Just recently, the Ability Ministry Board of Directors met. Before the meeting, the Board had some time to relax and spend with the residents of our Riverwood location, having fun and worshiping.
With any new group that comes to volunteer or visit, Rhonna, our Director of Services, will usually come up with a fun activity to introduce everyone in the room. The icebreaker this time, it was going around the room and telling everyone what your gift from God was.
Before we got started sharing, one of the residents brought up a concern to Rhonna. The resident was concerned about the new faces she was seeing mixed in with the other residents and she was expressing how nervous she was. Naturally, Rhonna handled it gracefully and calmly, saying “You guys don’t need to worry. Everyone is here because they love you. You don’t have to be afraid.”
Just hearing this question brought me back to my very first visit to Riverwood. Having such minimal experience working with those affected by disabilities, I was naturally nervous.
OK, so if I am being up front here, I was scared. I was scared of these new faces. I was scared of the new voices, some easier to understand than others. I was scared of movements different than my own.
And I was utterly selfish with those thoughts.
Not once did I consider how I was the new face, the new voice, the stranger among the familiar. Not once did I consider how I was the one that would be making others nervous by being there.
But then a beautiful thing happened.
As everyone went around the room, we all took turns explaining what we felt God had gifted us with. The answers were fantastic. God had gifted us with being a good friend, being an excellent cook and helper, being creative, laughter, accounting, construction, loving, being patient, being helpful, and also being a great supervisor.
We did not go around the room and say “OK, only those with a disability stand up and tell us your gift.” We just took turns, as a part of a big family. As we shared these gifts and shared the smiles, the barriers of being uncomfortable around one another came down.
As if the picture had not become entirely clear enough, Rhonna took it one step further when she said, “Riverwood exists because of all of your gifts. That’s what makes this place happen. And Jesus is the foundation.”
In our ministry, we love what 1 Corinthians 12:22 (NIV) has to say:
On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable...
The entire house is complete because of everyone. Everyone is important, even those that you might feel are weaker. Everyone has a gift. Everyone has a purpose. Everyone is a part of the body of Christ and Jesus is the foundation for it all. The house is not a house without all of the elements coming together.
I imagine that is a lot like what a complete church would look like.
I imagine that a complete church would tell everyone that walks in the doors that God has given them a gift and that without them, the church would not be complete.
I imagine that a complete church would tell members and visitors alike, “you guys don’t need to worry. Everyone is here because they love you. You don’t have to be afraid.”