GCI members Lloyd and Mary Elwell, leaders in GCI’s congregation in Rochester, NY, founded a ministry in January this year that they call Hidden Pearls. Its mission is to reach out to cognitively-delayed people and their families in the area surrounding their church building, to help them comprehend the gospel and to provide pathways for them to be included in all aspects of Church life.
According to the Elwells (pictured at right), “Our thinking was to reach out to and disciple both the cognitively-delayed and their families.” In ministering to this focus group, Mary and Lloyd emphasize all aspects of Christian life based on personal experience—their youngest son is cognitively-delayed and Mary is involved professionally with the cognitively-delayed. Their oldest son also brings to the ministry the perspective of a sibling.
At first, the Elwells envisioned that their focus group would come to their church. They prepared brochures and began passing them out to agencies and other contacts in the community. In January they started to hold meetings but found it difficult to get participants to the church. Scheduling of staff and availability of transportation was a problem, so they changed their strategy. After receiving permission, they began holding the meetings at a group home that serves this focus group. Now they have a small group with all six housemates in the home participating (they are pictured below participating in one of the small group meeting learning activities).
Each meeting has a “remember phrase” that sums up the main theme of the lesson. During the meeting there are discussions, questions are answered, and there is lots of fun and a snack. One participant has closed the meeting with prayer on several occasions. Often the group home staff sits in and helps. Several have commented on the small group to staff at other group homes. The Elwells hope to see the number of small groups serving this focus community multiply.