PHOENIX (Mennonite Mission Network) — A congregational vision that began more than 30 years ago has created an intentional community for people with developmental disabilities today. Believers, volunteers and neighbors of all ages and ability levels are making the community work.
In January, individual members of Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Ariz., purchased a building to serve as a men's house, the second building in the Goldensun community. The Goldensun men's house needed painting, minor repairs and major cleaning.
Trinity also is the official host for SOOP (Service Opportunities for Older People) and DEO (Discipleship, Encounter, Outreach), Mennonite Mission Network-connected programs in the Phoenix area that volunteer with Goldensun. According to Shane Hipps, Trinity pastor, these ministries have been integrated into the life of the congregation but operate independently of the congregation.
Three SOOP volunteers at the Phoenix location worked hard to get the house ready for occupancy by the end of January. Several volunteers, including SOOP co-cordinator Dottie Yoder, selected furnishings suitable for a man's house and groomed the landscape features around the house.
There are currently two houses — one for males, and one for females — that are functioning with people with a range of abilities. The women’s residence has housed six women and three DEO volunteers since September 2005. The men’s house began with a SOOP couple as volunteer residents.
For people of the Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference who have been investing in the Goldensun vision since the early 1970s, the community is addressing a long-time area need. In the 1970s, Trinity Mennonite Church provided a day-school program for children with developmental disabilities called Glenhaven. When states were required to include programming for children of all needs in the early 1980s, the church’s program was canceled.
Trinity kept the mission in their hearts as they began focusing on organizations to sponsor their vision to meet the need for adult homes. West Coast Mennonite Central Committee responded 20 years later to their call, and Goldensun was born.
According to Peter Wiebe, former Trinity pastor, Goldensun has created a prominent presence for the church through the integration of volunteers, church members and neighbors. Goldensun has also opened an MCC thrift store in Phoenix that helps the Goldensun program gradually become self-sufficient financially.
“It made the church visible during the week, a testament to a church alive in the city,” Wiebe said.
Leroy Willems, Goldensun executive director, said the ministries Trinity hosts are the fruit of many who labored for the vision to provide a community where all ability levels are valued.
According to Hipps, Trinity has been blessed to be a part of the programs.
“Those who are cognitively impaired develop an incredibly intense emotional and spiritual vitality, the same way a blind person develops acute hearing. That vitality introduces us to Jesus in a new way,” he said.
The intentional community that exists through Goldensun provides Adam Rutherford with the assistance he needs while giving him responsibilities that play an important role in unit living. Rutherford, 24, recently moved from his parents' home into Goldensun. He is expected to attend classes during the day and keep his portion of cooking and cleaning.
The community pushes Rutherford to look beyond himself. Last week the men’s house hosted the women’s house for a meal and social night. Rutherford helped prepare the macaroni for dinner.
SOOP co-coordinator Roland Yoder recently recruited Rutherford to pack food boxes at Westside Food Bank with a group of SOOP participants and church members.
When Yoder pulled up in front of Goldensun just after 8 a.m., he found Rutherford eagerly waiting to go.
At the food bank, Rutherford and the others found their place along the assembly line packing a dozen kinds of food such as juice, rice, canned vegetables and powered milk in each box. Rutherford placed a box of spaghetti in each box that passed in front of him along the conveyer belt.
In two hours at Westside Food Bank, they packed about 1,000 boxes with food to be delivered throughout the city and state. Rutherford was excited that his work was benefiting others.
Yoder said, “He realized we were packing food for people who were poor.”