When Ralph and Patricia (Pat) Page and Charles Thomas began a small group for the visually impaired 10 years ago, they hardly dreamed that their vision of a church for the blind would become a reality.
The Pages and Charles worked for Christian Record Services (CRS) Canada, an organization dedicated to empowering the visually impaired. Each year, CRS and National Camps for the Blind sponsored a camp at Camp Frenda, the Adventist summer camp in Ontario.
Feeling a need to continue nurturing relationships with campers who attended each summer, several CRS Canada staff created a monthly gathering called Hope Vision Fellowship. The Pages invested heavily in the group by renting a conference room at a hotel in Scarborough, an eastern district of Toronto. Charles was the point person, and Kevin Avery, a blind camper who had recently been converted, organized the activities. Their goal was to eventually establish a church for the visually impaired. When the CRS Canada program ended in 2008, Hope Vision Fellowship continued meeting.
Unacquainted with the work of Hope Vision Fellowship, Theodore Sargeant, director of Compassion Ministries and Services for the Ontario Conference, and Mansfield Edwards, Ontario Conference president, sat down to discuss the needs of various groups in their territory. It became clear that those with special needs or different abilities weren’t being served the best that they could be.
During a routine visit to one of the churches in the conference, Elder Edwards learned of the small group meeting in Scarborough. He was invited to speak for their monthly Sabbath worship service and, after visiting with them, was so impressed with the concept that he commissioned Theodore to serve as group pastor, providing oversight and guidance.
In 2016, the conference was satisfied that the group had enough stability to be formally organized as a congregation and, on October 26, Hope Vision Fellowship was recognized as the first church for the visually impaired in the North American Division (NAD). This special project received startup funding through sacrificial mission offerings, including your support of Global Mission, and the NAD’s church planting initiative, Plant 1000.
Theodore shares that the church really is for the blind. He gives them as much time and opportunity as possible to influence what happens at Hope Vision Fellowship, from planning strategies to programming. Their disability doesn’t define them; they all have a very important part to play.
“Hope Vision Fellowship has been a tremendous blessing to the blind in that they see it as their church. They regularly express how comfortable they feel when they’re there,” says Pat.
Two long-time members, Judy Leung and Earl Zwicker, say that their lives have been changed by attending Hope Vision Fellowship. Judy was a charter member of the original group that began meeting in 2008. She says, “I feel really blessed to be part of this group. I’m able to continue to learn the Bible and ask questions on my own time. I feel safe being able to share my thoughts, being able to meet other Christians, and have discussions about God and the Bible. I love worshiping with others and, most importantly, am privileged to have volunteers who dedicate their time to help people like me grow emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.”
Earl began attending the small group in 2009 before it was formally recognized. His daughter, his girlfriend, and her son now join him when he comes to church. “Hope Vision Fellowship really is a place where my entire family feels comfortable,” he says. “The encouragement and support I’ve received from everyone mean more to me than I could ever hope to express here.”
It’s not only the blind in the little group who’ve been blessed; Pat, too, has continually been inspired by the people of Hope Vision Fellowship. “I love our group and all my blind friends across Canada. I come away refreshed from every meeting we have, and I know all the volunteers feel the same way. We all love ‘helping the blind see Jesus.’”
Please remember this remarkable congregation in your prayers as they continue to reach out to the special needs groups in their region, paving the way for others to follow.