A body of many parts
In thinking about Night to Shine, my mind often turns to Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians that the church is one body, made up of many parts, all doing what each does well. In chapter 12, verse 18 he says, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be…” Then in verse 27 he goes on to say, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
It always amazes me how, at Night to Shine, many volunteers come together using the gifts that God has given them and doing things that they love, to share God’s love with our friends with special needs. While we know that this is an opportunity for God to bless others through us, every year volunteers are blessed by sharing in the joy and appreciation of the guests. Volunteers are also blessed by learning from our guests about perseverance, prayer and valuing relationships.
Variety, creativity and blessing
This year, in place of an in-person prom, NSCBC hosted a “Shine Thru” parade in the church parking lot, followed by a Virtual Celebration in guests’ homes.
For the parade, one team leader, with technology expertise, had the idea to make it possible for each guest to choose their own special songs to sing and dance to at the karaoke and dance tents. Volunteers who know and love music selected a robust collection of uplifting songs; others designed and printed an attractive song list handout; someone knew how to set up audio systems to play both the dance and karaoke music so they did not interfere with each other. Each guest’s buddies walked along beside their car and helped the guest to choose their “special” songs.
Another team leader has restored his grandfather’s Model A Ford. Could that volunteer’s project bring some fun and learning to a guest, who has endured the same limited activities we all have experienced during Covid? Yes, a festively decorated 1931 Ford, accompanied by smiling and cheering “friends from the past” greeted each guest as they drove through the parade route.
How could we provide guests with the special picture portrait they usually receive at the prom? The photography team planned for “professional” lighting outdoors, using an umbrella to shield against the strong afternoon sunlight. The portraits shot through car windows were amazing! The guest name and the Night to Shine logo were displayed on a lovely “photoshopped” border around each picture, the name ensuring that each picture was mailed to the right guest!
Could buddies and guests have a meaningful time together, with the buddies walking alongside the guest’s car for the 30 minute drive through the parade route? Could they enjoy each other while the buddies sang and danced outside the car and the guest did the same thing inside the car? Yes! When a guest arrived, their buddies “crowned” them as queen or king, because we are all kings and queens, in God’s eyes, greatly loved by Him.
Then, at the Dance and Karaoke Tents, guests, buddies, volunteers, Pat the Patriot, and Gordon College’s Scottie all danced and sang together, inside and outside the cars.
As one car was leaving, I looked inside to see a mom with tears of happiness in her eyes. Then I spoke to the buddies, and saw tears of joy in their eyes also!
Pat the Patriot shared that he had spoken to one parent who said her child had been having a very tough, very off day. She was beyond grateful to see her child smiling and laughing. Their day had been completely turned around.
Afterwards, a mother wrote, “My daughter and her friend went together and were absolutely thrilled…The spirit in that parking lot was just beautiful.”
A group home staff wrote, “Thank you so much! The residents from Wayland road had a great time because of your time and efforts! May God bless you all!!”
A picture of what the world could be
In the Night to Shine volunteer training, Liz Babbitt, of Joni and Friends New England, challenged us with the thought,
Imagine a world where every person with a disability finds hope, dignity and their place in the body of Christ!
Let’s pray and engage with others in ways that make that kind of world a reality.