by Heather DeBoer, Friendship Ministries Canada
Traveling to conferences in other parts of the continent often gives our Friendship Ministries team wonderful opportunities. In October, Shellie Powers and I were headed to the Umbrella Conference in Calgary, Alberta. Shellie is the chairperson of Friendship Ministries Canada, and we were both excited about learning something new at the conference.
On our way, we scheduled visits with churches in Leduc and Red Deer, AB. We presented our “Refresh” workshop in each of those churches and had some wonderful conversations with more than 30 people there. We discussed the heart of Friendship Ministries and the desire ALL people have for true friendships. Those meetings were great opportunities to learn and grow together. They were times of joy!
And that joy continued as we exhibited at and attended the Umbrella Conference, hosted by Centre Street Church in Calgary. The theme, of course, was “Choose Joy.”
The speakers shared ways that people living with disabilities and their caregivers can both choose joy and find joy. The keynote speakers were Emily Colson, author of Dancing with Max; Jason Hague, author of Aching Joy; and Barbara Newman, author of Autism and Your Church, Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship, and numerous Friendship curriculum resources. Emily and Jason both spoke of their experiences raising autistic children and of how the church met or failed to meet their needs. Barbara challenged the group by sharing some great tools for better understanding people with disabilities and ensuring that everyone in the church belongs and feels welcomed. All of them helped attendees see how the good news and the fellowship of the church can bring joy to people with disabilities and their families.
How does Friendship Ministries fit into that joy? I see joy on the faces of my friends on Monday night. I see joy on parents’ faces when they drop their adult children off at church. I see joy on the faces of the mentors who faithfully come each week to spend time with their Friends. Friendship is a bright light in the lives of thousands of people around the world—or maybe I should call it a “bright joy”!