In his book “Spiritual Disciplines for The Christian Life” Donald Whitney devotes a full chapter to the spiritual discipline of Serving for the purpose of Godliness. The chapter ends with this…
WANTED: Gifted volunteers for difficult service in the local expression of the Kingdom of God. Motivation to serve should be obedience to God, gratitude, gladness, forgiveness, humility, and love. Service will rarely be glorious, temptation to quit will sometimes be strong. Volunteers must be faithful despite long hours, little or no visible results and possibly no recognition except from God in eternity.
In previous years as I served and recruited volunteers for children’s ministry (with a sort of tongue in cheek) I would often include the words above in my appeal. Today I pulled the book off the shelf to re-read that Want Ad, it made my heart glad. I am so thankful to have the privilege of working with a team of volunteers who perfectly fit the description above. We are Caring Friends. My daughter Britt came up with the name for our ministry 7 years ago. I will always remember loving the way she saw and included herself when I asked what we might call our future ministry? She said…
“Well, we are all caring friends!”
Though Britt was the only person with an intellectual disability at that gathering in January 2014, she didn’t see any difference between herself and all the others around the table. All were present because of their involvement or experience with folks who have intellectual disabilities. I’m not judging the people around that table, but we were all aware of the difference between us and Britt. I invited each one because I had a dream of what could happen at our church and in our community. I envisioned our church coming to the realization I had come to, People with disabilities are a “necessary” part of the body of Christ!
Friendship Ministries has worked for decades to promote ideals of Equality, Inter-dependance, Compassion, and Hospitality within the body of Christ says this…
“Everyone is created in God’s image and is deserving of love and justice—both in our society and in our churches. People who have intellectual disabilities deserve a chance to know about God and feel God’s love. They also deserve to be treated with respect, and to have friendships with others who know and love God. Redemption is a gift to all. It’s a gift from God that is not dependent on a certain level of intelligence. The church is complete only when it includes all of God’s children and when all people are seen as equals—in God’s eyes and in our own eyes.”
I have been worshiping and serving at Meadows Christian Fellowship since Britt was 3 months old. Some of our most treasured friendships were born through our church fellowship. I believe both of my kids would say so, yet friendships between normal developing individuals and those with intellectual/ developmental disabilities are understandably very, different if they exist at all. That is a reality that I have learned to accept. Though heartbreaking at times God has used it to shape our family. I am thankful for those whom God has placed in Britt’s life (and ours) who truly love and accept her as she is, created in the image of God and gifted for His purpose and glory.
Caring Friends Ministry was launched in March of 2014 with the belief that every single human being, no matter how much the image of God is marred by sin, or illness, or weakness, or age, or any other disability, still has the status of being in God’s image and therefore must be treated with the dignity and respect that is due to God’s image-bearer. They not less than, they are equally as important as every other member of the body. They are necessary!
1 Corinthians 12:21-26 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Camp Daniel, another exceptional ministry to people with developmental / intellectual disabilities played a key role in advancing my view of people with intellectual disabilities as a “culture” They are after all a people group with shared circumstances, experiences, patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Though the range of differences among people with disabilities is enormous they ALL have one thing in common. Weakness! Camp Daniel believes that all people can serve God and reach others for Christ through their weakness! Isn’t that the way for all of us? The apostle Paul said…
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Thanks for reading! In my next Blog I’ll delve more into the idea that people with intellectual disabilities have their own culture. Suffice to say it has fueled my passion to reach this beautiful, gifted unreached people group. And I would be remiss if I didn’t welcome anyone who would like to learn from a group of rather uncommon teachers. 😉
“Tell me, and I’ll forget, Show me and I may remember, Involve me, and I will understand.” Chinese proverb