Do the Dishes: Remembering Barb Newman

by Tom VanWingerden

Our dear friend Barb Newman passed away in September. Barb, a member of Friendship Ministry’s curriculum team, lived with her heart and soul open to the needs of persons with disability. Barb lived to serve and in so doing held a myriad of jobs. She was a speaker, writer, consultant, and Director for the Church Services Division at All Belong (formerly CLC Network). She was also the Co-Director of the inclusion program at Zeeland Christian School in Michigan. She traveled across North America equipping schools, churches, and communities with tools to build a vision of belonging for people of all abilities in the family of God.

Barb challenged Friendship Ministries to consider innovative ways to create opportunities of belonging. She authored many Bible study units of our on-line Bible study TOGETHER, thus enabling leaders to better enable Friends of all abilities to discover, praise, and honor God side by side with one another.

Barb left her imprint not only on Friendship Ministries, but also on multiple communities of faith, individuals, and disability ministries with her passion, grace, perseverance and love. We miss her deeply!

Barry Newman, Barb’s husband, shared a personal story during the memorial service which struck a chord with me. For years, he “allowed” Barb to wash the mealtime dishes on her own. During that period, he basically forgot how to do them himself. A couple of years ago however, he felt a nudge, a calling from God to get back in the kitchen after each meal and relearn how this task was performed. With Barb at his side, Barry slowly got the hang of mealtime dishwashing and cleanup. Now, with Barb gone, he ably does the dishes on his own.

Barry noted and stressed that learning to “do the dishes” is much like learning how to lead in the vision of inclusion. Perhaps many have the tools and gifts, but have chosen to allow others to take on the task. God has been patiently calling us to participate in his desire for belonging, and for many it’s time we hear God’s call, learn, work side by side, and perhaps even venture forward on our own.

May God be in our minds and in our hearts as we learn to “do the dishes”!


Tom VanWingerden
Executive Director