Monica has had a heart for the special-needs community ever since she was a teenager. She even once envisioned pouring that passion into a career.
She also loves kids, and for years served in the children’s ministry at her previous church. But when she began attending Hoboken Grace, she didn’t join Grace Kids right away. She decided to wait on God to direct her to what He had in mind for her.
So when she heard Pastor Chris mention one Sunday that there was a growing number of children with special needs in Grace Kids — and a need for a program just for them — something ignited within her.
“My heart leapt,” said Monica. It was the call she’d been waiting for.
After emailing Pastor Chris, Monica became the first “Buddy” in Grace Kids’ Buddy Program. Each Buddy is paired with a special-needs child, helping them get the specialized care they need. Each Sunday, they ensure that the child is engaging and understands the lesson in a way that reaches them, said Rachel, the director of Grace Kids. It’s another way the kids ministry can make sure each child is well loved and cared for.
When Monica became a Buddy to Rory, who has autism, she began building a relationship with both her and her parents. Each week is different and a lot depends on what kind of a week she’s had, said Monica. That’s why communication with her parents is key.
In Grace Kids, Monica and Rory participate together in the group activities each Sunday. But when it comes to learning that day’s lesson, sometimes they find their own way.
“At the end of the day, it isn’t about me getting her to do every task,” said Monica. “It is about loving her and helping her to learn about Christ in a way that makes sense to her.”
Rory’s mom, Megan, says having a Buddy has allowed Rory to feel God’s love even more. She’s able to get the most out of her time with her teachers and other children, said Megan.
The program has been a blessing to Monica as well. It’s an opportunity to serve the special-needs community again – a passion she dreamed of turning into a career years ago.
“I made decisions that led me away from what was in my heart, but God is so amazing,” she said.
Serving in the Buddy Program doesn’t require prior experience working with children with special needs. You just need to love kids and be consistent, which is true of every member of Grace Kids, said Rachel. “That is what helps us make sure we are loving all of our kids in the best way possible.”
Monica is very consistent and that is key, she added.
That consistency has impacted not just Rory, but also the rest of her family.
“Seeing her heart towards Rory and our family fills me with such joy and helps me to remember that when I’m struggling I am supported and God is there,” Megan said. “He is always looking out for us by putting the right people in the right places at the right times.”
Interested in learning more about Hoboken Grace’s Buddy Program? Email Rachel@hobokengrace.com.