Today, Monika speaks to us about including people with disabilities in Kingdom work, learning from others via Instagram, and her intention around prayer.
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I was raised comfortably in the Chicago suburbs to two parents who have now been married for over 30 years, and I’m the oldest of three siblings. As a young child, we sporadically attended the catholic church—that’s how my parents grew up so that’s what our family did. At around 5 or 6 my mother became a believer, and a few years down the road my dad followed. I had the unique experience of watching my parents become believers during their adulthood and that’s something I really value, as it showed me that as long as there’s breath in our lungs, there’s still time.
We started attending a Presbyterian church when I was eleven years old, and I accepted Christ at the age of 13—it was your typical church camp conversion experience. I spent my teenage years struggling with faith, as I saw it embodied by others. Because I was a teenager with questions, and who had to figure things out for myself, I felt very othered at my private Christian school. I spent a lot of time pushing back at my misconceptions of God throughout my teenage years, going so far as telling my mom I would not be attending church with the family anymore—the church I grew up in—when I turned 18. In God’s incredible grace and redemption, He pulled me back to Him.
“I had the unique experience of watching my parents become believers during their adulthood and that’s something I really value, as it showed me that as long as there’s breath in our lungs, there’s still time.”
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: I’ve been spending a lot of time in Exodus. Both in my personal study, and in the fact that it just keeps popping up in my life—a clear sign the Lord is trying to teach me something. I love the way Moses comes to the Lord with all his “buts”; his reasons why he’s not the guy, and God basically affirms that by bringing it all back to Him. It’s not about how talented (or not) we are, or what we’re able to do on our own, but what God can do through us when we surrender our will to His.
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: Prayer. Prayer has always been a struggle for me. In 2019, I’m committed to not only making it my daily practice, but being intentional and as Paul tells us, to pray without ceasing.
Profession: My profession is two (or three)- fold depending on how you see it. I currently work as the Special Needs Ministry Coordinator for our church. I have been leading in developing and expanding our program for children, teens, and adults with disabilities for over three years now. It is a joy and a passion to serve and serve with this population. I am committed to showing that the disability population isn’t just a group of people we serve, but that they’re our co-laborers in kingdom work.
In addition to that, I am the Director of Teen Ministries for a not-for-profit; Getting Real Ministries, in Aurora, IL. I work alongside my mom by ministering to women and teen girls every week through service projects and Bible study. I am so grateful that my life is so filled by ministry work—ten years ago I never would’ve pictured myself here.
My most important job title though, is ‘Mom’ to three little women, ages 4 months-4 years. They are a delight and my joy.
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be? Rebel Child: A Story of One Girl’s Road to Redemption (I’ve obviously thought about this before *grin*).
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? At church camp. It sounds so cliché, but I had never met God before. I had never heard about salvation; to be honest, I probably didn’t even truly grasp that I was a sinner in need of a savior. There have been a few times in my life where I’ve truly felt the presence of the Lord and that was it. I remember feeling so at peace, and exactly where I needed to be in that moment.
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? A lot of my Instagram follows! I love learning from people who know more than me. A tricky thing about working in ministry is that a lot of times, people are looking to you for answers—whether it’s the people you’re ministering to or the volunteers you’re working alongside. It can be tiring, and it feels like a lot of pressure. I’m grateful for a platform where I can learn from people who know more than me, so I can be better equipped to share God’s Word effectively to the people I minister with and to.
Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): Reading is a huge passion of mine. A few I’m actively reading: Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin (One of my favorites that I’m re-reading with a small group), Letters to the Church by Francis Chan, and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I typically read non-fiction, but I like to use the summer to throw in some fiction reads.
Top three essentials: Coffee, a good book, my phone.
How did God speak to you recently? The Lord is teaching me a lot in how my mindset affects my every day. There’s a lot of noise in our world, and it’s easier than ever to take our eyes off of Him. I’m learning that when I’m not seeking Him with my heart, soul, mind, and strength, it’s harder to let Him lead the way and to lose sight of what He’s entrusted me to.
“I’m learning that when I’m not seeking Him with my heart, soul, mind, and strength, it’s harder to let Him lead the way and to lose sight of what He’s entrusted me to.”
Hobby: Powerlifting! I’m competing in my first meet in November.
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong: Be in the Word daily. It’s not always easy, but I see a huge difference in myself whether I’ve been in the Word of not that day. Prayer—purposeful, intentional prayer is so important. Community—find a group of believers to be a part of. Accountability and influence goes a long way!
Favorite person in scripture? King David—from start to finish, his story is incredible and encouraging.
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? That there’s hope even if you’ve fallen away—and that the Lord reveals Himself through His Word.
How do you leave your mark on your community? I try to lead with my faith in all areas of my life. I love empowering and equipping women and girls to use the Bible in their every day lives. I’ve watched girls start studying the Bible in 7th grade with us who leave as young women armed with God’s Truth. It doesn’t have anything to do with me, but I’m glad to be a part of these young women’s faith journeys.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with me, but I’m glad to be a part of these young women’s faith journeys.”
Favorite holiday? I love the fun and spirit around Christmas, but Easter is my favorite holiday.
A goal you have? This year I’m working on developing a quality, differentiated curriculum for churches to use in their self-contained disability ministry classrooms.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: Birthday donuts! Every birthday, our girls wake up to balloons and their favorite donuts waiting for them in the kitchen.
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? I’d love to know more about free will and God’s sovereignty. I’m comfortable with where I stand on those issues, but I’d love to hear God explain it so we can fully understand how both work in tandem.
Thing you want to raise awareness about: That people with disabilities weren’t created just to be ministered to, but to be a part of doing God’s kingdom work here on Earth. Disability can be a tricky subject in the church world, and I want to empower churches to invite these groups in to be a part of furthering God’s kingdom.
“Disability can be a tricky subject in the church world, and I want to empower churches to invite these groups in to be a part of furthering God’s kingdom.”
What does your morning routine consist of? Coffee, quiet time, breakfast, and getting ready for the day’s activities.
What is on your nightstand? A book, our wedding photo, my phone.
Define Christianity in a sentence: Christianity is accepting the free gift of what Christ did on the cross and committing to living life in a way that leads you and others closer to Him.
For more Monika:
Until next time, keep witnessing!