Recently, Tom VanWingerden, the recently retired Executive Director from Friendship Ministries, sat down with Elizabeth Dombrowski, Executive Director of All Belong to discuss the new relationship between All Belong and Friendship. Joined by Victoria White, Director of Church Services at All Belong, the conversation covered a broad variety of topics, including the newly announced partnership between the two organizations, Barb Newman’s involvement, Tom’s upcoming retirement, and their perspectives on what the future has in store.
Below you’ll find a recording and a transcript of their conversation.
Victoria White: Hi, I’m Victoria White, Director of Church Services at All Belong. I want to share today about how Friendship Ministries and All Belong are joining together. You may have seen our flyer in the mail where one card combined with another card gives you the message that Friendship Ministries and All Belong are coming together. I have with me today Executive Director of Friendship Ministries, Tom VanWingerden, and Executive Director of All Belong, Elizabeth Dombrowski, to talk about how our organizations are joining
Tom VanWingerden: I’m so excited for this opportunity for partnership. Last year Friendship Ministries sought out a partnership with a like-minded Christian organization, with a focus on inclusion and All Belong came forward with enthusiasm and grace to propose some ideas that they have for this partnership and Friendship Ministries and its leadership came to the conclusion that All Belong really should be the partner that we settled on. So here we are, we’re going forward with this opportunity with enthusiasm and grace and Thanksgiving.
Elizabeth Dombrowski: And for All Belong this relationship makes a lot of sense. We’ve worked together for many years and our missions overlap in some really meaningful ways to help congregations with inclusion of persons vulnerabilities. We see Friendship Ministries as being able to provide a tangible pathway to do that through the current TOGETHER curriculum .
White: Right, so we are excited to move forward with Friendship Ministries under the umbrella of All Belong and our mission, (which is) to equip congregations and schools to glorify God through purposeful, innovative inclusion of persons with varied abilities. And we truly believe that we can move forward in that mission with Friendship Ministries under this umbrella. So, Tom, would you just share with us a little bit about where friendship ministries has been so that those of us in the All Belong community know what we are about here with Friendship Ministries.
VanWingerden: I’d be happy to do that. For decades, Friendship Ministries has looked for opportunities to utilize interdependence, equality, compassion, and hospitality to bring together God’s people both with and without intellectual disability. Friendship Ministries has provided resources over the decades that help promote inclusion within faith communities. More recently our digital curriculum – called TOGETHER – provides a menu of digital resources for churches, for faith communities, et cetera. And we’ve been so blessed over the past years to partner with (All Belong’s) Barb Newman in the creation of many of these digital opportunities in the TOGETHER curriculum. That, of course, laid the groundwork for a wonderful relationship and blessing with Friendship Ministries and All Belong.
Dombrowski: And this (partnership) was a vision that Barb shared. We grieve her passing. We mourn the loss of Barb. But we know she is welcomed into our heavenly father’s arms. She shared this vision for all Belong and Friendship Ministries to work together and was quite excited about it. And so we carry it forward, remembering her fondly.
White: Yes, as we move forward with Friendship Ministries under the umbrella of All Belong, we are celebrating so much and, and we are carrying on that legacy that Barb has started with these conversations and these partnerships and working together to create the TOGETHER curriculum. And as we move forward, celebrating these changes and all of this means for our organizations, we’re also celebrating with you, Tom, regarding some personal transitions that are happening.
Dombrowski: And I want to congratulate you on your retirement and wish you many blessings on the time that you’ll have with your family.
VanWingerden: Thank you so much and, yes, it is a new season of life for me. But I’m very blessed to know that Friendship Ministries and All Belong are left in great hands as we go forward with this partnership. And yeah, I retire and leave that behind knowing that God will continue to bless and help the organizations grow together.
Dombrowski: And thank you for stewarding this mission forward and for having a vision for its future with All Belong.
White: So we see friendship groups and inclusive Bible studies continuing to have excellent resources and materials, so that God’s word is engaging for people of all abilities. We continue to see resources being put into Spanish through Ministerio Amistad and the Latin American ministry through Friendship Ministries. We’re excited to continue this work as two organizations partnering together.
Dombrowski: And contributions to Friendship Ministries, will continue to support the work of Friendship as a subsidiary of All Belong. We are holding joint fundraisers, such as the golf outing and any gifts designated to Friendship will go to the work of Friendship Ministries. That golf outing is coming up in June, so we’re excited to see some of the Friendship Ministries community at that time. Those contributions support the ongoing mission of Friendship Ministries to provide inclusion and faith-based community of support for persons of all abilities. And we’re excited to be able to do so. So thank you for continuing to move this mission forward. Thank you to the Friendship Ministries community for partnering with us in this way.
White: Thank you, Elizabeth. And thank you Tom, for coming here today and sharing with us this exciting announcement about how our organizations are working to continue the work that God has called us to do and how He has brought us together for good.
Learn more about the new relationship between All Belong and Friendship Ministries. Interested in the ways your church could partner with All Belong? Explore the Member Church Program webpage for more information.
This blog post has been adapted from allbelong.org/blog