The Oasis: Creating Spaces of Rest and Refreshment

Every four years the Church of the Brethren holds a National Youth Conference (NYC) on a state university campus in Colorado. It’s a mountaintop event literally and figuratively. Thousands of youth come from all over the country and the world to worship, learn, serve, and have fun together. Worship is held in an arena with a band, youth leaders, and amazing preachers. All youth participate in small groups and workshops. Everyone has an opportunity to go hiking in the mountains or work on a service project. The week is often life-changing.

NYC also can be a little overwhelming. The setting and activities are new and unfamiliar, the environment can be loud and the social demand is heavy. This year we created a new space at NYC called The Oasis for any youth stressed by the sensory and social load. We lit the room softly with floor lamps and twinkle lights. We had bean bag chairs, large pillows, and soft blankets thrown on the floor. We provided fidgets of all kinds. There were coloring pages and puzzle books along with prayer stations with reflective and encouraging hands-on activities. The Oasis was open at free times during the day and evening for anyone to come and rest for a while.

Some interesting things happened from the provision of this space. It was immediately sought out and used by some autistic youth. They found a safe, undemanding space to land from the very beginning of the conference. For one youth with an anxiety disorder, just knowing The Oasis was available gave her the ability to cope.

The Oasis became a place where disabled youth could find resources and support. It was a place of understanding and reassurance which enabled youth, advisors, and parents to express their concerns. At the request of one family, we created a sensory area in the worship arena where the sound was not quite so loud and noise-reducing headphones and fidgets were provided. Buddies were found for a disabled youth in need of companionship. Assistance was found for those needing help getting from one place to another on campus.

The sensory area in worship and the Oasis became launching pads for some youth to brave engaging the rest of NYC activities. Several youth who at first felt like they “just couldn’t do this” found that they could because they had a place to rest and re-group. As the week progressed, anxious youth relaxed enough to venture out into new territory such as going to their small group without a parent or joining the rest of their youth group on the main floor in worship. It was fun to see them gradually relax, smile, and enjoy being at NYC.

It wasn’t only disabled, autistic, or anxious youth who benefited from The Oasis. Many individual and small groups of youth came to color and relax for a while. Advisors took a rest with a puzzle book. Some people just quietly made their way through the prayer stations in the room and then left. Even staff occasionally came in, found a quiet corner and a pillow and took a brief nap before returning to their work.

One of the great learnings we have received from creating both The Oasis and Parables Community is that when we provide these supportive and gracious spaces for autistic and intellectually or developmentally disabled friends, we also create a space that is more welcoming for all. In a stressful, often inhospitable world, how can we create more of these oases of warmth and respite that accept everyone just the way that they are?

Neighborhood Block Party

On Saturday, September 30, Parables Community hosted a neighborhood block party along with York Center Church and God’s Congregation Worship Center. Here’s a video of Pastor Jeanne, Pastor Christy, and Pastor Carl at the party. We are blessed by our three congregations and our neighbors. It was a wonderful day.

Parables Anniversary Celebration and Fundraiser on April 29

Mark your calendars for April 29!

We’ll have an evening of fellowship, light foods, and beverages in a coffee house atmosphere to raise money in support of Parables Community.

Parables musician and board member Jonathan Shively will perform original music througout the evening, and there will be some surprise musical guests as well.

Meet the Parables Community family, hear updates on the ministry, and celebrate what God is doing through this new church start.

Free-will donations will be collected. More details soon!

We Are Able Workcamp

we-are-able-photo

The We Are Able workcamp is a four day service-learning experience for intellectually disabled youth and young adults, ages 16-30. Recognizing that everyone has gifts to share, this workcamp gives intellectually disabled youth and young adults an opportunity to serve others. This year’s We Are Able workcamp will be held in Elgin, Illinois, July 10-13, 2017. We will be staying in a dormitory at Judson College and serving in local food banks, pantries, and food relief organizations. There will also be a daily prayer time and fun recreational outings such as bowling, a movie night and/or a concert. Enrollment is limited to ten participants. There will be two leaders (one of whom will be our own Pastor Jeanne) and a nurse present at all times.

Here is a link to photos from last year’s We Are Able workcamp. https://www.yogile.com/weareableworkcamp#21m

Enrollment is online and opens on Thursday, January 5 at 7 p.m. (CST) at http://www.brethren.org/workcamps.

Please contact Pastor Jeanne at parablescommunity@gmail.com or Emily Tyler at etyler@brethren.org with any questions.

Holding Hands Bike Rack

Parables Community is delighted to have sponsored the creation of the beautiful “Holding Hands Bike Rack” designed by Elmhurst College students for the new Playground for Everyone in Butterfield Park. The Playground for Everyone is an amazing new playground that is accessible to children with disabilities so that all children can play together. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to this wonderful playground just ten minutes from our church building! Thank you to all who donated to make this possible. Go visit the park! It’s at 385 E. Van Buren St. in Elmhurst. It will exceed your expectations! A large part of the funding for the playground came from local charitable organizations – a true community effort on behalf of all our children.

Unity Picnic

unity-picnic

On Saturday, September 24 we celebrated our first annual UNITY Picnic Saturday with the three congregations that share our building and the local police departments. Pictured: Pastor Carl Mabins, God’s Congregation Worship Center; Pastor Jeanne Davies, Parables Community; Deputy Cliff Seward, DuPage County Sheriff’s Department; Pastor Christy Waltersdorff, York Center Church of the Brethren. Parables Community was grateful to be a part of this celebration as we all continue to work and pray for peace in our community.