After my last blog post, I realized that I didn’t properly introduce myself. It’s important for those who read this series to know the writer behind it, as these posts will contain a lot of my heart. It’s my journey of doing disability ministry. And if you’ve decided to follow my journey, I want you to know who you’re following. And, I don’t believe a picture and a bio at the bottom of the page suffices. So, allow me to introduce myself…
My name is Rachel Roleder, and I serve as the manager of the internship department at Joni and Friends. I have worked here for over three years. When I got this job, I had no idea what the Lord was getting me into. I didn’t have much context for disability before starting this job. And, if I’m completely honest, at first it was just a job… something to pay my bills. However, it didn’t take long for God to open my eyes, helping me see His vision for His church.
God showed me pain and suffering that I refused to acknowledge even existed in our world. But, pain and suffering is coupled with eternal hope and joy in the Lord. Within disability ministry, I found a joy on earth only heaven could procure. I wrote a blog about that already so, I won’t go too far into it here. But it’s a beautiful testament to God that He chooses to work through me – uneducated and naïve about disability – to accomplish His work. I know virtually nothing of suffering and pain on a personal level, but God chose me to start reaching out to people with disabilities in my community.
Here are a couple more lessons God has taught me on my journey:
1: If you think God might be telling you to do something, He probably is.
When the Spirit began prompting me to start a disability ministry at my church, I thought He was telling me to find someone else to start the ministry. Isn’t that how it usually goes? God tells us to do something, and we try to pawn it off on someone else who is more qualified or has more time. Until finally, you can’t ignore the fact that God is speaking to YOU! That’s when the light bulb goes off and you think, Maybe God’s trying to tell me something… Reality check, HE IS! And, He’s probably been trying to tell you for a long time.
2: When God comes calling, don’t assume immediate action is the next step.
This lesson has been hard for me to swallow. I had high expectations for what the disability ministry would look like at our church – the families we’d serve, the community impact – it would be glorious! I felt like a graduating college student, fresh off the press and ready to take on the world! But, there is something to be said for maturity in leadership. God doesn’t expect us to be capable of His calling immediately. He wants that passion and calling to drive our understanding and equipping deeper. As God grows us in maturity, He’ll lead us into His call for our lives in His perfect timing.
Our disability ministry plans got put on hold for the holidays. I was disappointed that the church leadership wasn’t moving at my speed. But the delay has allowed me, and the church, to step back and gain perspective. We all want the same thing: to love people better, drawing them closer to God. I realized that in my enthusiasm to launch the ministry, I was dragging the church along behind me rather than partnering together to achieve a common goal. It’s clear God still has a lot to teach me about working in ministry!
As I’ve met with our church leadership, we have settled on a plan to move forward. I’m not going to lie, it’s going to move slower than I had originally envisioned, but I know God is behind it. And my church and I are moving down this road – together.
Rachel Roleder serves as the Supervisor to 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.