Despite advances with modern medicine and convenience, we wrestle with difficulties on many levels. Every day leaves us exhausted as people and tasks can drain us—both emotionally and physically. No matter how much we accomplish, there is always more to do. Like a dark night with no street lights, discouragement can cover us like a black canopy. But I thank God for those people who look up and don’t see the darkness. Instead, they see millions of stars, a perspective change that makes all the difference.
Anne Dokko saw an opportunity to make a difference when her church launched a new ministry to serve those with disabilities. She believes that “Jesus has a special place in His heart for [individuals with special needs] and needs His body of believers to be an extension of His hands and feet to serve them in the small ways that we can.”
Serving these individuals can look many different ways, but it often begins with something simple like a smile, a hug, or laughter. They say a bright smile lights up a room, and Anne saw this to be true as she served as a buddy to Lianne. Born with progressive Cockayne syndrome, Lianne is “a sweet child who’s full of life and determination.” Together, she and Anne make music every Sunday. “I would be her voice while she shakes the tambourine,” Anne explains, “I’m blessed to witness the small miracles that God displays through Lianne. Her resilience always leaves me more humbled after our time together.”
Anne was encouraged to serve in this ministry after seeing her daughters serve each summer at a camp for special needs families. Every time they came home from serving, they were physically drained from pouring their love into the kids, but emotionally charged from the joy of giving. Anne remembers, “They were eager to go back the next day to make their buddies’ days just a bit brighter.”
It was seeing their experience that inspired Anne to join the class where she met Lianne—and discovered that her youngest daughter had served as Lianne’s buddy the previous summer. Coming full circle, Anne’s daughters continue to inspire her with ideas on how to serve Lianne.
Does experiencing that kind of joy from serving intrigue you? Would you like to use your smile to uplift others? Serving in disability ministry is truly a life-changing experience. When the day’s exhaustion kicks in, you can be energized for tomorrow knowing that your service helps someone understand God more fully and worship Him.
“If Jesus was here on earth, He would be right there with these special children, healing and serving them and their families,” Anne encourages other volunteers. “We are called to display Jesus’ love as His ambassadors; so, serving those that Jesus would serve is what He would want for us.”
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.