This is going to be a little different than my usual reports.
God has been moving this ministry to have a wider impact outside the local Grand Rapids area.
Since the pandemic started, we had an opportunity, as did many ministries, to look for different venues of doing ministry that we would not have otherwise seen if we were not working around certain social limitations.
For Jabez Ministries, God’s Grace has manifested itself in two ways:
The first is that it provided time needed to further develop Team Jabez into a stronger leadership team.
Team Jabez is composed of current students and alumni. They are persons with disabilities who assist in the ministry on campus of Grand Rapids Community College.
Since the pandemic started, communication has been an issue. I’m deaf and a lip-reader. While people are wearing face masks, my ability to communicate is lessened significantly.
One of the ways the Team has assisted is being my “ears” on campus. Over the years, we’ve become a community of like-minded individuals, who are teaching others what belonging is all about. They also fill in for me when I’m absent. They assist me in ministry.
Last January, my wife and I caught Covid and I was unable to be on campus for three weeks. While I was recovering, Team Jabez stepped up and became a presence on campus in my place. They speak to students and others, providing hospitality and conversations. They’re learning to become leaders in their churches and communities.
These are people with different types of disabilities. Most have had the belief that needed to be taken care of, or that they were unimportant. They’re now part of something that’s trying to challenge and change that. These are people who have moved from believing they’ve nothing real to offer and are, now, making a difference.
Second, I’ve been asked to speak about Jabez Ministries in Cleveland at the the IFL2022 Conference is on April 29 and 30.I was asked to speak about the uniqueness of Jabez Ministries and Team Jabez at the conference. To that end, Team Jabez is attending as well.
The final preparations are being made.
There is a total of seven of us going from Jabez Ministries.
There’s myself, my wife, Alberta, four persons from Team Jabez, and a fellow pastor, Rev. John Russell, of Byron Center Baptist Church; he and his church are supporters of this ministry The Team Jabez members who are attending will be Julie Nowakowski, Sarah Stanford, Shaphan Russell and Paul Russell.
Please keep us all in prayer as we travel and participate in the conference and in conversation about Disability Ministries. We see this as a great opportunity to raise awareness for persons with disabilities engaged in ministry and becoming church leaders.
One of the things we hope to share is the work that Team Jabez does.
Team Jabez consists of three GRCC alumni, two of whom have been with the ministry since its inception in fall of 2012 and are graduates. One is a current student, and the other is a student at Cornerstone University who volunteers his skills as a filmmaker to produce our YouTube videos. Jabez Ministries gives them the opportunity to seek their gifts and use them in service of the Kingdom.
One other thing we hope to touch on is the former students who return and volunteer their time on campus to help do the work. One student, Jacob Bonert, who graduated just before the pandemic and has returned to host a “Game Days ” on campus. On days when Jacob can’t be there, Julie takes over. We started this before the onset of the pandemic, and we’ve restarted it again this semester. This is open to everyone and has proven to be a fantastic venue for Christian fellowship.
It should be said that many return because they’ve found community when they otherwise would not have.
Let’s be honest, most of us with disabilities, especially those considered “hidden,” are not very comfortable in social situations.
At the Jabez Ministries Fellowship Roundtable at GRCC, they’re encouraged by the appreciation of their respective gifts as well as pastoral care to help adapt to living and flourishing with their disabilities.
I’ve also been told that the speakers at the conference will be live-streamed. I’m scheduled to speak Friday, April 29, at 1:30pm. Here’s the general link to the conference:
All of this would not possible if it were not for all of you. Expressing gratitude is not enough. There are people who have forever benefited, and continue to benefit, from your prayers and generosity.