Through the collaborative partnership of Hope Church NYC and the DoForOne ministry, people with disabilities in New York City are finding a place to belong in the Body of Christ. Those who are “seemingly weaker” are an “indispensable” part of these faith communities (1 Cor. 12:23, RSV).
Mission of DoForOne—Building Relationships, Enriching Lives
With the goal of dignity and purpose for people with disabilities through the power of genuine relationships, DoForOne brings people who are marginalized into a place of belonging. By selectively matching one person with disabilities – in need of guidance, companionship, or advocacy – with a person who enjoys the ordinary privileges of life, they form life-changing relationships sustained through education and community support.
An Authentic Community Built on the Hope of Christ…
Andrew Oliver is the founder of DoForOne. Over the course of many years working in a social agency he began to see the need for relationships within the disability community. Andrew discovered that, “Simple neighborliness, common sense, Christ-like compassion without any constraints built in, was what was needed.”
The beginning of the ministry was very organic as friends began to meet in Andrew’s apartment. They sensed the Lord’s stamp of approval and the Holy Spirit saying “Go, do this.”
It is a simple concept that was embraced by Christ-followers looking for a genuine way to respond to the needs of the community. It appealed to a small group of people who wanted to roll up their sleeves and be the hands of Christ.
The ministry has grown to include many different ways that people can volunteer including being an Advocate. Advocates form relationships with others who are seemingly different. Being an Advocate provides a genuine way to act upon the belief that everyone is of equal worth and importance. Advocates are encouraged to become involved in the life of a person with a disability outside of the “normal programming” of the church. A one-on-one friendship often begins through mutual interests such as music.
Monthly introductory meetings expose those interested in becoming involved to the values of the ministry. Community gatherings like a movie night or game night provide opportunities where Advocates and people with disabilities from the community can meet and interact.
As relationships are built many people with disabilities become part of the Hope Church NYC communities. The church also provides financial support to these individuals, but most importantly, Hope Churches are welcoming communities where people with disabilities are valued and fully belong.
Dreams for the Future:
Andrew hopes more churches will embrace the vision and strategies of DoForOne. He dreams of equipping leaders, who will spearhead community events and coordinate advocacy relationships in their own local congregations and communities.
A young woman named Michelle who has a developmental disability was literarily shaking with nervousness when she came to her first Movie/Game Night. But now she says, “Life is getting better, I am making friends.”
Cornell is a middle aged man with a developmental disability who was baptized on Easter Sunday this year. His sister came to the service and helped him tell his story in front of the entire church. There are others, like Cornell, who are finding a place of belonging in the life of the church as well. With relationships being central to DoForOne, the integration into the church is done by friends and volunteers ensuring they feel welcome.
As Irresistible Churches, may we strive to emulate the relationship-based discipleship that DoForOne and Hope Church NYC are modeling.
Karen Roberts, DWS, is the Academic Studies and Church Relations Manager for Joni and Friends Chicago. Click to read Karen’s full bio.