The most critical part of a relay race is the baton pass. Just ask my husband. He ran the third leg in the 4×100 yard relay at Wheaton College. Over forty years later, their team still holds the school record. Races are won and lost at the baton pass. The key to this race is the amount of time that the baton spends in the exchange zones. The quicker and smoother the pass, the better the race. Good teamwork is essential. This isn’t only true in track.
This week I finish my leg as Director of Disability Ministries. I am pleased that I am able to pass the baton to candidate Julie Clemens. Julie and I have spent the last two weeks together getting ready to pass the baton. Julie and I have known each other for nearly eleven years. I remember the first time I worked with Julie. She offered to help out at the STARS Bible classes during the church Summerfest. Julie jumped in right away and did the craft. Remember the life size cardboard figures of the STARS complete with the armor of God? That was Julie making my vision come alive. During the nearly four years before they went to Bulgaria as missionaries, she volunteered in every area of the STARS ministry. You could always find Julie, Lance and their two girls at Friday Night Fun.
In Bulgaria, Julie worked to help the treatment of people with disabilities on several fronts: she developed training programs for the staff of social homes, she worked in home-based therapy with several non-governmental agencies, and she developed and taught practical training programs for Occupational and Physical Therapy students in Angel Kanchev University in Ruse. We would often Skype, and we talked about having high school students from College Church go to Bulgaria and have a cross-cultural experience related to disability ministry. We worked closely together to make this happen in 2008. She organized a a week of ministry at a residential home for people with disabilities in Kyustendil. Julie and I led a team of 6 high school students who organized a special Olympics type program for the residents. It was so well received by the administrator of the home, that she called in the local TV station and they filmed our activities and interviewed the students. Because of the relationships that Julie had built, on the last day we were able to share the gospel by using the colors of the Olympic rings. Julie knows that disability ministry must be relational.
A good baton pass also takes practice. Julie and I have already practiced this baton pass. When I was getting ready to go on sabbatical, I knew that I wanted Julie to fill in for me. We are like-minded and have similar styles. She has a passion for working with people with disabilities and desires to see them integrated into society and the church. This wasn’t easy in Bulgaria, but that didn’t daunt her. While I was on sabbatical Julie led the ministry well, and when I returned she told me how the ministry could be improved.
While I was on sabbatical, my friend Stephanie Hubach, Director of Special Needs for the Presbyterian Church of America, asked me if I wanted to go with her to Bulgaria and encourage the church to do disability ministry. I was sorely tempted. However, I said, “I think you should take Julie instead.” And she did. Julie joined Steph’s team and had a wonderful week of ministry. Her skills, established relationships and language ability proved to be indispensable to the team. When I told Steph that Julie was the candidate to take my place as director, she exclaimed, “Great choice!”
Although Julie and her husband, Lance, thought they would be returning to Bulgaria, the opportunities there closed for them unexpectedly. Unexpectedly for them, but not for God. Many circumstances came together to bring them to this place at this time. You can hear more about their story on July 13 when Julie will be sharing her story in the morning services. That evening Pastor Moody will be interviewing her and Lance in the evening service. Following the service, there will be opportunity for you to spend time with both of them. Our congregation will vote on her candidacy on July 20 right after the 11:00 a.m. service. Be there to cast your vote.
I look forward to a smooth transition and seeing how God will use Julie in this next leg of the race.