Living in Southern California means that the sun is a common element of every day. It greets me through my window in the mornings, and it’s usually accompanied by a cloud or two in the afternoons—drifting over the mountain range that hugs the side of the International Disability Center. In fact, it’s so commonplace that I sometimes forget what a blessing it is to feel the warmth of the sun on my face. The more I travel, the more I come to love and appreciate the home God has given me. As I returned from my travels this year, I felt a profound appreciation for the presence of the sun, shining brilliantly on a bright blue sky. And I’ve come home with appreciation for many other things as well. Like noticing God’s handiwork in little moments.
This past Sunday, God gave me a victory moment while I was serving a friend of mine in our Special Friends ministry at church. I actually blogged about this young boy a couple months ago. The circumstances surrounding this last Sunday are in stark contrast to that dark Sunday I previously wrote about. It’s been a rough summer for my little friend as he has bravely navigated many changes in his routine and environment. I woke up last Sunday feeling burdened to pray for him. I prayed that he would have a good day in Sunday school. I prayed that I would have a good report to give his parents when they came to pick him up.
As soon as my little friend entered the classroom, he fell into his typical routine of behavior. I could tell it was business as usual. I followed him around, encouraging his engagement in the class and trying to redirect his misbehaviors. He’s definitely not a shy kid, but he does struggle to interact with his peers. So, when one of his classmates approached him asking for help, I held my breath as I waited to see how he would respond. My friend had just created a cool aircraft out of magnetic blocks, and another boy wanted help building one too. My heart started gushing to see a classmate initiating play with my little friend, but at the same time, I was fearful to see how my friend would respond to this simple offer of friendship. There was no response from my friend at first. I think the invitation of friendship shocked him as much as it shocked me. I knelt down and reiterated to my young friend that this boy needed his help to create an aircraft. Could he help him? To my utter joy, my little friend agreed to help!
I watched as he instructed and directed the assembly of the new aircraft. Once it was finished the two boys played together, picking up “cargo” from all over the room. The game drew the attention of the other children, and in a matter of minutes we had ten aircrafts speeding across the room looking for cargo to pick up! My little friend was, for the first time, playing together with his classmates. He used a skill God had given him to lead his classmates in a fun activity that everyone was able to enjoy. I sat in the corner enjoying God’s undeniable presence, soaking up the smiles and laughter that filled the room.
As I reflect on what transpired that morning, I realize it was a beautiful foreshadowing of God’s desire for His church. No matter their skill or ability, He wants every part of the church to be active in the body of Christ, making it move and thrive! In that moment, my little friend lived out God’s heart for every person that makes up part of His church.
Rachel Roleder serves as the Manager of the Cause 4 Life, Global Missions and Internships Department at Joni and Friends. Rachel enjoys learning more of God’s design for His church as she leads teams of interns on disability ministry outreaches all over the world.