There are times in my life when my boldness has been completely out of character for the personality I was born into.
I am currently in the process of writing a grant application for my church. Our church building is over 50 years old. First, the sanctuary was built with classrooms in the basement. Then the family center with additional classrooms and a gym was added later, at the bottom of a hill, with a connection through the basement of the sanctuary. There was an intention to build an elevator at a later date. However, that congregation dissolved before it could be done.
We have an emotional connection to this church building. We met and were married in this church building. Our kids were all in the nursery. That church dissolved a year after we moved to a different area of the city. It was very upsetting and sad. Several small congregations occupied the building without much success after that. When we moved back to the area, we discovered that there was a new congregation there and the church parking lot was full on Sundays. So we decided to check it out. We have been attending since June and have noticed some very wonderful things about this congregation.
This church has had a strong ministry to orphans – particularly those who are medically fragile. Many of their families have adopted. And several others are consistently providing foster care for children in need. This is an under-served and often neglected population. This project would allow those with disabilities to access classrooms for Bible study and fully enter into the life of the church. They have also partnered with Olivia’s Gift – a local home for developmentally disabled adults. Our congregation serves there on Thursday evenings by playing music, reading to the residents, etc. They have tried to bring the residents to our facility for Sunday services but accessibility has been a challenge.
Our church also has an African Refugee Church that meets at around 1:00 pm. There are many Chinese students who come. There is an English as a second language ministry. And several members work with New Creation Ministries doing Bible correspondence courses with prisoners.
Before we came, our church had been planning to build an elevator to the classroom areas and family center, along with a broader foyer and wider stairs. As it stands now, a person in a wheelchair or using a cane would have to go back to their car and be driven down the hill to get to the classroom area of the church. Or be carried down the stairs. These options are cumbersome and embarrassing. Many newcomers would just give up. The gospel is for everyone, not just those who can navigate the stairs.
I have witnessed church members carrying the wheelchair of a young man down the stairs.
So the pastor of the church ask if I would be willing to explore grant possibilities. I said yes. That is exceptionally forward of me.
It is not like me to go to strangers and try to convince them to hand over money even for a good cause. I was never much good at selling girl scout cookies, even though they practically sell themselves. I am not a sales person; I take after my dad in that regard. He has had many side careers over the years, none of which were successful, and some of which cost him quite a bit of money with lackluster return at best.
I was extremely shy when I went away to college. When a boy came to sit at my table with my friends, I would shake; I was so nervous. I wish I had been braver when I was in college. Maybe I would have been able to raise money from organizations to attend a semester in England. Nah. I would have been shaking in my boots.
However, there have been moments in my life that defy my natural tendencies.
After I graduated from college, I decided to attend this church which was halfway between my job and my parents’ house because the services were earlier. The first Sunday, my husband’s friend introduced himself to me, and then introduced me to my future husband. After church, the crowd was so thick that we were stuck at the back, and had to talk to each other until the crowd dispersed. He was shy. So was I. But here is the exceptionally forward part. That Wednesday night, this shy person went to prayer meeting and noticed that he was sitting alone. By himself. I inexplicably walked up to him and asked if the seat next to him was empty. He said yes. I sat down. He didn’t look at me the entire meeting. But afterward we went out for cokes at the local baptist college. (There wasn’t much available at that time near the church). And the rest, as they say, is history.
After our kids were placed in special education, I also did some things I probably wouldn’t have done if not for autism. If not for my kids.
I went to a board meeting to speak up for the kindergarten teacher who was going to be reduced to part-time. I was shaking, but I said, looking at one of the board members who also had a son in kindergarten, “My son has special needs and is very disruptive in his classrooms. Do you think it’s a good idea to put a child like him in a class of 30 kindergartners? Or would it be less expensive to put him in a specialized class in another district.” That was exceptionally forward of me. The teacher kept her full time job…and was an excellent teacher to my son.
I spoke at public comment sessions for special education, I went to conferences. I spoke to rooms full of day care providers on taking care of children with special needs. I spoke to college students in child development classes regarding what it was like to raise a child with autism.
I didn’t know what was going to happen. But I did it anyway. For the kids. And by the grace and power of God, who helped me speak to groups of people.
So I am feeling like this venture of writing for grants is also exceptionally forward of me. But it is for others. And I am having a bit of writer’s block about it. But I have been collecting the attachments. And writing out my thoughts. Hoping to come up with a theme to make our request more powerful. Would you pray for me in this.