[infobox bgcolor=”{{bgcolor}}” textcolor=”{{textcolor}} style=”alert-info”]rEcess is one of the new ministries you’ve helped through your contributions to our New Initiatives Fund. Thank you for your continued support of women who want to do local and global outreach in intelligent and relevant ways. [/infobox]

In this blog, Deborha Sutherland talks about the founding of rEcess, a respite program for families affected by disability. 

An anchor cause in action

Watching how God walks alongside rEcess has often left me standing in awe of a loving God who has such a heart for disability.

The beginning
rEcess is a respite program for families affected by disability; where parents drop off all their children for four free hours of respite to go on a date to protect their marriage.

99 Balloons is the parent organization of rEcess, and provides a simple working model for churches to set up and run this community outreach.  Matt and Ginny Mooney’s first child, Eliot was born with Trisomy 18 and lived 99 days. Matt and Ginny’s church community surrounded the family during Eliot’s short life. That outpouring of God’s love allowed Matt and Ginny to be present for each moment of Eliot’s life.  When Eliot died, Matt and Ginny created 99 Balloons Foundation and rEcess was born. The capital E in rEcess is for Eliot.

Why I launched rEcess
Working as an educational assistant alongside my friend, Shelley Neal, in Toronto, we see daily financial, physical, emotional and social struggles impact entire families. Having a child with a disability increases the risk of breakdown within the family unit.

I was apprehensive about starting a ministry. A new Christian and new to Kingsway Baptist in Toronto, I did not think I was ready to take this on.  However, God had a plan and I felt the call to go to Arkansas to train in how to start rEcess. I remember sitting in the car after booking my flight, thinking “What am I doing, flying to a place where I have never been, to stay with people I don’t know?”

Four months later, on October 13, 2013, we launched the very first rEcess ever held outside of the United States. We now have 42 children registered from 25 families, and run rEcess with the assistance of over 40 volunteers.  rEcess is volunteer driven and cannot run without people with a passion for working with children with special needs.

Community is paramount to rEcess being such a successful program. It is beautiful to watch seniors, youth and adults work together seamlessly to make rEcess happen each month. It is difficult to figure out who is being ministered to: the parents, the kids or the volunteers. God’s hand truly orchestrates it all.

How do we do it?
We pray over every decision we make, every rEcess event we have, the families and the volunteers.

We have strong congregational support from our Kingsway family.  It takes a community to raise a child and our church community willingly comes along side and supports these families. In supporting these families, our church community has grown in love and understanding, both of how to intelligently love families with special needs children and how to love the children themselves . . . God does not make mistakes.

Mentoring is an extremely important and invaluable resource when starting a new ministry.  I am truly blessed to have Shelley who is a wise, well-rounded mentor and sister in Christ. I was really not equipped to start this ministry, but God surrounded me with loving support from my Kingsway family. They have provided opportunities for me to grow and learn as a respected leader within our church community.

At rEcess, we want families who are affected by disability to know God doesn’t make mistakes. “Your loved one was created in the image of our loving Father and an important part of His perfect plan. You are not alone, God is all around you working through the ordinary people you meet everyday.”

The biggest surprise is how quickly God will work in your life once you open your heart to Him. In 2013, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour in January, was baptized in June and started rEcess in October. And in September 2014, I went on a mission trip to Africa with 99 Balloons to work with special needs children in an orphanage in Jinga, Uganda.

How can you do it?
Hearing God’s call to begin a ministry can be intimidating.

But I know . . . if you prayerfully approach the idea and are walking in God’s will He will provide for you and your ministry.

Look around your community and identify the marginalized members that need support; what structures are presently available.  Envision how your church community can come alongside to provide what is not available at the present time. Pray and start talking about your vision within your church.

God has provided so plentifully to us by giving His Son. We can be His hands and feet to share all that He has given to us. Coming together as community, we become the body of Christ; each unique gift connecting with the other to create a powerful tool for kingdom work.”

By Deborha Sutherland, co-founder of rEcess, Toronto, and a member at Kingsway Baptist Church, Toronto.