Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thankful for you

(Much of the correspondence that takes place among my church seems to end with the same affection: "Thankful for you." Hence, the title, apropos to this sincere story of appreciation for my church family.)

Today, I went up to my church to help wrap gifts for Affordable Christmas - an event that gives families in our community an opportunity to purchase Christmas gifts at extremely reduced prices. It's an amazing way to get to know the people who live in the area where the church is and I really enjoyed chatting with the families who came. And somehow wrapping gifts seems so much more fun when it's for someone else! :)

Before I went up to the church for my shift, though, I was battling anxiety and almost wanted to back out. I knew that the gift wrappers would be in the gallery, an area that tends to render almost everyone hard of hearing on Sunday mornings because it's not the most acoustically sound (ha, see what I did there?) place in the building. In other words, it be loud up in there! I only have one good hearing aid right now while I wait for new ear molds to arrive at my audiologist's office. I can't lipread and wrap presents at the same time. How was I going to engage with the shoppers and wrap their gifts at the same time, unable to filter out the dull roar of background noise?

But I was convicted that not going would be worse, so I made my way over and asked the gift wrap coordinator if she could pair me with another gift wrapper so that someone would have my back if communication became a problem. She happily teamed me up with another volunteer who graciously answered questions that I missed  hearing and helped carry on conversations with the shoppers. While all that was going on, we worked together to wrap gifts. I'm so thankful for those two ladies who were willing to help me be part of the team!

That led me to reflect on the other ways I'm able to serve my church family. I help our children's ministry most Sundays and there have been a few times where I wondered if I was the best person for the job. Trying to field questions from parents and volunteers, help volunteers troubleshoot the check-in process, interact with kids who haven't learned how to enunciate yet... all in the very same gallery that reaches fever pitch every week. Shouldn't someone with better hearing be doing this? Would I serve my church family better by stepping down and letting someone who is better equipped step up? Am I making Sunday mornings more complicated for other volunteers who have to do their own jobs in addition to helping me communicate?

But every time I've raised the question with other volunteers or staff, the answer has been a firm "NO." If anything, they ask me what else they can do to make sure that I am able to fulfill my duties every Sunday. They don't let my disability get in the way of my ability to serve! They don't just minister to me and make me the object of their compassion and kindness - though they do that as well! - they equip me to serve along with them. They embrace 1 Corinthians 12, especially verses 14-26:

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Having the right heart and attitude toward someone who lives with a disability is so important for a church that is seeking to love the "weaker" members. Formal ministries and programs and schedules and plans and events can be good ways for a church to connect with those who have a disability, but all of those would fall short without the right heart. I'm grateful to be part of a church that faithfully preaches God's goodness in and sovereignty over the hard things like disability and takes the Bible seriously when it says that we are all one in Christ.

So church family, I am indeed thankful for you, and delighted to grow with you - for God's glory and our joy!