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December 15, 2008

Nothing Will Be Impossible

Handcircle_5 There was a new minister coming to our church. He had three children, and one of them was 10, just like me. I was beyond excited. I imagined the two of us hiding out behind the organ pipes and sneaking frozen cookie dough out of the kitchen while our parents were at work. My mother was the Director of Christian Education, and I spent most of my summer days at the church with her, using up the art supplies and finding all the best hiding places. I would finally have a partner in crime.

A few weeks before their arrival, my mother sat me down to have a talk about the preacher's daughter who I had already determined to be my best friend.

"She's different, Marty. She doesn't go to regular school like you do. She is mentally retarded," my mother explained.

She waited for disappointment to register on my face. It didn't.

Jolie arrived and quickly taught me how to be friends with someone vastly different from myself. She was all smiles, but little talk. We talked about the Atlanta Braves, her favorite team, and we laughed at the girls who thought they were teaching her new words by telling her by getting them to repeat what they said.

"Say, 'dog,' Jolie!" they could command.

"DOG!" Jolie would chime back, smirking at the game they didn't know was a game. She had a wonderful sense of humor.

As we got older, Jolie's sister introduced me to a community of people with special needs. I began volunteering at an overnight summer camp for mentally handicapped adults with her. We swam, we did arts and crafts, we canoed, and every night we had a dance that always ended with a medley of Elvis songs.

That was only one week of the year. There were 51 other weeks to fill.

That is where Mustard Seed came in.

The Mustard Seed seeks to meet the spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual needs of mentally challenged adults by providing a loving and protected Christian community and meaningful activities that allow the participants to fulfill the potential that God has created within them.

The mission statement actually doesn't do them justice.

The Mustard Seed provides group homes for mentally handicapped adults to have a chance to live "on their own." The group homes also provide for those special people who have outlived their parents.

There is a handbell choir. There are walking trails. There are field trips. In addition to the group homes where the "Seedsters" can live on campus and learn life skills, there is also a day program.

In the day program, there is a ceramics studio. What started out as just art therapy has created not only artists, but also a revenue source for The Mustard Seed. It's not a revenue stream that completely supports the organization by any stretch, but it is income. Income that the participants generate themselves and can be proud of.

That is what I love most about Mustard Seed. People who very well could be dismissed and thought to have nothing to contribute are given the chance to become artists who contribute to their households. It's beautiful thing.

". . . if you have faith even as small as a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move and nothing will be impossible to you." - Matthew 17:20

An original Deep South Moms post. Marty dances a mean tango with a wheelchair to "You Ain't Nothing but a Hound Dog." She also blogs at Don't Take the Repeats and Triangle Mamas.

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