On May 20, Living Word Lutheran Church, 163rd Street and Wolf Road in Orland Park, welcomed a new choir to their service.
Hmm — not so unusual for a church to be ringing with song and lifted voices. However, on this particular Sunday, Living Word had invited Elim Christian Services’ Worship Team to be part of its service.
Elim is an organization serving children and adults with disabilities. Its choir is comprised of these same individuals, who performed enthusiastically and — a friend mentioned this many times — with wonderful, happy smiles.
Donna Wasilkoff, a parishioner at Living Word, had given me the heads-up of the upcoming event and was able to capture the feeling of the day. Words such as supportive, praise, honor and “more smiles” were peppered throughout her account of the activity.
When we had spoken previously, Wasilkoff said Living Word and its adult disabilities ministries coordinator LuAnn Walsh were looking to begin a new outreach that would serve young adults with disabilities.
“The purpose of inviting Elim was not only to highlight their worship team, but also to bring attention to an underserved community,” Wasilkoff said. “When children with disabilities turn 22, the Christian fellowship opportunities are severely limited. In addition, 80 percent of families with members that have disabilities do not have a church family.
“They do not attend church, sometimes due to the stigma. In order to fill this need, we are creating a new Christian ministry for young adults with disabilities called Angels Among Us, which will kick off on Sept. 9. We are also looking at offering a support group for the caretakers this summer.”
Walsh shared with me the information concerning her involvement in this mission. Her own daughter, Kate, is a special angel and, although Kate cannot speak or walk or tell great stories, she teaches LuAnn every day about unconditional love, to see beauty where others do not, and compassion and patience.
Walsh has been an advocate, teacher and therapist for her daughter, and “every time she reaches out a hand to me, or gives me a fleeting smile, I see a bit of heaven,” Walsh said.
A program like Angels Among Us, where young adults get to come together for a time of learning and fellowship, can make all the difference. Parents who might otherwise not be able to go out to dinner or breakfast together also have a time away from their caregiving duties.
Typically, people who volunteer to help in programs such as these find that they get much more than they give. The “teachers” often become the taught.
For more information about the program or support group, call Walsh at (708) 699-7978.
During a conversation with Jenna Hania of Elim Christian Services, she explained that the worship team provides an opportunity for the adults with disabilities to express themselves through song. Many adults in the worship team were involved in the children’s choir as younger people attending the school at Elim.
This team of 25 to 30 men and women meet for practice and bring their enthusiasm and wonderful spirit to their events. They work with the existing worship teams at the locations they visit to involve the community in their worship.
This is a wonderful social activity for the members in that they are visiting schools, churches and other locations; and building awareness that people with disabilities can work as a team, listen to each other, and sing in one voice — all of which are valuable skills for friendship. This is also a great learning opportunity for the team in that they are learning pitch, musical terminology, lyrics and reading.
To help support Angles Among Us, Living Word will be hosting a golf outing on June 23 at White Mountain Golf Center. There will be golf for all ages, including mini-golf for $7 per person, golf for $12 per person (a cart is an additional $5), and the driving range for $13, which includes a large bucket of balls.
Unlimited all-day access is $25 per person, or a family for four can have unlimited use for $75. Food will be sold.
It is the Standard of Elim Christian Services to admit children and adults to agency services regardless of race, color, national and ethnic origin, to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to agency service recipients. Elim Christian Services does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered policies. Read Full Disclosure.