I want to thank Eileen Cushing for sharing today's story about her daughter Abigail. God is working through her in a mighty way to encourage people and point them to Jesus. Abigail is a 22 year old young lady who attends GloryClub at New Hope Church in Crystal, Minnesota. Glory Club is a Christian fellowship group for adults with disabilities.
Fortunately for us, Abigail's December 15th performance in the church-wide Christmas program is available on YouTube. I was enthralled as I watched. It put a sense of wonder on my heart about the coming of Jesus. I hope you'll take 90 seconds to watch this part of the Christmas story told powerfully!
After Abigail's performance, she received this note (shared with us by her mother, Eileen):
“I wanted to say ‘thank you” so much for being the Angel for the Christmas music program this year... You showed the whole church what you could do as God’s child first, and also stood for your friends in Glory Club as part of the church. And not only a part, but as the Angel that said the most important words ever!”
Most of the readers of this blog know that I, too, am the mom of a child with special needs. So you may understand why I imagined Eileen's pride and excitement in seeing her daughter in this inspiring performance. I was also touched to read the note someone so kindly wrote to encourage her and to testify that God used Abigail's worship to turn the eyes of many toward Jesus this Christmas.
I asked Eileen to tell me the back story—so that all of us could appreciate how busy God is behind the scenes. To be sure, hearing more of the details from Eileen sharpens our vision to see life from God's perspective.
Several weeks ago I noticed an audition invitation for the Christmas program in our church bulletin. I felt a gentle nudging to ask Abigail if she wanted to try. She did. Although Abigail has been a part of a small community theater over the last few years, she has little experience with the audition process. Nonetheless, she went to the appointment and read some lines. We were very excited to hear of her acceptance on the first day of rehearsal.
The production centers around the Nine Lessons and Carols, which is an Anglican order of service from the 1800’s, traditionally for Christmas Eve. It has nine specified scripture lessons beginning with the Fall and ending with John1: 1-14. Each lesson is followed by carols. This production uses updated ‘carols’—from a selection from Handel’s Messiah to a rap.
Abigail was given the part as a reader from Lessons Seven and Nine. I believe early scripture memorization through the Awana program strengthened the gift that God seems to have given her for readily remembering lines.
After one of the rehearsals, Abigail’s director said she gets tears in her eyes while watching Abigail. She is reminded of her cousin with Down Syndrome, who recently passed away, and also loved acting. Perhaps the director's personal experience helped pave the way for Abigail to be in this production.
Although we are primarily interested in seeing that Abigail takes advantage of the opportunities God seems to place before her and have been proud of all her efforts, we are even more excited and somewhat surprised to see a glimmer of God’s bigger picture. We had not thought of her being looked at as a representative of those with disabilities in our Church. Hopefully, this will pave the way for even more inclusion. Also, after seeing Abigail in the production at the church, her director in the community theater is considering starting acting classes for adults with disabilities.
When I think back twenty-two years ago, when we were first told that our daughter had Down Syndrome, we never thought that God would be doing such good things for her and through her. He has been faithful in leading us each step of the way, even when we were not looking to be led. This Christmas will be one we remember for His goodness—that He has a very special place in His heart for our very special children and He delights in doing good things in and through them.
Surely, Abigail is doing more than just portray a messenger of the Lord. She is living her entire life of out of love for the Lord. I'm thankful for the many things God is speaking into my own heart because of her and for this moment of Christmas wonder she gave me!