Talking to a friend the other day, I discovered that many people arrange friends into one of three groups, or rather, circles.
First, there’s the outer circle of acquaintances. These are the people we stop and chat with for five minutes, but we don’t share much beyond light snippets of conversation.
Then we move in to the circle of associates and companions. We talk and text with these people because they’re co-workers, colleagues, or classmates. But, once life moves us down the road these friendships fade into a pleasant memory. And that’s okay.
Finally, behold the inner circle—the Peter, James, and John of our lives. No matter where we move or how many new phones we buy, their number remains on speed dial. They constitute our definition of friend, including synonyms like pal, compatriot, chum, or buddy.
I like buddy, it is a strong word—we’re talking about a member of the inner circle. Buddies just don’t happen; God seamlessly introduces them into our lives at the exact moment we need them. Not only to bless us, but for us to bless them.
Have you ever looked back with a friend to that first time you met? Michael Hansen from Fort Worth, Texas, shared with me his first impression of his buddy Philip—the Sheriff of Camp Allen, all decked out in camo gear complete with a set of radios and handcuffs.
Despite cerebral palsy, Michael’s buddy Philip puts the Energizer Bunny to shame and openly displays his affection for “all things lawman related—handcuffs, NERF guns, camo everything, the TV show COPS.”
How did these two wind up buddies?
Last summer, Michael volunteered as a Short Term Missionary at the Camp Allen Family Retreat in Navasota, Texas. There, he met “Sheriff” Philip and learned all he needed to know about law enforcement from “maintaining a secure perimeter” to arresting any camper who “misbehaved.” The sheriff and deputy grew close throughout the week while enjoying typical camp activities such as swimming, fishing, crafts, and singing.
A year later, the two still get together for lunch, a movie, and even arcade games at Philips’s birthday party. Reflecting on their friendship, Michael said, “I went to Family Retreat in hopes of blessing others. Little did I know that God was going to bless me in return… We had so much fun there that we just had to continue it throughout the year.”
Buddies share fun, everyday activities such as birthday parties, NERF gun wars, and trips to the mall or Wal-Mart. Michael attests that it also includes more spiritual activities like praying, encouragement, and fellowship. “The time at Camp Allen was a milestone in my faith journey,” he remembered. “I saw the love of Christ on display in so many practical ways. People were truly being the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus to those whom Christ has called us to love.”
Too often, we assume disability ministry only includes super-spiritual or professional activities that require a degree or specialized training. But under the list of requirements, I believe you’ll find buddy.
At least, that’s what Michael showed me. “Every person is unique, but I think this rings true in any situation in disability ministry: Pray for your buddies every day and invest in them as often as possible… And know that nothing you do or say is wasted.”
Danielle Ledoux is a former intern with Joni and Friends’ Cause 4 Life program who enjoys writing about God’s work in people’s lives. She is a graduate of Pensacola Christian College and is currently getting her Master of Fine Arts in Dramatics.