In His Image Mission Statement: To make disciples within the disabled community by demonstrating Christ’s love, and equipping the church to minister so that ALL might fellowship, worship, and serve.
An authentic community built on the hope of Christ…
The In His Image ministry officially launched in 2007, but really began several years before that when Susan and Scott Hewer noticed a young man with special needs attending their church, Calvary Chapel Oxnard. They began meeting with a small group of like-minded people and praying together about how their church could intentionally welcome and support this young man. They started attending Joni and Friends Conferences for training and resources. As this small group faithfully met for prayer, they continued to ask the Lord, “What would you have us do next?”
…that compels people affected by disability to fully belong.
As Susan, Scott, and their team worked to create a supportive, inclusive environment at their church the ministry began to grow. They now serve all ages of people with disabilities, providing mentor support in age-appropriate classrooms during Sunday morning and Wednesday night services. They also host a Friendship Bible Club that meets twice a month for adults, 18 and older, with developmental disabilities. In addition to this, they host an annual “Spa Day” as a respite event for special needs and foster moms.
Scott and Susan recognize that the support of their pastor and elders has been a key factor in allowing In His Image to grow from one family to many. The leadership sensed the Lord’s leading, and felt that “it was the Lord’s time”. In His Image has truly changed the culture of the church in a positive way.
A unique focus of the ministry is meeting the needs of children and their families who have experienced trauma, such as parental drug use or a serious car accident. It has caused the ministry to think outside of the box. According to Susan and Scott “When the Lord presents us with a new family with new needs, we try to meet their needs.” Prayer remains an integral component of this ministry as they listen to the stories of each individual and family.
Calvary Chapel Oxnard held a special Sunday service featuring disability awareness. At this service, Scott and Susan met a high school student named Joey along with his family. Joey has developmental delays, and generally only attended church with his mom.
Scott began a friendship with Joey, and looked for ways to integrate him into the high school group. Because Scott and others were making a place for Joey, his parents were able to attend church together – a blessing that strengthened their marriage. Joey’s father is now part of the Spanish children’s ministry, and his mom serves with the women’s ministry. This wonderful family is now actively engaged in the body of Christ and growing in their faith because the church accepted Joey. Joey also serves as part of the parking lot patrol for the church and loves going to worship. According to Scott, “Joey’s love for the Lord is amazing, and Joey is a real ambassador for the Lord.”
Karen Roberts is the Academic Studies and Church Relations Manager for Joni and Friends Chicago. She is also a certified instructor of Beyond Suffering and leads the Ethiopia Outreach team each year. She has a passion to equip churches as they begin and develop disability ministries, especially in the areas of inclusive worship and community outreach. http://www.joniandfriends.org/chicago/