Lord willing, as I write this Dianne is about to go to a committee meeting at my dad’s church on their disability ministry. She and our children are visiting my parents the next couple of days.
Dad’s church is in that awful early place of most discussions like this: where do we start? There is need, there is desire, and there is so much that could be done. There are more ideas than resources. The desire to do it ‘right’ from the beginning is very strong, and can actually slow things down or derail an effort entirely.
As Dianne and I talked about it this morning, we both landed on how important it is to look at who is right in front of you, then pick one and do something. Doing something for one family starts a church down the road of serving the next family. Pretty soon, the church is serving several families.
And that isn’t easy. In fact, I made the comment this morning, “we try things, and we frequently do it badly!” Children don’t have good experiences. Parents become discouraged. Volunteers are disappointed. Brenda, our disability ministry coordinator, is overwhelmed by the complexity of requests and the depth of the pain in families.
It often feels like a mess.
Yet – praise be to God! – we learn things and God helps us. Over time, volunteers understand how to serve in ways that make sense. Bonds frequently develop between a volunteer and a child. Parents gain confidence that their child with disabilities is not just being served, but is loved and respected as the unique individual God made him or her.
That’s pretty sweet!
And then another family comes, or a volunteer needs to step down, or a new situation shows up in a family, and the process of praying, learning, failing, and, Lord willing, finding that sweet engagement starts all over again.
We constantly need God’s help! I am grateful he is a big God who loves to be needed and leaned on as the sovereign, omnipotent, omnipresent, loving, good provider he is.
I didn’t always understand that. There are some old emails I sent to Pastor David Michael that make me cringe inside over the slights I felt we were experiencing at church. I am very grateful he, and others, looked to Jesus rather than in my negative responses as they sought to serve the Knight family. There really wasn’t much positive relational payoff in serving us those early days! Over the years God has frequently used Bethlehem to change my heart, encourage me in dark days, and help me to see the preciousness of his word.
It wasn’t a perfect disability ministry program that drew us and kept us at Bethlehem. It was the people, always the people. People who trusted Jesus above everything. People who knew that Jesus would supply every need of theirs and of ours. People who were quick to forgive.
And that’s why I have hope that a church in Winona, Minnesota will get started in serving some of their own families experiencing disability. Because my dad loves Jesus, he wants others to love Jesus, too, and he particularly has a heart for other moms and dads and grandparents with children with disabilities.
And that’s better than the perfectly designed program any day.