The Sunshine Class was started in1976 by Ethel Losier. Ethel and her family attended Thunder Bay Free Methodist Church but she felt that the Sunday school classes offered at the time were beyond her mentally disabled daughter’s understanding – so with God’s prompting Ethel began the Sunshine Class. Initially there were six students and three teachers. Thirty-eight years later this ministry is still going strong.
When Pastor Andre Korstanje transferred to Thunder Bay FMC both the Sunshine Class and the church’s food bank spoke to his heart and twenty years later they continue to be the church’s most vibrant ministries.
The Sunshine Class is scheduled an hour before Sunday morning worship service. The class begins with a time of prayer which is led by a different participant each week. This is followed by the Lord’s Prayer, a scripture reading, a short story or play illustrating the lesson and concludes with worship – about twenty minutes of singing.
Following the Sunshine Class and before the start of the worship service there is a coffee time which allows everyone to connect. As Andre told me, “The Sunshine Class is not a side group that we slide in and then out. We intentionally have coffee time between services so that the class is included in the community of the church.”
Over the years Andre has witnessed the beauty of the Sunshine Class, “This ministry is not just for those with physical or mental disabilities but it is also a ministry for their families and support workers. The support workers see the difference this ministry is making in the lives of those they bring to the church and they are receiving spiritual input as well.”
Ethel Losier passed away three years ago and Thunder Bay FMC commissioned a stain glass window to honor her memory and ministry.
As Ethel shared with Cathi Grandfield in her 1990 article for Light and Life, “In the Sunshine Class we want the students to learn about God’s love for them as persons of worth, and to grow in spiritual companionship with Him. The class members are very receptive to Jesus. Jesus came not only to save but also to give us more abundant life. The Holy Spirit can and does minister to these people in ways they understand, just as He ministers to us in ways we understand. The class has blessed each one of us in different ways. They (the students) accept us just as we are and love us where we are. They don’t put a condition on love where sometimes we do. When I started this class I thought that I could give them so much, but what a lesson I learned because they gave me much more than I could ever give them. I am truly blessed.”