Volunteer Spotlight

Jan Bridgeman, Joy Ministries National Coordinator


Jan Bridgeman shares how ‘looking neither to the right nor the left’ has led to her remarkable 27-year involvement with Joy Ministries. My husband and I were at Bible college. We didn’t know why we were at Bible college; God had just sent us there. At the end of the first year, Di Willis came to speak to us about disabilities. Kevin and I both knew then that this was the work God was going to send us to do.

He said not to look to the right or the left, but to focus on His ministry that He had given to us. My husband has since passed away, but that focus is still there, and I know God wants Joy Ministries to continue.

The Encourager

The idea for Joy Ministries came from Joy Fellowship in Canada. This is a church primarily set up for people with disabilities. A lady named Debbie Kennedy did an internship there and came back with a vision for starting something similar in New Zealand. She spoke about it to Emmanuel Support group, and we took it from there.

The first meeting we wondered how many people would turn up and 35 came! We realised we would need to have more than one branch for Auckland. So, Kevin and I started the group in Central West Auckland and ran a group on the North Shore as well. That was 27 years ago.

Besides the Central West group, we now have branches in South Auckland, East Auckland, Hamilton, Whakatane, Hawke’s Bay, Taupo, Masterton and Blenheim.

Joy Ministries started off like a church service. It has basically continued like that. We begin with songs. We still use a lot of Scripture in Song because many of our people can’t read. This way the Word is getting into their hearts. I will say, “You know this song?” and they will say, “Yes,” and I will tell them where it comes from in the Bible. “Oh, we know some Scripture!”

We celebrate birthdays and people can share about what they have been doing over the month. Then we have a speaker for about 10 minutes. We always close the service with communion, which usually one of our folk will help with. Then we have afternoon tea.

You can’t help but be moved when you come to help at Joy Ministries. There is this air of excitement. Everybody loves you; everybody hugs you. It must have impacted our helpers because most of them have been there since day one.

You go into this type of ministry thinking you are going to be the servant. But you get so much more from the people you are serving. They bless you every time you meet. They have got the most simplistic wonderful faith. We have made everything complicated. Their love of Jesus is simple and that’s the way we should be.

How do I know Joy Ministries is God’s work? Let me tell you a story. We were ministering over on the North Shore at the time. We were feeling so tired and thinking we weren’t making an impact on anybody. There was this man who was essentially non-verbal. Rod, our musician, got up to play a guitar. This guy walked forward, put his head on Rod’s shoulder and said, “Jesus loves me.” To me that was fabulous. I thought, “Yes, Lord, this is where we are meant to be.”



The Encourager Magazine 174



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