Sunday, January 16, 2011

Friendship Ministries

One of the requirements that Calvin Seminary has for all of its M.Div students is that they complete 100 hours of unpaid ‘service learning’.  They define this (rather narrowly in my opinion) as engaging in acts of  “justice and mercy”.  This means that we need to volunteer with a group or organization that is ministering to the cause of the poor, needy, or marginalized.  Things like volunteering at a soup kitchen, food bank, or for an after school program, mentoring an inner city kid, or any number of other options. 

At first, I resisted this requirement – so much so that I met with the VP for Academic Affairs to plead my case that given the fact that I’ve been a good amount of time since college volunteering in a variety of ways in community, church, and school that I should be able to earn some ‘life experience credit’ and be exempted from this requirement.

My reasons were valid, to me at least.  I understand why the requirement is there.  Many people don’t very readily see the importance of volunteering and giving back to their communities.  We use the excuses of being too busy, of not knowing what to do, or by rationalizing the fact that we already do our part and don’t see a need to do more – after all, “Why can’t so-and-so do it?”   However, I had the opportunity to be involved in a number of volunteer opportunities after college and really appreciated the opportunity to serve in that capacity.  Therefore, as I argued with the VP, I didn’t need this to be legislated to me and, in fact, I was all for it.  But not here and not now.   My time here is short and the seminary workload is demanding – I felt that I deserved (and earned) a respite ( are you sensing a theme here?).  The powers that be disagreed and I began seeking out opportunities.

So, if I was going to do this, I wanted to do something that would be meaningful to me and that I would enjoy.  In high school and college I worked in group home for mentally and physically challenged children and really liked it.  It was hard work, but good work.  Through that and through the CRC in Worthington I got the opportunity to participate in a Friendship Bible Ministry there and really liked that well.

Friendship Ministries is a non-profit organization that creates and helps facilitate Bible studies for mentally and physically challenged young people and adults.  They are not affiliated with the CRC directly, but they do share a very strong, symbiotic relationship.  Anyway, their corporate offices are here in Grand Rapids so I inquired about an opportunity to serve.

As the Lord would have it there was an group that met every Tuesday at church just a few blocks from our house on Tuesday nights.  In addition, she had a perfect opportunity for me – Marcus needed a partner. 

Marcus is a 19 year-old young man with autism.  He doesn’t speak but he knows some sign language and he loves coming Friendship.  I’ve been able to meet with him twice so far and he’s been a joy to get to know. I’m looking forward to getting to know him better.

Something that I thought would be a hassle has turned out to be a wonderful blessing.  That’s what’s so amazing about God’s grace – you find it when you most need and when you least expect it.   I’m already looking forward to Tuesday.

1 comment:

Jane said...

Hi Michael,
Sounds like seminary is going well for you! Our daughter Alissa teaches a deaf and autistic student who only speaks in sign: she's had great success this year in setting up an Ipad for him with various menu choices that help him communicate with people who don't know sign. Technology is really becoming an asset to those who are autistic and/or speak in sign, including Facetime with Ipods.