Matthew's Ministry celebrates 30 years at Resurrection
By Kaitlin Green
When Ann Joyner and her husband first visited Church of the Resurrection in 1993, they had no intention of returning. While they enjoyed the service, there was an instrumental piece missing for the family: there were no Sunday resources to support Joyner’s 9-year-old son, Matthew, an individual with special needs.
“We truly felt the Spirit moving in that church in the gym,” Joyner said. “But, we thought, ‘We’re too high maintenance. There’s not enough of them to handle us.’”
Hearing the need, senior pastor Rev. Adam Hamilton acted.
Two weeks later, Resurrection had volunteers in place to take care of Matthew during the Sunday service, allowing Joyner and her family to become members. Joyner herself volunteered to help Matthew and other individuals during services, and as the years progressed, the program grew.
“We just kept setting up team after team after team,” Joyner said. “People with huge hearts, hands, and fast feet to chase some of our participants.”
Matthew passed away in 2005, but his legacy lives on. It’s been 30 years since the Joyner family joined Resurrection, and what began as a service toward one family has grown to support over 200 families through six different programming opportunities.
The name? Matthew’s Ministry.
Marna Terblanche, the current director of Matthew’s Ministry, says the ministry’s biggest goal is meeting the families where they are and becoming a church that can welcome any individual of any ability.
“They get told ‘no’ so many times: by schools, by the government, by the state,” she said. “I work really hard not to be one of those that say ‘no.’ If there’s something that they need from us that we just cannot provide, then we try and come up with other options.”
This drive is the core of Joyner’s hopes for the ministry. She believes every person can be used by God, as long as they are provided with the opportunity for their talents to be cultivated.
“Take away the limitations and the expectations,” Joyner said. “Everybody has gifts, and we just have to figure them out before people think they’re useless.”
Rather than structure Matthew’s Ministry around a curriculum, Terblanche ensures all programming is purposeful, allowing participants to do work that is meaningful for themselves and the church.
Matthew’s Ministry offers services on Sundays during each of Resurrection’s services. Small groups options are available for adults and students, and Angel Care Support provides one-on-one help to children and students who need additional assistance.
Throughout the week, the Sonflower Adult Learning Program provides fellowship and day programming to adults 21 years and older. The Sonflower Program also includes the Sonflower Bakery, which produces goods such as cookies and breads that are distributed throughout Resurrection as well as the community.
Additionally, Matthew’s Ministry provides dynamic opportunities for those with special needs, such as the Drama Club and Family Night Out events, which includes a night of activities while caregivers can take a night off.
While Matthew’s Ministry continues to adapt to meet the needs of Resurrection’s community, gaps continue to exist. In her 30 years of Matthew’s Ministry, Joyner knows the only way everyone is cared for is if more churches and organizations begin addressing the needs in their own community — and she is ready to help in whatever ways possible. “Get out of the boat: we need you, they need you,” she said. “We won’t let you go under.”
This sentiment is echoed by Terblanche, who encourages churches to start small but dream big. “It’s about using even the limited resources that you have and to start with one family, having a mission and a purpose and a vision,” Terblanche said.
Resurrection celebrated Matthew’s Ministry’s 30th anniversary with an Awareness Weekend celebration Aug. 26-27, where participants and their families were involved throughout each aspect of the service. While the ministry hopes to open congregants’ eyes to the talents of its members, the goal above all else is to show the joy brought into life by those with special needs.
Though Matthew is no longer on this earth, Joyner talks with her son every day and follows what she believes is God’s calling for her life: to continue creating spaces where individuals of all abilities welcomed, loved and find a home at church.
Kaitlin Green is a journalism student at the University of Missouri and an intern at Resurrection.
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