“My favourite part about following God is that no matter what my problems or worries are, I can talk to God about them,” Michael told me as we chatted before HCM’s Young Adult Friendship Group last this past week. Recently, Michael made the decision to be baptised at his local church, and he agreed to talk with me about what brought him to this important decision!
Michael and his family have been involved at Hope Centre Ministries for a few years now, starting with his parents, and then Michael progressively more and more too. When I asked him about starting at HCM, I had to chuckle at his response. He said that his mom made him and he didn’t really want to because he was nervous, but now he’s very thankful; he’s found friends and community.
Hope Centre Ministries has played an important part in Michael’s journey. He explains that Hope Centre, as well as his family and church all played a role in helping him learn to follow God and bring him to the point of wanting to get baptised. He explains that He felt that Jesus was calling him to make this step that that he felt ready to tell people he was following God.
I asked him what continuing to follow God will look like in his life, and he said that he will do his best to treat people nicely, and also forgive people when they are mean to him. Forgiveness can be very hard, but Michael knows that he can pray to God to help him. God can also help Michael when he feels anxious.
Baptism is a picture of belonging…in God’s family. It was wonderful to hear how Michael’s church helped him prepare for this milestone in his faith journey. Understanding his anxieties, the leaders accommodated his needs by helping him to prepare a video testimony. He was able to put together a beautiful statement of faith without the added pressure of speaking in front of people. They also took time to walk through all the parts of what would happen, including going to the baptismal tank ahead of time. It may seem like small accommodations, but they made the step of baptism more accessible for Michael.
Personally, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Michael over the last couple years, and have really been excited to see more and more of his personality as he’s become comfortable with the Young Adults group here at HCM. The week before his baptism, members of the group shared their own baptism stories with him to help calm his butterflies and prayed that he wouldn’t feel too anxious. Many of them were also able to attend that Sunday! I’m so thankful that Michael can call this group his own and has formed meaningful friendships here.
While the act of getting baptised caused anxiety (because of public speaking, the unknowns of what it would feel like, being in front of everyone, etc) for Michael, I’m thankful that his family, his church, and us at Hope Centre could support and cheer on Michael to be able to do this. It’s the reminder that God provides community to help us reach the things He calls us to, even when it’s scary.
Angeline and her husband Tony are members of the HCM Parents, Partners, Prayer group. Together they are raising two children on the autism spectrum. When reading Angeline’s book, it is evident to see her deep love for her children. She honours them with words that turn even her most frustrating moments into inspiring reflections.
This fall, several members of our Parents group, met at McNally Robinson’s to celebrate with Angeline and her family, at the launch of her new book. Hearing Angeline read her poetry is a gift to the soul. Take a moment to read a brief interview with her regarding her writing.
After I’ve written about a difficult experience, the poetry becomes a filter between me and the dark memory. When I look back, instead of seeing the pain, I just see the poem – and the joy I found in writing it. I can also find more grace for myself and my children in the middle of a challenge (such as a lipsticked bathtub or Sunday morning meltdown) when I remember I can write about it. Thinking “This will make a great poem!” has gotten me though many messy moments.
What do you hope readers, whose lives are impacted by disability, will find in your poems?
The truth that, in their fears and questions, they are not alone. And that no matter how different their family looks from the ones they see on the soccer field or TV, the connection they share is precious.
What do you hope readers, who haven’t experienced disability, will learn/realize through your poetry?
I hope readers see that regardless of their labels, every person is unique and valuable. That despite its share of rough spots, autism is not a tragedy. That no matter how their own lives are different from what they expected, joy is possible.
What supports are important to you as a mom of children with disabilities, and where do you find them?
I need friends who will listen without judgment: who cry with me, laugh with me, pray for me, maybe even bring me chocolate. Many, but not all, of these friends are other parents of children with disabilities. I find them at church, online, through my writing, and through Hope Centre.
What does the HCM PPP (Parents Partners Prayer) mean to you?
I have attended support groups that succumbed to competitiveness and negativity, so I was nervous about joining. But I’m so glad I did! At Parents Partners Prayer, I’ve only ever felt acceptance and encouragement. Our situations and backgrounds are all very different, but our love for our children, our need for community, and our belief in the power of prayer bind us together.
Parents~Partners~Prayer group meets the second Tuesday of every month. The heart of this group is to be a place of mutuality and safety; a haven where parents can come along side one another, share faith, pray for each other, learn together and support one another by pooling resources.
Angeline’s book, Tell Them It Was Mozart, is available directly through her, via Hope Centre Ministries for $20.00 (plus shipping if applicable). It is also available online through Amazon.ca
More than 60 people signed on to walk/ride in support of Hope Centre Ministries in the annual Ride for Refuge. Ride for Refuge is a super-fun, family-friendly fundraiser in support of 250+ charities serving displaced, vulnerable, and exploited people. Hope Centre Ministries is a partner charity in Winnipeg. Through all of their efforts, HCM received over $16,000! Save the date and join us on Sept. 30, 2017 for the next ride!
“To be included you just need to be present. To belong you need to be missed.”~John Swinton
Many people recognize the face of Alfred, a long-time member of the HCM family who passed away this last May.
Alfred was someone I could trust to guide me. He helped me navigate throughout Winnipeg. If I was driving a group, I would pick up Alfred first and he would help me find everyone we needed to pick up. He set me on the correct path and showed me the way (many times). He was always confident and matter of fact.
He cared deeply about people and had an amazing memory for the details of their lives. During his lengthy hospital stay, hearing about people was very important to him. He missed being in community. He missed his friends from day program, his Hope Centre family, and the familiar surroundings of home.
The relationships that he had with people were his greatest treasure. Relationships brought security and a deep sense of belonging.
Alfred knew many Bible stories, but we talked often about the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. He loved this story and the song, The Horse and Rider, that is based on that story. As his health deteriorated, be had moments that filled him with uncertainty. Seeing him unsure of his path reminded me again of this story. He had come to a water’s edge. He had discovered things about his health and felt fear. He was overwhelmed and had moments where he was distraught. He needed this song to remind him that “God would fight for him”… that God HAD fought for him. The Bible verse that came to mind was from Isaiah 43, where God said: “I have redeemed you, I have called you by name…. Alfred you are mine. When you walk through the waters…. I will be there. And through the flame. You won’t be drowned. You won’t be burned. Do not be afraid. I love you—you are honored and precious.” Alfred needed words of strength and hope. He needed assurance of God’s presence…. He needed a clear path. God provided that for him through community. The relationships that he loved so much are what brought him peace during this time.
Alfred was not alone. He had a community that rallied around him . Through visits, cards, Tim Horton’s coffees, TV rentals, checkers, puzzles, crafts, hair cuts, and walks– God communicated his presence. As people gave their time to simply be with him, so that he would not be alone, God was there with Alfred. At the water’s edge, it was community that provided a path of dry ground.
Hope Centre Ministries is a place where Alfred knew with certainty, that he belonged. He felt loved and secure. Missing him is a reminder of belonging as his death leaves a space in many of our lives. As we move into a new year, I pray that we may continue to treasure the relationships and community that is nurtured through Hope Centre Ministries.
This is truly a summer of new initiatives around HCM. Until this year, our summers were mainly focused on providing leadership during a weeklong mission week for youth with disabilities (called SERVE), here in Winnipeg. Last year, Shellie and April had the opportunity to join Fruitland’s Special Needs SERVE tool, as a speaker (Shellie) and an all-around helper (April).
However, this summer Shellie, April, Michelle, and Jennifer will be travelling in a group of 15 from Winnipeg to be part of Fruitland’s SERVE week; it’ll be a Winnipeg invasion in the Niagara Region! The theme for SERVE 2016 is: “Make change. Be changed” and it’s our prayer that this will be true in our group – that we will make a difference for those we’re serving, and that God will also mold and change us to better serve Him when we go home as well.
Even while the SERVE team is in Fruitland, HCM will be busy in Winnipeg too. This is to the credit of our two newest employees for the summer: Michelle Klassen and Emily Hiebert. Michelle and Emily have been busy getting ready for and starting a brand new program, “Hands and Feet”. This program runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer and encourages youth and young adults who live with disabilities to grow deeper in their understanding of God by learning how to serve their community.
As you can see, our summer is anything but quiet. Please pray for these ministry initiatives and the seeds that are being planted. If you want to learn more about summer programs and HCM please visit us online: hopecentreministries.org/summer-programs/
Hope Centre Ministry’s two Friendship Groups have now come to an end until they resume in the fall. It was a really fun year, filled with learning, singing, fellowship, and even occasions to serve. For our program wrap up, we had a BBQ for both the Friendship Group and the Young Adults group. Delicious burgers, salads, veggies, and dessert were enjoyed by all.
Since the programs have each grown this past year, I opted to have each group have their own year-end BBQ instead of a joined one so we’d have enough space. For the young adults group, one of the families opened up their home to host us! It was a lot of fun to gather in that setting and some great memories were made.
One of the neat things about the year-end BBQ is that we have something called a “Friendship Salad”. Hope Centre provides salad and some basic dressings, but we invite everyone coming to contribute their favourite topping to share. I’m always surprised what people bring; I expect things like tomatoes, croutons, cucumber, and even dried cranberries, but I don’t expect crunchy dried onion pieces, shredded carrots, raisins, or potato chips!
It’s kind of like the real world… everyone does have something to bring to the ‘salad’ of life together, but it’s not always what you or I may expect. And just because it’s not something typical, doesn’t mean that it isn’t valued and that many will still enjoy it. It’s a good reminder of Hope Centre’s motto: We ALL have gifts, they differ!
Retreat weekend is a highlight for many individuals connected with Hope Centre Ministries. We love to go away from the city to relax, refresh, and renew connection with both God and others. We have several learning times, small group time, camp activities, and fellowship activities that fill our days. It is a wonderful time of learning and growing together. This year, we welcomed over 60 people… so it was busy as well. Our destination, for many years has been Camp Arnes in Gimli, MB. We enjoyed the horses, the pool… and even the flying squirrel! Continue reading from Jenny (0ur speaker at the retreat) to see what we learned. You can also find out more about Jenny through her website: jennypichette.com
Our theme for the weekend was based on the summer Olympic Games and so we called our theme: Champions for Christ. Many might think that this is a cheesy name, but I think it is great! I believe that when we are called by God to enter into relationship with Him, we are all called to strive to be a Champion for Christ each and every day.
During our time together I had the opportunity to lead devotions which took place three times. First, I got to speak about the importance of having a Coach. We must allow God to be our Coach to lead us every step of the way! Noah was a perfect example of what it meant to follow God (his coach) as he followed his directions to build the ark even though he faced difficulty. In our lives, we often face difficulties, but it is important that we allow God to be our coach and lead us, because he knows what is best for us.
My second devotion was about the importance of training. Every athlete must train to be able to perform to the best of their abilities. Jonah was a bad trainee because he did not want to listen to God. Jonah had a very bad attitude. In our walk with God we must train each and every day so that we can get to know God better and the things that He has for us. If we don’t put the right things in our mind and heart such as God’s Word, we won’t be “spiritually fit” and ready for the things that God has for us.
The last and final devotion was about keeping our eyes on the prize. Every athlete that competes goes for the gold. As believers we are going for something better then gold, we look forward to our prize that is in Heaven. This is very exciting! No matter what happens in our lives we can always have hope in our prize that God has given us through His Son, Jesus: an eternity in Heaven with Him.
It was a privilege for me to write these devotions and to teach them! To tell you the truth though, a week leading up to this time I did not feel like much of a champion. I was feeling defeated and very discouraged. Even so, God continued to teach me what it means to be a champion for Him, even at a time when I did not feel like one! We are all called to be Champions for Christ and to know that God is with us every step of the way!
Jesus welcomes all. As we meet him throughout the gospels we see that he goes out of his way to include. Jesus’ ministry was a ministry that broke barriers… of all kinds… he embraced the ‘other’ everywhere he went.
Jesus showed compassion to social outcasts… he healed the lepers and ate with the tax collectors. He protested gender inequality–In a culture where women were considered lesser, he invited them into conversation about matters of great importance. When he sat the children on his knee he embraced the unwelcomed. He risked his reputation and included drunkards and prostitutes. He confronted the powerful and advocated for the oppressed. He didn’t avoid … he welcomed. Paul says much the same thing, only in different words: “Welcome one another, as God in Christ welcomed you.” (Romans 15:7) God is the standard by which we are to measure the warmth of our welcoming.
Welcoming the “other” was Jesus’ mission. Welcoming the “other” is our mission. Sharing Jesus, discovering gifts, and serving community is the theme of our summer. Many people we do ministry with have felt the sting of exclusion in various forms. This Spring, we want to celebrate inclusion. We want to highlight stories of welcome and connection.
We are so excited to share the plans of IN 2014 with you. This year we have expanded and there are a variety of events planned… but all intended to INclude, INvite, INform, INspire. The goal of IN 2014 is to encourage the discussion of meaningful inclusion of individuals with disabilities in faith communities. It is a discussion we are passionate about and hope you will participate in.
This weekend has been planned to include a variety of different things.
Do you enjoy music? Then you will be very interested in our pre-conference event with Ken Medema. Ken has been blind since birth and is able to weave story with song in an amazing way. This evening will include stories from a variety of guests and will be hosted in part by Emily Colson.
Emily Colson… daughter of Chuck Colson and mother Max, her 23 year old son with autism. She is also the author of Dancing With Max, where she shares her heart and her journey. Emily is active in the blogging community and very recently, she shared an experience that she had while in a movie theatre with Max. It went viral (in fact it crashed her website!). We invite you to read of her grace and strength in Darkness in a Theatre