Through our pastoral care programs, we can reach our clients in many different ways.
Ambassadors of Hope is our school-aged program aimed at “confronting the stare” by familiarizing children and youth with people who live with disabilities or mental illness. We invite schools to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity where students (5th grade and up) can build new connections and friendships while learning to walk alongside someone who lives with a disability or mental illness.
In December a choir of 6th grade students from Ada Christian School made its annual visit to the 36th Street Day Programs to sing Christmas carols and share in the joy of the season. One client especially got into the spirit when he stood next to the choir director and mimicked her hand motions, to the delight of both the students and the director. When the children were done singing, that same client high-fived all 48 students to thank them for coming. Afterwards, the choir director said this is always her favorite concert to give each year because of the positive impact it has on her students.
Morning Inspirations is our weekly non-denominational worship service giving Hope Network clients the opportunity to participate in worship. Hope Network pastors facilitate the service but clients are fully engaged in singing, praying, reading from the Bible and sharing prayer requests.
A Holy Rhythm
Thursday mornings at the Work Skills building, located on Hope Network’s 36th Street campus, start out busy, like every other weekday. The first vehicle rolls in around 8:30 a.m., and over the next hour more than 100 program participants arrive in a steady stream of buses and vans for another day of work and life skills programming.
At 9:00 a.m. the busy rhythm transforms into a holy rhythm when the call goes out over the intercom that Morning Inspirations – the weekly worship service led by Pastoral Services – is about to start in the break room. Within seconds, the procession of clients eagerly making their way into the room calls to mind the words of Psalm 122:1, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”
Many of the clients are not able to attend a local church regularly. So Morning Inspirations isn’t just a time for them to take a break from work; it’s a time to “be church” together: to sing together, pray together, and listen to a brief meditation on God’s Word from one of Hope Network’s pastors.
A spirit of joy fills the air during the praise time when we worship God without inhibition. Some of the clients dance while they sing, some keep the beat by clapping, and some play along on the tambourines and maracas the pastors bring along. Each week we sing favorite songs that help them remember and celebrate God’s love for them, and their love for God.
When the pastor announces it’s time for prayer requests, more hands go in the air than stay down. It’s a time for them to give voice to what’s happening in their lives. One client might give thanks for her new glasses. Another asks for prayer about her seizures. Another will pray for a roommate in his group home who is sick. Another will pray for staff. And yet another asks to pray for his basketball game on Saturday. Just as the church is called to share in one another’s joy and concerns, the clients listen attentively to each other’s prayer requests; some will even offer to come to the front and lead the prayer along with the pastor.
Morning Inspirations always concludes with a blessing, a spoken word for them to remember God’s grace and love for them as his children regardless of their abilities or disabilities. That is what community is all about: to share what and who we really are; to express our love for one another, reveal our hopes, and to rejoice in being called together as parts of the same body.
In The Palm of Our Hands
In a recent Morning Inspiration service at the 36th Street Campus, the focus of the meditation was based on Isaiah 49:15-16a, where God says to his people, “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.”
The pastor leading the service told the clients that “sometimes I have to write a note on my hand if I’m talking on the phone and I don’t have any paper available. The note will stay on my hand for a little while but eventually it washes off. It might stay longer if I use a Sharpie but, that too, will gradually disappear. I then assured them that when God says he has our names written on the palm of his hands, it’s not with a pen or a marker. It’s much more permanent—like a tattoo. We spent some time wondering how God could fit everybody’s name on his hands. One of the clients joyfully reminded me that we had just sung “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”
Before the meditation was done, the pastor asked them to all look at the palm of their hands. “Because if you look closely you can find the shape of the cross, usually right in the middle of your palm (go ahead and look). I told them that’s a good way to always remember what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross. Some of those present were having difficulty finding the cross in their hand, so I told them I would help look for it. Several of them got in line, and one by one I found the cross. Many of them were amazed as I lightly traced it with my pen. But one female client began to cry, and said, “This is great! I love it! I’m never going to wash my hand again.” I assured her that even when the ink washes off, the lines will still be there because that’s how God made us. She replied, “I love Jesus. And I’m always going to remember him when I look at my hands.”
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