Project Promise brings the Easter Story to the stage
By Guy Thompson
What began as a way to do presentations at area churches about a MDC Goldenrod program, has become a unique, annual event to celebrate and tell the Easter story.
On March 25, at the Clinton Frame Church, around 40 participants will recreate the Easter story on stage, beginning at the Lord’s Supper, through the resurrection, and concluding with Jesus’ appearance in the house with his disciples. The program will be at 3 and 6 p.m., and people are encouraged to get there early to get a seat due to how popular the event has become over the years.
This will be the third year at Clinton Frame Mennonite Church, MDC Goldenrod Executive Assistant Danae Miller said. Prior to that, it was held at Bethany Christian. “It started out doing presentations at area churches and turned into a fundraiser for Project Promise. At first, it was the creation story and then changed to the Easter story.”
The script itself was written in 2005 by Donald C. Yost, and tells the story through a narrator, along with other speaking roles. “They do an incredible job memorizing their lines and blocking,” Miller said. “Some have played these roles over the years and have continually improved them over the years.” Some of the performers have been in it since the beginning.
MDC Goldenrod and Project Promise, one of several programs offered through the organization, work with adults and children with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Project Promise, is one of the longest-running programs, meets twice a month for worship time, fellowship, crafts and other activities throughout the year. This includes an annual retreat to the Brethren Retreat Center near Shipshewana, something the group has done for 42 years. They also hold a chicken barbecue fundraiser.
Money raised through the Easter story presentation with a free will donation, along with the chicken barbecue, go to cover costs of supplies for Project Promise as well as help with the cost of the retreat.
The Easter story program also gives the participants the opportunity to perform for the public. “They love being up there performing, saying their lines and getting into character,” Miller said. “They are passionate about the story and in sharing it.” The excitement really lasts the whole year, she added, with participants talking about it even when they aren’t preparing for it. “It’s a highlight for everyone involved and it’s always on their minds,” Miller said.
And they spend a lot of time preparing, with rehearsals already started back in January in anticipation of the show in March.
“The audience is overwhelmingly surprised by how moving it is,” Miller continued. “Everyone has heard the story. But they are surprised by the interpretation the actors bring.” The actors, all participants in Project Promise, have various developmental and intellectual disabilities. “The actor playing Jesus, for example, has Down Syndrome,” Miller noted. Most have some level of developmental disabilities.
There is no doubt for anyone who has seen similar programs that the actors bring an unmistakable joy to the programs they perform. “It’s amazing to see what they do and how they make the characters their own,” Miller said.
The program runs approximately one hour and is performed on stage in the sanctuary, with some moments being performed in the aisles.
Clinton Frame Mennonite Church is located south of Middlebury at 63846 County Road 35, Goshen.
About MDC Goldenrod
From MDC Goldenrod
MDC Goldenrod is a faith-based ministry that works to create community with people of all abilities. It provides services to adults and children with developmental and intellectual disabilities with in-home care, respite care, and community-based habilitation in both 24- and non-24-hour settings.
The goal of MDC Goldenrod’s services is to enhance the self-esteem and self-worth of each of those they serve through increasing daily living skills. Services are truly individualized to meet the needs of each person they serve and their family.
MDC Goldenrod does all of this with faith at the forefront of service provision.
Project Promise is a program to meet the spiritual and social needs of adults with disabilities.
Project Promise meets two times a month for worship and craft activities. In addition, Project Promise hosts an annual Easter play, a field day, a retreat, a chicken BBQ, and various other activities.
Project Promise is available for little to no cost to the participants for most activities. Volunteers are responsible for the success of Project Promise with the guidance of a committee and one part-time employee.
Project Promise is blessed with generous community and congregational support.
Goldenrod Gardens is currently going through a transition from program funding to a completely volunteer-run greenhouse. Goldenrod Gardens works with the community to provide a limited selection of produce. In addition, Goldenrod Gardens hosts “hosta digs” to support the greenhouse.
The greenhouse is located on the Middlebury campus of MDC Goldenrod Community (corner of CR 16 and CR 43, 1.5 miles east of Middlebury). Goldenrod Gardens provides meaningful and valuable learning opportunities for people with disabilities to work side by side with community members. They are always looking for volunteers.
Their mission is to provide meaningful work for residents and friends as well as quality organically-grown products.
History of MDC Goldenrod
In Northern Indiana during the 1960s, there was a concern growing in the Mennonite Church that congregations were not welcoming and supportive of people with disabilities and their families.
In December 1974, this concern finally took shape in the creation of Project Promise, a program run by volunteers specifically oriented to the spiritual needs of people with disabilities. This new ministry met at Clinton Frame Mennonite Church east of Goshen and included regular meeting and worship times. In October 1976 the 1st Annual Project Promise Spiritual Retreat weekend began.
Once Project Promise had been established, there grew an increasing interest in taking care of not just the spiritual but also the daily living needs of adults with disabilities. In February 1977, a group began to consider providing residential services (i.e. homes). The decision to proceed was made and Mennonite Disabilities Committee (MDC) was formed.
By the summer of 1978 staff had been hired, and in February 1980 the first house was purchased, located east of Goshen on CR 34, and was named “Mennoheim” (Mennonite Home). Originally envisioned as a year-round residential home, Mennoheim evolved in a short period into a respite care house.
There was still a vision for providing permanent year-round housing to developmentally disabled adults. In the summer of 1985 MDC formed a Long-Term Residential Needs Committee to assess the ability of MDC to work with congregations to provide long-term housing and decided to proceed with long-term housing plans. The program was named Merimna Homes, based on a Greek word “merimna” meaning “to care.”
In the fall of 1988 a property in Goshen was purchased, remodeled and named Pleasant Place. The first caregiving staff for the long-term homes was hired in August 1989 and the first residents moved into Pleasant Place in September 1989.
Over the years, MDC Goldenrod continued to add residences to serve those in need.
In 1996 several acres of land one mile east of Middlebury were donated to MDC with the intent that residential services begin there, with part of the population served being autistic. The initial plans for Goldenrod Community began. In 1997 a task force was organized and committees formed. The first duplex was built in 1999. A timber-frame barn was constructed by volunteers in 2000, and the second duplex was built in 2001. Goldenrod Gardens, a greenhouse connected to the Goldenrod Community Barn, was opened in 2002.
For more information on MDC Goldenrod:
1514 College Ave.
Goshen, IN 46526