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All God's Children: Building Community through Disability Awareness

Understanding the inherent God-given purpose and gifts of each of his children is crucial to living in interdependent community.  Julia Murray, an American Heritage Girls troop leader, shares an experience that enriched both her and her troop’s understanding of community in today’s post.    

Sometimes, God works in dramatic ways to guide our footsteps. But frankly, I smile much bigger when He does it in His subtle "betcha didn't see that coming" kind of style.

American Heritage Girls doing the "puzzle piece" activityI lead a troop of 30 American Heritage Girls, ages 6-12. This faith-based scouting organization has challenged me AND the girls in my troop to venture out from our comfort zones, so when I saw a badge entitled "All God's Children" about disabilities awareness, I prayed that the right person would come along who could make this personal to my girls.

God answers prayers in His own time and did so when I learned about Vangie Rodenbeck of PURE Ministries in Gainesville, GA. I was charmed by her humor about her life as a mom to young man with autism spectrum disorder, as well as her role as a ministry leader. But I knew immediately Vangie was the one to teach my troop when she told me simply, "If we can teach your kids to be friends with someone like my son, we can change the world!"

Vangie Rodenbeck Vangie Rodenbeck shares how our strengths and weaknesses complement one another.

She held the girls and parents spellbound with the concepts clearly explained for all ages, beginning with a cookbook. The girls completely understood how God has a recipe for each and every one of us, based on the job He has for us to do on this earth. The recipes are all different and only scratch the surface.

"Don't ignore my child's diagnosis...I worked HARD to get it!" she explains.
"But honor and accept it for what it is. And remember that diagnosis doesn't tell you everything about Noah. It doesn't tell you that he loves rock & roll, or that he can ride a bike. It doesn't tell you what he's like at all."

This concept was driven home by the use of the two green and pink puzzle pieces that she held in each hand from the All Belong “Inclusion Awareness Kit”. The girls were given their own large puzzle pieces and took a few minutes writing all the things they do well on the green side, and the things they don't do so well on the pink side. The group discussion that followed was a thing of beauty.

Student working on puzzle piece Each student wrote their areas of strength and struggle on the green and pink puzzle pieces.

We learned that Rachel is good at reading, but not so good at math. Megan can draw really well, but isn't good at creative writing. Emma can write great stories, but stick figures are her illustrations.

If the lightbulbs that went off in their heads were real, we could have lit up the entire building.

Suddenly, they realized that one girl's "greens" often complemented another girl's "pinks." And that's why they got along so well and accomplished so much in meetings...they were tapping into their individual God-given strengths, which were all different. How boring would it be if we were ALL "green" at everything? It's God's design - His recipe - that we all have our pinks and greens.

It was a perfect lead-in to scripture in Romans that tells us God created us all as parts of a body; no one person can be the entire body. We're often more alike than we are different, and it's our "alikeness" that brings us together.

Julia Murray is the Pastoral Ministry Assistant at Midway United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, GA. American Heritage Girls, based in Ohio and  founded in 1995, has as its mission to "build women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country."