Will There Be Buddies?
Posted on November 4, 2013
The first in a series of PURE Ministry Profiles featuring members of our PURE Ministry Network across the country. Today’s profile highlights the ministry at Blackshear Place Baptist Church.
There was a buzz in the air as volunteers received their assignments for the evening. As a visitor, I was observing from a safe distance when I heard a child ask a question that would re-frame my thinking for many days to come. In a loud and breathless voice she asked, “Will there be lots of ‘Buddies’ here tonight?”
She was a PURE child coming to participate in the monthly respite ministry at Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Flowery Branch, Georgia. While I listened to a volunteer greet her and assure her that, yes, there would be plenty of “Buddies” here this evening, I couldn’t help but marvel at her question.
At first, her question didn’t make sense to me. Because this was my first visit to a respite event, I was intent on seeing the schedule and organization of such an occasion. My mind was readied to make a list of administrative tasks required to accomplish such an event. I was ready to do the mental gymnastics necessary to generate a simple budget for this kind of ministry. My notebook and pen were prepared to record basic supplies essential for an event that I was sure would be overwhelming in scope.
Still, her simple question took me by surprise. I assumed she would want to talk about the activities she would be doing. But, she didn’t. Her primary interest wasn’t which activities she would encounter that evening or whether or not her favorite interest would be represented. She simply wanted to know who was coming to serve that evening. My task-oriented mind had immediately jumped to the issue of recruiting for such a ministry emphasis. Focusing on all the special training this must require, I was sure that would be the crux of the information that would fill my notebook and calm my questioning mind. Little did I know that at the end of the night, I would leave with scarcely a half page of notes yet with every question I could possibly have answered in full.
For those unfamiliar with the terminology used in disability ministry, a “Buddy” is the title often given to a caregiver assigned to a child or adult with disabilities. This person acts as their guide and companion. The responsibilities of a Buddy can range from playing games and simple conversation to feeding and helping them in the bathroom. As each child is different, the responsibilities of each Buddy vary with the abilities and interests of the child in their care.
“Will there be buddies?” Quite frequently, I have been overcome with the concept of training volunteers for a job description so broad in possibility. How can you train for, well, any eventuality? The answer is: you can’t. For many, this is reason enough to suspend the idea of respite ministry. It seems too big a risk and liability. How can we ask people to interact on this level without giving them a complete level of competency? Yet that is exactly what this child came seeking, craving and hoping for.
My questions about necessary resources, activities and training for Buddies were answered through the enormous smiles, hugs and high-fives as each Buddy greeted their special needs friend for the evening. No one seemed worried about what they were going to be doing – only that they were doing it together. It didn’t really matter if they were watching a video, playing a game, creating a craft, making a fun snack, or playing on a swing. It was the togetherness the made each one a member of the other and as members of one another, they existed in unison. And they were buddies—each of the other.
These pairings varied with the interests and needs of each child. For the participants who needed more physical attention – or for those who were simply more active physically – Buddies were selected who could keep up with those physical demands. There were children, however, who required the quiet and calm of the craft room where they could simply create beauty all evening. Their Buddy served to help them by providing them a quiet and assuring presence throughout the night.
The format was typical of an easy friendship. Various stations had been set up in classrooms throughout the church. There was a room with craft supplies and another with Legos. A quiet area equipped with beanbags and a dvd player had been provided as well. For the more adventurous, there were bubbles and water games to be played outside in the slanting rays of the afternoon Georgia sunshine. I followed a PURE girl accompanied by 3 high school aged Buddies as she went from activity to activity sharing each moment with her friends. One of my favorite moments came when they visited the “Nail Salon” and had manicures faithfully administered by a deacon in the church and his wife.
Buddies are, first and foremost, friends. I had forgotten that. Somehow with all the technical jargon and terminology the usage of the word “buddy” had been removed from its origin for me. The definition of the word is rendered as “friend” and is synonymous with words like pal, playmate, companion, partner and mate.
What I had the opportunity to witness that night was kingdom friendship. People who were willing to be buddies of one another without wondering what it might cost them personally. Did it require patience? Yes. Friendships usually do. Were we tired at the end of the night? Positively. Everyone had such a great time that we left completely spent. Good times with friends often leave you that way.
I saw a picture of kingdom come where friends moved through life moments with one another offering support and companionship. It was much simpler than I had made it out to be. But then, kingdom usually is.