Anglican Deaconess Ministries has awarded $60,000 to women leading innovative ministries and gospel-shaped initiatives at its annual funding event on September 5.
The successful ministries include The 139 Collective, a Christian support network for parents raising children with disabilities; The Overcomers Place, a connected community for those seeking to overcome addiction; and Asians Between Cultures, which assists churches in understanding different cultures and provides training.
The 139 Collective is the first Christian support group of its kind. “It made me excited that people were on board with the same ideas and value for this ministry,” says Erica Dodd, who attends Lakemba Anglican. She, along with Igraine Lim, were awarded a grant for collective at the funding event.
Mrs Dodd has a child with a heart condition and Down Syndrome, and Mrs Lim has a child with a rare genetic and intellectual disability known as PACS1 Syndrome.
“About a year ago, we realised we could benefit from connecting with other families who had walked a similar journey,” Mrs Lim says in her pitch video. When she couldn’t find an already existing Christian support group, she was inspired to create her own.
“God has been deeply faithful”
When Mrs Dodd first found out her son’s diagnosis, she felt both overwhelmed and at peace. “God has been deeply faithful to our friends who had children who had heart surgery, and friends with children with Down Syndrome as well,” she says. “God in his kindness had surrounded us with people who had a similar journey.
“When Igraine messaged me asking if I would be interested in [starting The 139 Collective] I said to her, ‘You won’t believe this, I’ve been praying for six months for this group to start’. There is something very special and unique about the support that can be offered by someone who has gone through a similar experience.”
Greater reach and support
The 139 Collective is still quite young, but already more than 140 members are encouraging and praying for one another. They share articles, resources, tips and wrestle through hard conversations together, tackling questions like “Why hasn’t God healed my child?” and “What has God taught us from having a child with special needs?”
Mrs Dodd and Mrs Lim hope to develop a website and resource hub, and expand their network so more families facing similar challenges can receive support.
Says Mrs Lim: “We’d like to be a well-known group to be able to meet people at their point of diagnosis, even during pregnancy. For my husband and I, that was one of the hardest parts of the whole journey.”
Mrs Dodd believes this is powerful and necessary. “In a time where there is screening and pressure from medical professionals to have a 'normal' pregnancy, at the expense of the child, it’s validating to be part of a group where parents are putting everything into supporting their child. When we’re struggling, to [have someone] keep saying ‘God is for you. God is for your child. He thinks your child is precious and valuable’... God provides his church family to speak his word to each other in these struggles.”
The funding event awarded seven major grants. And a further eight applicants were able to secure $1000 for growing and established initiatives.
The acting CEO of Anglican Deaconess Ministries, Stephanie Dunk, believes it is vital to fund and support Christian women using the gifts God has given them. “This is transformative for the individual as she grows into the likeness of Christ, and transformative for the world,” she says.
For a full list of the grant winners, visit the Anglican Deaconess Ministries website