It’s good to be back writing on the blog! The business of the summer required I take a hiatus from writing. Now that things have “slowed down” and I have started reflecting on the summer’s events. As usual, it was full of travel and ministry, which included pool days, VBS, trips to emergency room… you name it and it probably happened.
There is so much I could share, and I probably will over the next several months. But the most recent experience from the events of the summer hit me the hardest. And as I continue to process it, I wonder if it may resonate with some of you…
I got a phone call from one of my mom’s this week. She and her husband have three daughters, including a daughter with special needs. They’re family was a big part of why we started our Special Friends ministry almost two years ago. So, when she called to tell me that their family had decided to move to another church, my heart sank. Immediately, thoughts of failure and insecurity started racing through my mind. I listened as she described the beautiful disability ministry at their new church. It had multiple special needs classes on Sunday mornings. It held respite events on Saturdays. They’re older daughters had youth ministry to plug into, and they had a support group for special needs parents! But all I could hear was, “you’re not good enough”.
But then she started to tell me how the Special Friends ministry at our church served their family in a way they hadn’t been served before. She couldn’t stop praising the level of care and service our volunteers had provided their daughter with special needs. It made them see that their daughter wasn’t the only one that needed support – their whole family was starving for encouragement and resources that they realized this other church could provide. She proceeded to thank me for loving their daughter and family so well, and they would always appreciate how God used our church to facilitate the ministry their family ultimately needed.
As I got off the phone, my heart wasn’t heavy, but light. Our little buddy ministry was the key to not just serving one little girl with special needs, but helping an entire family realize the local church’s role in providing for their needs. I was sad to see them leave. But the local church is still the local church, even if they gather at a different location. Together, we as the local church, came together and showed a family affected by disability how the body of Christ functions as a whole.
It’s so easy to let disappointing circumstances cloud our view of God’s plan. In Ephesians 4:25, Paul begins a passage on how to develop good communication within the church and community. But recently, I’ve been using the same principles when having to speak truth to myself when in disappointing circumstances. First, “put away falsehood.” Don’t let those lies about “not being good enough” creep into our thoughts because our pride may be hurt. Paul goes on to tell them not to dwell in their anger because it gives opportunity to the devil. In other words, don’t have a pity party when things don’t go our way. Because sin will start welling up in our heart. And we’ll turn into a conduit of bitterness and anger, when instead, Paul calls us to be a conduit of grace; to be a source of those “things that are good for building up.”
As hard as it is to watch a family leave a church, I am praising God for the work he has done. He has lifted me up by showing me how the local church can come together to fulfill his will.
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.