McCORDSVILLE — Years ago, Nicole Crosby volunteered one summer as a lifeguard at a Christian camp for adults with disabilities.
The next summer, she decided she wanted to be more involved. She volunteered as a companion, someone paired with one of the campers as a bunkmate and fellow participant.
“You do the whole week together,” she said. “You really just kind of develop a friendship. Fifteen years later, we’re still friends today.”
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These days, Crosby continues to foster opportunities for such friendships to happen. She is a volunteer helping launch a new group, catering to adults with intellectual disabilities, taking shape at Outlook Christian Church in McCordsville.
Its first meeting will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the church, 6531 N. County Road 600W. Crosby said those who know an adult who would enjoy being part of the group are encouraged to contact the church.
Her father, Don Boden, also attends Outlook and is founder of Connection Ministries. The group works with Central Indiana congregations to help them create a place of belonging for adults who Boden said might otherwise not find their way into the door of a church.
The organization, originally founded more than 25 years ago as Lutheran Disability Ministries, works with 22 Christian groups in Central Indiana — training volunteers, helping launch groups and offering support through resources through its website and visits to group meetings.
Outlook is one of three churches the organization has partnered with in Hancock County. SonRise Bible Studymeets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Cross of Grace Lutheran Church in New Palestine.
Jaime Hershberger is a member of the group.
“I get to visit with everybody,” she said, thinking about what she likes best about the group. “I see some of my friends at church.”
Her father, Chuck Hershberger, is a volunteer who helps out at the gatherings, which include singing, a Bible story, small-group discussion time, prayer requests a memory verse and reciting the Lord’s Prayer together before a closing song and dismissal. “It’s a full hour of activity,” he said.
After the session, some hang around for a little while to socialize. The group of more than 40 people gathered each week are both “friends,” the group members; and volunteers who assist, called “companions.”
Those Tuesday evenings are looked forward to by the friends who attend.
“Most of our friends, I’m told by their caregivers, are anxious to come on Tuesday night,” Hershberger said. “They’re ready; they’re chomping at the bit.”
Brandywine Community Church in Greenfield also offers a 6:30 p.m. Tuesday gathering, the Friendship Bible Study, which draws about a dozen friends and that many helpers for song, prayer and Bible study.
Organizer Terry Turner said group members are prayerful and take God seriously. They’ve changed how he interacts with both God and people, he said. They embrace life’s moments, including arm-wrestling the guy at the elephant ear stand at the Indiana State Fair.
“They joy they show you … I never would have dreamed that we’d be dancing in an Applebee’s,” Turner said.
Boden hopes the new group at Outlook will bring friends and companions together in friendship to “experience life in Christ together.” He envisions a group in which the members and volunteers paired spend some time together outside of group meetings, having dinner together or doing community service together.
Crosby said she’s excited about ways Outlook already is serving the community and about opening up ways for friends in the group to serve others as well.
“I think our friends with disabilities have those same desires we do,” she said. “It’s going to not only help our friends with disabilities, it’s going to help the community at large. We’re going to have more people who want to work together to make a difference.”
The Friendship Life Group will begin meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at Outlook Christian Church, 6531 N. County Road 600W in McCordsville. To learn more about this new group, call the church at 317-335-6815 or visit http://connection-ministries.org/new-friendship-life-group/.