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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Community In Action

Wow, I’ve been busy lately.  I know most of you really want a detailed explanation of Camp Korey, especially if you followed all my posts and pictures on Facebook—and it’s coming—but this isn’t it.  Instead, I feel the need to reflect on some amazing projects I’m apart of and how God works to tie things together in our lives even when we never saw the connection.

Of course, if you read the blog you know I’ve had a life-changing experience by participating in Partners in Policymaking over the last six months.  I learned an incredible amount about disability, disability rights, advocacy, inclusion, community, policymaking, etc…  I know it changed my life and the lives of those closest to me.  I also knew that with this new knowledge came the burden and happy responsibility of using it beyond my own family’s benefit.  I’ve been trying to figure out how that’s going to look and God has been directing me down paths—some way before I knew they would connect so beautifully.

Right now I am neck deep in a phenomenal project from the Heart Campaign called I Heart Rogue Valley.  In a nutshell, the Heart Campaign is a faith-based effort whose goal is to initiate lasting change in communities through volunteer service projects and dynamic live events.  We had our first Heart Campaign day of service in the Southern Oregon last November, called I Heart Ashland with over 500 volunteers.  Now the movement has spread and I Heart Rogue Valley will attempt to place 3,000 volunteers in Southern Oregon on service projects, all coordinated on July 28th to show the people of our valley that Love Is ACTION and showing God’s love begins with serving others. 

I am helping coordinate projects through my church in Ashland.  We have over 400 volunteer opportunities in Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford.  I am passionate about this event since I was fortunate to be involved in the coordination of the last one and saw how amazingly God moved and changed lives in the community.  What I learned from our last event (and was reinforced through my PIP experience) is that there were a large number of people who wished to serve but due to health, age, disability, etc. could not find a project on which to serve—they were all too laborious and physical.  It was very important to me to create a project for I Heart Rogue Valley where people of ANY ability could serve and be a part of this community building event.

I am so blessed to be leading a 100% accessible project for I Heart Rogue Valley with 100 volunteers that will help create at least 1,000 care packages for the homeless in our community.  This project filled up quickly and there are more who wish to sign up, showing me the need for more accessible projects like this.   

Community building is so important, for everyone.  It’s where we find common ground, it’s how we build relationships, it shows another human being that we care and they belong.  It’s vital…and it’s especially vital for those who struggle to be a part of a community; those, who until very recently in our nation’s history, were not allowed to be a part of community: people who experience developmental and/or significant disability.

What struck me recently is how profoundly my heart has changed toward people who experience disability.  I don’t see the disability first—I see the person first.  I don’t presume incompetence due to a disability—I’ve learned to presume competence.  I’m grateful to be a part of this accessible project but what strikes me as even more amazing is that at least two other projects I’m helping to coordinate are being led by people who experience  disability (maybe more--I'm not asking people if they have a disability)—and it’s never come up.  It’s obvious that they experience a disability and I could probably name what the disability is, but it has not been important or relevant to their participation in I Heart.  Each of them came to me, just as the other leaders did, expressing an interest in leading a project.  I explained the responsibilities of leadership and they agreed they could take on those responsibilities.  End of story.  I didn’t feel the need to ask them if they were SURE they could do it. They're responsible adults with talents and abilities and a willing heart to serve in their community.  Why would I discourage that?

This is what true community is.  People from all different backgrounds and ability are coming together to love and serve one another.  The people who serve will be blessed.  The people being served will be blessed.  Relationships will be born—by those working together, by those serving and those being served.  I can’t express how overwhelming it is to see complete inclusion and cooperation in action, among churches of different denominations and among people of EVERY variety.  This is truly God’s hand at work, challenging imperfect people (I mean ALL of us) to love one another, accept each other and work together for the sake of love.  It’s all about love.  Love IS action. 

Come be a part of the action…