By Catherine Boyle
Almost one year ago, Pastor Brad Hoefs and Dr. Steve Grcevich from Key Ministry had a conversation about the mental health needs of families with disabilities. This was not the first time these two ministry leaders had discussed the unique challenges of these families, including the mental health needs that too often go unacknowledged or unsupported. Based on Fresh Hope’s work collaborating with other organizations, Pastor Brad and Dr. G committed to collaborate to create resources for a new mental health support group. Over the following months, the expertise of these two ministries were combined into a new curriculum called “Fresh Hope for Families with Disabilities.”
The Fresh Hope for Families with Disabilities course takes the principles, research and experiences of previous Fresh Hope groups and adapts them for the specific needs and experiences of caregiving parents of children with disabilities. Similar to the other Fresh Hope groups, Fresh Hope for Families with Disabilities has Eight Tenets that serve as universal principles for caregiving parents, as well as their loved ones, to live well in spite of their mental health needs.
In late spring, Key Ministry recruited facilitators and participants for two pilot groups. During July and August, these two groups met weekly online for eight weeks, going through the new curriculum. At the end of the pilot period, the group facilitators and participants offered feedback to refine and improve the finished product.
I am thrilled to announce that the first official Fresh Hope for Families with Disabilities group will launch on November 2, as one of the online offerings on Fresh Hope’s 12/7 schedule. This new group will be facilitated by Tom and Julie Meekins, who have extensive experience facilitating small groups, and are leaders in disability ministry. Tom and Julie served as one of the facilitator teams for summer pilot of this curriculum.
When I say that I am thrilled that this curriculum is launching, it’s actually God answering a prayer I prayed six years ago, before I was even part of Key Ministry. And truthfully, I had forgotten this prayer until several months ago.
While working on this project, I found an entry from my prayer journal dated August 1, 2017. On that day, I wrote about my desire to create mental health support groups. In that entry, I wrote that I felt like God wanted this to be something to support the needs of caregivers. My life experience includes personal understanding of the challenges of families living with disabilities of various kinds, and how that experience can leave you searching for hope, or even drawn into a crisis of faith.
November is National Family Caregivers Month, and the fact that this group is launching when it is seems very much like God’s perfect timing. For people who live with the unique challenges of families with disabilities—whether physical, neurodevelopmental or mental health related disabilities—this curriculum may just be one of the ways that God brings restoration, encouragement and healing to your family. When you see God open up resources and support you never knew existed, hope can flourish, in spite of your circumstances.
We encourage you to sign up for this group by using this link. The curriculum will be available for purchase soon on the Fresh Hope website, and linked to purchase from the Key Ministry website. We will share news about the release date for the curriculum on the Fresh Hope and Key Ministry websites and social media. If you choose to buy the curriculum, we strongly encourage you to join one of the online groups, to help you grow your support network and learn from and with others in similar circumstances. There’s nothing like finding out that you’re not alone after all, that God sees you, loves you and has not forgotten about you.