The year 2007 marks not only the 50th anniversary of Reba Place but also the 25th anniversary of the Sonshine Group. “The main purpose of this ministry is to provide a point of outreach and a place of welcome and acceptance at Reba Place for people with mental disabilities” explains Char Oda, the co-leader of the Sonshine Group.
“Sonshine Group gives folks a sense of belonging, a place where they can experience God’s love, and a friendly social event that they can count on regularly.”
Char sees the Sonshine Group as “part of the ministry of Jesus described in Luke 4:18: to heal the broken-hearted, to set the captives free, to make the lame to walk again, and to call the blind to see. Many of the Sonshine Group people have felt rejected by society and by family members; many were placed in inhospitable institutions in their youth.”
For this reason, the Sonshine Group ministry focuses on hospitality and creating a welcoming open place. “We have dinners on the first and third Fridays of each month, followed by clean-up with everyone helping as they are able, and a time of sharing and prayer or other activity to close the evening.” Members of Reba Place bring stories to read and Sonshine Group members are invited to contribute as well. “Jack, Ron and Robert get up and sing at almost every dinner. Each event feels like a success because there is laughter and loving and the broken-hearted are blessed and healed.”
Char goes on to describe how the Sonshine Group has ministered to not only those with diagnosed mental disabilities but to those of us in the Reba Place community as well.
“Sonshine Group also ministers to me, although I’m not visibly disabled. I would not naturally choose to spend time with people with mental disabilities, but God has opened my eyes and heart to see how much He loves each person, including me. God wants me to love others, especially those who have the challenge of a mental disability and have been marginalized. The people with mental disabilities teach me about acceptance, faithfulness, friendship, simplicity, generosity of spirit, wonder and sincerity.”
Char feels especially blessed when members of the Sonshine Group express their joy to God. “I am blessed when Kathleen shouts out on Sunday morning, ‘I love Jesus.’ I know God has blessed us and His Kingdom is coming.”
Quotes taken from 2001 Sonshine Group Ministry Report to the Reba Place Church Council, written by Charlotte Oda. Edited by Aaron Scott.