Anderson, Indiana

AU student starts ministry focused on special needs

Thu, 2013-02-07 09:27 -- univcomm
Ministry with Persons Differently Abled
February 7, 2013

This year, Anderson University junior Maggie Torbeck started a new campus ministry called Ministry With Persons Differently-Abled. It allows AU students to serve and work with children and adults with special needs.

“We intentionally use ‘with’ instead of ‘to’ because the ministering definitely goes both ways,” said Stuart Erny, director of campus ministries. “We learn so much from these friends, and they have so much to teach us. We use ‘differently-abled’ because, instead of focusing on the things our friends are not able to do, we choose to focus on the things that they are uniquely able to offer to us and to the world.”

[Photo: AU student Maggie Torbeck spearheaded and currently leads the new ministry on campus. Torbeck is pictured with one of the ministry participants. Photo credit: Haley Burger]

Ever since Torbeck, an elementary and special education major, arrived at AU, she felt God calling her to start a special needs ministry but never felt strong enough to begin on her own. During her sophomore year, she brought her idea to Erny.

“Stuart and I both felt the calling to start this ministry, and here we are today!” said Torbeck. “I learn so much by working with people with special needs, and I want other people to experience the joy that I have.”

The beginning of a new project can be hard no matter what it is. “Maggie has done a fantastic job finding existing ministries that work with persons with disabilities and creating ways for us here at AU to partner with them,” said Erny.

So far the ministry has seen great success. They have successfully organized a dance, volunteered at a weekend retreat at SonRise Camp, and created relationships as pen pals. The ministry also plans to begin working with the Madison County Special Olympics.

“With any new ministry, it takes time and you have to try new things. However, if you have people who are passionate and God keeps opening doors, I think it's important to just keep going. I'm blessed with a lot of passionate volunteers who have really made this ministry successful this semester,” said Torbeck.

Audrey Witta, a social work major, is one of the volunteers. "This has been successful at opening the eyes of some students to the fact that we're all just people. The retreat especially helped establish friendships with people who are differently abled. Those relationships, just like any other, are beneficial to those people and the students who were involved in the retreat,” said Witta.

Ministry With Persons Differently-Abled is all about connecting to somebody and making them feel loved and appreciated. “I am really happy that Campus Ministries now has a ministry with this particular focus,” said Erny.

Torbeck hopes new volunteers and leaders within the ministry will experience the same fulfillment she has. “When I work with these people, I truly can see Christ when I look into their eyes. It's my passion in this life, and I want people to be able to experience the beauty of it,” said Torbeck.

— Tiffany Vega is a senior from Valparaiso, Ind., majoring in communication arts and minoring in marketing. Vega is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.