For the approximately 19 percent of Americans with a disability, daily activities others take for granted come with great difficulty. Coupled with a lack of knowledge about living with a disability, many people are regularly subjected to judgment and ignorance, which is why organizations like All Faith Ministry for disABILITIES (All Faith Ministry), a non-denominational and ecumenical disability ministry that serves this community in the mid-Michigan area, exist.
Founded in 2014 by Robert Bower, All Faith Ministry offers a variety of events and programs for individuals and families with disabilities in the mid-Michigan area including but not limited to church services and connections to outside resources. The events are designed for those with disabilities in an effort to spread the principles of the ministry and joy to those who seek assistance.
The all-volunteer, three-person power team — Stefanie Craft, the executive director and Cathy Blatnik, the program director — bring many of their own strengths/experiences to the nonprofit organization. Craft and Blatnik both face the reality of living daily with a disability in their families as they each care for their sons who have Down Syndrome and Autism, respectively.
“What we have found is that there’s a big disconnect between people needing programs and services and people being able to find those services. Craft who manages the website among other responsibilities, assists to connect people with services,” said Blatnik. “What I do is create programs — because there were few options before we came along — and now we do art and music, to name a few, just a whole bunch of different things.”
From children as young as four to seniors in their seventies, All Faith Ministry’s caring team is dedicated to helping those they serve find a sense of promise and comfort.
“What I like about the ministry is that we accept everyone; for instance, a couple different people I have met have been kicked out of churches, they have been told not to come back to places, they’ve been stared at, pointed at and laughed at,” said Blatnik.
Often, people without a disability don’t understand how their actions and words can impact those around them, which can make life harder for those that live a different life but are deserving of the same respect. “One thing we always try to do is, when anybody comes to any event … we make sure we acknowledge them. We make sure to smile and say hi, because a smile goes a long way,” Blatnik said.
All Faith Ministry focuses on what individuals with disabilities can do, not on their limitations. It’s for this reason that they’re helping many people in our community flourish. For more information or to share your own story of living with a disability or caring for someone who does, visit disabilitiesministries.org.