Our 8th annual Expo in West Palm Beach and 42nd Expo overall was this past Saturday and God blessed us with a new all-time high for any of our outreaches of 1,307 attendees! As the event has grown, set-up and tear-down have become a larger and larger task each year and this year having over 50 tents including 33 for resource exhibitors was also record for any Expo to date. However, as always God gave us all we needed to accomplish the goals He set before us and the 160 kids from Palm Beach Atlantic’s Workship program with the youthful energy that many of us seem to be run low on from time to time were a huge help on both Frida and Saturday.
Also, with the extra large pontoon brought down by friends from Central Florida, we had more boats and seating capacity than ever in West Palm Beach and in turn, gave more rides than in any previous year there. We served virtually every food item we had on site, too. From the over 500 hamburgers, 1,000 hot dogs and 2,500 bottles of water to the thousands of snacks, apples, oranges, chips and moon pies, both participants and volunteers were well fed at the Expo.
All in all, it was such a joy to see both participants and volunteers fellowshipping and enjoying some wholesome fun in the light and love of God presence that day. However, what has Leanne and I excited the most are the glimpses of ongoing ministry starting to happen after years of planting seeds. Seeing annual participants and volunteers begin to build friendships, church and other faith based ministries for people living with disabilities surfacing and the growth of leaders on our outreach team are all so encouraging. We are even helping facilitate some local fish grants and a Spring Fling in May through the local ministry Outpost team.
It reminds me of the words of Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” So many folks have faithfully prayed, given and served in West Palm Beach since 2011 and it is such a blessing to see the fruit of their labor and the even greater harvest of hope, faith and love to come if we don’t grow weary. Which then reminds of the words in Isaiah 40:31: “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” All in All, we have to rest in the Lord and have our strength continually renewed so we won’t grow weary but finish strong.
Finally, it is Leanne’s and my hope and prayer that you know how much we appreciate all our ministry partners and your commitment to share the love and gospel of Jesus with folks living with disabilities from TX to TN to FL and even Belize. Whether you are the hands and feet of Jesus through your prayers, giving or service THANK YOU for answering God’s call and coming together as His people to shine His light and shower His love on those who join us at each outreach. :)
What a great day of ministry God gave us Saturday in Belize! He put so many smiles on the faces of both the young and old at the Expo that the joy of His presence blessed everyone attending.
From our estimates, God brought out about 200 folks to the outreach there including the 28 of us and 15 other in country volunteers which is pretty much identical numbers to the turn out last time we held the Expo at the Hearts of Christ facility in Roaring Creek in 2016.
While we had already given out over 12 wheelchairs and various other mobility items and medical supplies during the days leading up to the big event through visits to schools and homes as well as to those who came to the mission facility earlier, the over 40 wheelchairs and countless walkers, crutches, canes and medical supplies distributed that day kept everyone busy well before, during and after the posted Expo times.
The art, craft, prayer, picture and game activities also greatly blessed folks that day as they hopefully were able to take a deep breath and relax a bit enjoying the good gifts of fellowship and fun God brought in some unique ways. However, the best gift, both given and received, was the one little girl who prayed to receive Jesus as Savior on Expo day!
We’ll be sharing more Belize Expo and outreach stories on Ms Fani, Elmer and Wilson among others soon in our newsletter but pray you enjoy the above collage and pictures here until then. :)
Well, it’s been a good year of highlighting some of the ministry’s bright and shining hearts with our monthly Rays of Sonshne BLOG posts and today is our final highlighting post that features yet another very special volunteer: Helen McClaren.
Helen began serving with Access-Life at our first Expo in East Tennessee back in 2010. Since that time she has become a key member of the area outreach planning team spearheading the food service and volunteer recruiting at her church each year. She has also become an Area Outpost leader not only attending local ministry activities but seeing that her church hosts the annual Access-Life Spring Fling. To top off all of these accomplishments, Helen join the ministry’s board of directors this year. A real blessing for our leadership team. :)
Despite all her hard work and accomplishing so much for the ministry, Helen is a behind the scenes, low key kind of leader. She leads with actions and can definitely speak up about her passions of serving others, especially those with disabilities in Jesus’ name. But, Helen, does all this with a gracious smile and serving with a “however needed” kind of attitude. What a great reminder for us all about what God can accomplish as we work diligently for Him with the heart of a servant. That is what impresses us most about Helen and why she is December’s Ray of Sonshine.
Wow, what a busy month it has been with Thanksgiving and the pre-Christmas rush! However, even in the hurry of the season, I want to pause and reflect on the faithful behind the scenes service of two dear friends: Ed and Wendy Nordine.
These two folks have been involved with disability ministry since before we even arrived in Florida as Wendy volunteered for years as the Joni and Friends Wheels for the World Florida Collections Coordinator. This is actually how we met as Leanne and I both served on staff with Joni and Friends here in Florida from 2007 to 2010.
When Access-Life started in 2010, Ed and Wendy were some of the first to jump “on board”. The did so almost literally joining the ministry’s board of directors that same year. Since then they have been leaders on the West Palm Beach Expo team, traveled to help at the Jacksonville, Central Florida, North Texas and East Tennessee Expos and even rounding out their full participation by collecting mobility items for our annual Belize outreach.
From their support in praying, giving and serving, Ed and Wendy are such blessings in all they faithfully do for Access-Life which is why they are this month’s (November) Rays of Sunshine. :)
What a God blessed 40th Expo we had on Saturday! Yes, the Central Florida event on November 11th was our 40th outreach since 2011 and as with each Expo is was amazing to see God work bringing heaven to earth and putting smiles on faces thru the joy of His presence!
The temperatures were ideal and the few momentary showers were simply reminders of God’s care in watering things as needed here on earth. Although the volunteer turn out was lower than usual, God was faithful in providing all that was needed for all 568 attendees to be blessed including the addition of an accessible 6 seat shuttle, hoverball archery activity and a giant 14 foot canoe! The timely arrival of a team of 20 helpers from Centra Care Mission for tearing down and loading the 20 foot trailer was an encouragement as well. :)
All in all this was our smallest outreach of the year but as we have always said, we are there for whoever God brings in need of some respite, adaptive adventure and a special touch from Him. This was brought to my mind by several families who expressed such gracious thanks Saturday for hosting an event tailored just for them and their needs. The smiles I saw on so many faces including a youngster who had just gotten off of the giant canoe and was sopping wet as “Mr. Bill” had taken them under the fountain, reminded me that God was there working in so many ways that day.
Above is a photo collage and there are about 25 pictures on the CFL Expo page on our website (https://access-life.com/cfl) so feel free to checkout the fun photos and share as God leads!
This month’s Rays of Sonshine is someone who has been with the ministry from it’s start in 2010. In fact, she served as a volunteer for Joni and Friends when Leanne and I led the Florida office back in 2007. Her service with Access-Life has been diverse as well as longstanding, starting with the West Palm Beach team before she and her husband Steve relocated to the Villages where they now support the CFL outreach.
She is a Physical Therapist by trade but is known in the ministry world for her fabulous administrative skills. However, in actuality she is an awesome networker, too. In fact, she has successfully coordinated groups of folks from her church volunteering at the Expos in CFL as well putting together their own team for our annual Big Wheel Deal wheelchair basketball game in the area.
All in all, what makes her standout though is her faithful service and hard work. She is committed and consistent in her heart for people, love of Jesus and willingness to go the extra mile which is why Jodi Rowe is October’s Access-Life Rays of Sonshine. :)
This month’s Rays of Sonshine is someone who loves working with people living with disabilities and has made a career of providing programing to folks with special needs in the Jacksonville area. In fact, she manages the Bethesda Lake park where we hold our annual Jacksonville Expo and conducts year round activities for those living with disabilities locally. Despite having a slight hearing impairment, she has a winning “Philippians 4:13” attitude that matches her joyous smile and is our most enthusiastic Expo supporter in the area. :)
What we so love about Gaile is that she not only welcomes us at her facility but that she supports what we do 110%! There is obviously the business side of renting the pavilion and cabins, paying fees and getting permits but she goes beyond the basics to help us as an exhibitor, volunteer and networker. Currently, she is even contacting local churches and organizations close by the park trying to secure extra parking for the 2018 outreach. Wow, what a blessing!
All in all, like our other Rays of Sonshine what really makes her special is her love for Jesus and seeing Him transform lives and communities. So thank you, Gaile and may God expand His kingdom and bring heaven to earth more and more in Jacksonville and beyond. :)