Van Ministry

I was learning the route to pick up people for worship services at Freedom Fellowship, the church Jana and I attend on Wednesday nights. We pulled up beside what appeared to be apartment buildings. But going inside it became clear that it was an assisted living facility for people with disabilities.

We were there to get Kristie. She was waiting for us in the lobby, sitting in her wheelchair. She can walk, but very unsteadily. She doesn't seem to be fully in control of her body. Plus, she's blind.

As we wheeled Kristie to the van she leaned forward and held her hands to her ears. Like noise was hurting her. We put a stool out, helped her step up into the van and find her way onto a seat. We folded her wheelchair and put it in the back.

The van was overcrowded. To make room I sat on the stool between the driver's and passenger's seats at the front of the van, facing backwards. I was sitting, almost knee to knee, with Kristie. But she couldn't see me.

I spoke with a gentle voice, "Hello Kristie. How are you today?"

Her hands were still close to her ears. As if she was keeping them at the ready, expecting a loud noise to assault her.

"Who are you?" she asked, not recognizing my voice.

"My name is Richard, I'm going to help pick people up and I'm learning the route today. I'll be picking you up from time to time."

"Okay," she said.

"So, how was your day today?" I asked.

"It was hectic. How was yours?"

She talked out of the side of her mouth. It looked like part of her face was slightly paralyzed.

"My day was a little hectic too. Why was your day hectic?"

I made my voice as soft and gentle as I could make it. Tender. Her hands came down and rested in her lap.

"I don't like where I live."

"What don't you like about where you live?"

"It's too loud. Too noisy."

I noted that there were loud people in the lobby when we picked her up. I understood now, a bit, about her hands being over her ears.

We got to the church. I got off the stool, climbed over the seat and out the door. I set down the stool and opened the van doors. I put my hand on Kristie's knee.

"Kristie, I'm right here. Ready to step out?"

She swung her legs out. We helped them find the stool. She stood and rested her arm over my shoulders.

That's what I remember now. Her arm around my shoulders.

That feeling. Feeling blessed. The moment I was holding her.

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11 thoughts on “Van Ministry”

  1. Not sure I'd agree, but since I've told my church I won't preach until they let women preach I've needed some other job at my church that suits my skill-set. Driving a van fits the bill.

    But more seriously, I do wring my hands about the appropriateness of writing posts like this. Matthew 6.1 and all. But I wrote the post as less about "doing a good work" than about being open to grace in unexpected places.

  2. Oh God,
    Open my eyes so I can see
       the grace you've given to Christie.
    So that I too will understand
       what others should feel when holdiing my hand.

  3. Richard,
    I went to Candler with Brad East and discovered your blog through him. I live as an assistant for L'Arche Atlanta and have lived in two other L'Arche communities. I've enjoyed reading your blog over the last year or so but have been touched by this post. I love the mutuality in the blessing: "Feeling blessed. The moment I was holding her." I have similar experiences of core members carrying me as I "care for" them. Mutual relationships lie at the heart of what it means to be human, and this post strikes me as very human. Thank you!

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