In God’s own image
October 29, 2019
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27 NIV)
The premise of Christian existence for me, is our creation for God’s glory. My paradigm is based on the fact that we were first created in God’s image and then spend our lives working to become more like God, reflecting that glory, and ultimately reuniting with God in heaven.
In that same vein, Christ said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14 NIV)
I believe we are most like Jesus, when we are children. There is an innocence, a lack of knowing that allows us to trust blindly in that state. In adulthood we learn to call that Faith. In my continuing on that journey of faith, I began to walk alongside the Bridge ministry at Calvary Church Souderton. The ministry provides short-term care for people with disabilities, to allow their regular caregivers a respite from the daily work and sometimes stress of caring for their charge. I have predominantly worked with the children on the monthly three-hour respite program, but have also on occasion, worked with both children and adults on the weekly program, designed to allow their caretakers to attend church on Sundays.
The ministry, with the exception of key program and medical staff, is staffed with volunteers. These volunteers are critical to allowing the program to serve a wider range of families in the community. We the volunteers are required to obtain certain clearances and trainings, to be eligible to work with the participants, for safety reasons.
As a volunteer, I have found that it is very common for people to commend you for such works and see you as someone sacrificing your time and exercising your faith in action, a good person. This is not untrue for many caregivers; however, my journey involves a story of more receiving than giving.
The work of respite is an expedition in faith, not just through trials but also in joy. When we step into our respite nights, we are almost in a bubble. We are in their world, and it is one that I find very liberating, with fewer etiquettes for decorum.
It is a place where we are all individuals with challenges amongst other individuals with challenges. The children are just one more person in the room, and can put what is normally their definitive characteristic aside to show off other sides they live with every day. They trust the caretakers to keep them safe, and have fun, interacting with each other, and freely sharing their experiences with us and each other. It is in these moments that I become a student, learning to navigate this world of acceptance of vast differences, where inability to excel at everything isn’t a hindrance to achieving joy and being admired. When thought of from that vantage point, it is clear to see that in our day to day lives, we are often a room of individuals with challenges doing the same things, only maybe not as obviously so.
So, this is what I leave with, our similarities and not our differences. Each individual with their own personalities, good and bad. A new view of disabilities. I could acknowledge that a person that struggled with anger, depression, sexuality, alcoholism, profanity, was in some sense dealing with a form of inability. With mental, physical, and developmental disabilities though, it was just more obvious.
As a result, they knew how to deal with it, their need of help was non-negotiable from the start, and it allowed them to trust in ways a normal functioning adult would quail to do. It made their trust (or faith) childlike, with fewer expectations from others, thus allowing them to live more in the moment.
So then, I come back to the image of God. Adam and Eve before the fall, working in the garden, loving God, the animals, and each other. Trusting him unconditionally, exercising trust and faith in God their caretaker, and in God’s provisions and judgment.
This is where my journey with volunteering with children with disabilities has led, acknowledging that we are all made in God’s image. Although some of us are circumstantially forced to trust and be dependent on human caretakers, all of us are called to live with struggles, and trust the ultimate caretaker God.
Serving in the Bridge ministry reminds me that if I can entrust my basic needs like safety, food, shelter, and compassion to God, I will be liberated enough to live in the moment and enjoy the highs and the lows with authenticity. This balance and trust I have put in my caretaker will lead to a good life that is to God’s glory. For, as people praise those who care for these ones without the ability to do so themselves, so will they praise our God who carries us through our darkest moments and eddies us in our most joyous times.
Mina Ajiboye is a Senior Accountant at the American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS). Her penchant for development work and love of numbers led her to her work at ABHMS, and she enjoys expanding her reach through volunteer work with various organizations, churches, and community development programs.