Shellie Power has always been amazed at what happens when young people are taken out of their comfort zones and allowed to contribute to God’s kingdom in ways they never imagined.
People with disabilities participate in the Winnipeg SERVE project.
But when Power, a member at Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, was asked to help redesign a Youth Unlimited SERVE project to include people with disabilities, her passion grew.
A recent SERVE project in Winnipeg paired young people with disabilities with mentors to minister at soup kitchens and thrift stores. They also participated in painting projects in the city’s downtown district and in yard projects in and around Covenant CRC’s neighborhood.
“There is just something that happens in an individual to realize that they’ve been created to serve and that they have gifts and that they’re needed,” said Power, who is also the director of spiritual care at Hope Centre Ministries, which provides spiritual support for individuals living with disabilities.
Too often, Power said, churches look at people who live with disabilities as a population that needs serving but that may not be equipped to serve. When that picture is turned upside-down with projects like SERVE, she said, God really begins to work.
During the recent Winnipeg project, six mentors who began the week expecting they’d give of themselves discovered that they were receiving from the nine participants they were paired with.
Very quickly, the “us and them” mentality disappeared.
“You watch the (mentors) go through a journey when they realize that they are just as blessed by their peers with disabilities,” Power said.
Over the week, participants and mentors formed friendships, shaping new attitudes and giving new meaning to the term inclusion—all in the name of serving together.
“By the end of the week, we all blend together and it’s just one big team,” Covenant CRC associate pastor Ken Douma said. “At the beginning, the disability is very evident so there’s a little fear and trepidation.
“But by the end, the disabilities kind of disappear and the [participants’] abilities and personalities really come out, and that’s cool to see.”