was set for me to demonstrate the service to the congregation and encourage the start of a JCM program. St. Matthew’s first simplified worship service took place January 2010. Volunteers from St. Matthew’s invited individuals with special needs in the area to attend, and 16 people with special needs came the first night, along with 10 caregivers and 20 members from St. Matthew’s.
The story could end there—that the congregation was willing to serve people with developmental disabilities who could come to St. Matthew’s—but it doesn’t.
The JCM volunteers served an average of 15 people each time they held a service, but it bothered Pastor Cordes and the volunteers that there were others they could serve. However, because the church was not handicap accessible, it was almost impossible to invite people who needed walkers or wheelchairs. Many of the JCM participants lived at the same location, and each time “Worship at the Cross” was held, several people were left behind. St. Matthew’s wanted to change that.
The volunteers worked with the care providers from where many of the JCM participants lived to find an alternate place to worship. In January of 2012, St. Matthew’s held their first JCM program at Golfview, which serves people who have developmental disabilities. Their attendance tripled, with 60 participants, caregivers and volunteering attending. What a blessing!
Pastor Cordes realizes there are still ways St. Matthew’s can continue to serve more people in their community, but appreciates the response to one change in their program. They took the time to look at some of the physical needs of people they could serve and found a solution. The volunteers at St. Matthew’s are excited and willing to do what they can to share the Good News.