By Kevin Kindelin
When I first started attending Immanuel about ten years ago, I would zip in for the 9:15 service, say hello and good bye to a few people, and zip right out. I really felt good about attending church again. I used to attend church as a child, but only because my parents made me. But this was very different. I attended because I not only wanted to, but because I felt something else compelling me. I was quite content to sit in the back of the sanctuary, absorbing the sermon and the rest of the service. This is great, I thought to myself. I’m really on the right track. But then I noticed something. There were lots of people serving the church and others in so many ways. These were congregation members doing what they did for the love of Christ and each other. I wanted to serve in some way, but had no idea how.
With my disability, I knew I couldn’t serve as an usher; I knew I could never be an elder. I don’t have any mechanical or electrical aptitude to help with building repairs. Even if I did, I don’t have the function in my hands to perform any such related tasks. Oh dear, I bemoaned to myself, what can I do? After all, Paul did say, “faith without works is vain.” I became very worried that I wasn’t upholding my end of the bargain, so to speak. Scripture tells us that all we have to do is believe in Jesus Christ and we’ll have eternal life. What we do in this life is all because of the love we have for Him because of what He did for us. I’ll admit, in my past I really didn’t put much thought into what I could do for others. The unfortunate truth was and is that I needed them more than they needed me. I didn’t think I was demonstrating my love for others. Oh, how I longed to be needed!
I’d been attending for a few years and had even taken the giant leap of faith of becoming a member at this point. I had started acquiring some valuable friendships too. There were a few people who had stopped me as I was zipping out of church and pulled me back in to get to know me. I turned to one of them, my dear friend Wendy Maulding to get her advice on how I could serve. “You can write, can’t you?” she asked. She said I should write about a page of text about my faith journey and it could be put in the K.I.T. care packages for college kids and military personnel to read. Great idea! I whipped up my story and gave it Wendy. Ok, done…that was that! What else could I do? I was surprised when I learned that the story had circulated beyond K.I.T. A few people came up to me and told me how they enjoyed and had been inspired by my story. Eventually, it wound up on Immanuel’s website in “God’s Abundant Grace.”
The “old me” probably would’ve gotten big headed, but I was actually humbled by this. I think I was starting to understand that serving Him was more important than my ego. My friends in our Saturday morning bible study suggested I read scripture during service. Sure, I can do that. I really don’t like being in front of people, but it’s not about me, now is it? I began to realize that the Holy Spirit was opening up opportunities for me to serve. Dan Klaman from the same Bible study asked me to join his usher team. But what about the many physical things an usher is responsible for that I can’t do? Dan assured me we’d figure it out. Well, ok…good thing I wasn’t being asked to be an elder!
It was little awkward at first. I fumbled with, and sometimes dropped, the bulletins when handing them to people as they arrived. The thing was, nobody seemed to mind. I think they just appreciated getting a bulletin regardless of whose hands they were coming from. The first time I brought the offering plate to Pastor, I rolled up there at about normal walking speed, which felt excruciatingly slow. The next time, I put my chair into overdrive, zipped up there and zipped out. I thought that may have been disrespectful, but a few people told me they actually got a kick out of it, that it was a refreshing change of pace. Another duty is to count those who take communion. When Dan asks me how many, my running joke is to hold up my hands and say, “ten; I lost track after that.” Corny, yes, but I like the joke.
Well, here I was, serving in ways I never thought possible. When I started seeking out ways to serve, I’ll admit it was all about me. I was thinking what could I do so as not to feel guilty about not serving? The more I became a servant, the more I realized it was for His glory, not my own. How great it is that God reveals these things to us in His own time! Guess what happened next. That’s right, it was suggested that I throw my hat in the ring for the upcoming elder elections. My good friend John Maulding said he was stepping down from elder duty for health reasons and suggested I take his place. My old fears (Satan?) started creeping in. What about the physical things I can’t do? In only my second elder meeting, I expressed the fear that I might be a “freak show,” which met with curious looks from Pastor and my fellow elders. Congregation President Jeff Berger put it in perspective. He said I was hardly a freak show, but a witness to God’s greatness. To me, this was the Holy Spirit working through Jeff to bring me peace and reassure me once again that none of this was about me; it was about Him. I’m a little thick-headed, but this revelation finally sunk in. I’m beginning my second year as an elder and it’s still a work in progress. I’ve finally opened my heart to His will and don’t worry so much about my imperfections.
And now I’ve come full circle. I began my “servant journey” by writing a little article about my coming to faith. Recently, I was asked to write articles for the Messenger and our newly revamped website. If I can inform, inspire or motivate this way, then all glory goes to Him.
I know my physical disability wasn’t caused by God, but because of it He’s using my weakness to reveal His strength. I used to make excuses for why I couldn’t serve. I see now that if a weak, broken, flawed individual such as myself can be an example of His greatness, then we all can serve Him by opening our hearts to His will and just do what it tells us. Now when I come to church on more occasions than just Sunday service, I still zip in. I just no longer zip right out.