Joni and Friends Names Volunteers of the Year
New Mexico Couple Selected for Annual Award
AGOURA HILLS, Calif., Jan. 29, 2015 – The Joni and Friends International Disability Center has selected Paul and Debbie Faculjak as Volunteers for the Year for 2014. The Faculjaks serve as Volunteer Area Directors for Joni and Friends’ Albuquerque, New Mexico, Field Office.
The Faculjaks have been involved with Joni and Friends since 1998 when Paul participated in a Wheels for the World outreach to Romania, then returned the following year as the team leader. The couple began serving as Wheelchair Corps representatives as well as Regional Chair Corps representatives that same year, and by 2003, they were leading Wheels for the World outreaches to Peru annually through 2010.
Paul and Debbie met when she came to the physical rehabilitation center where Paul worked to receive training for operating her new wheelchair, which she relied upon for mobility due to a spinal cord injury six years previously. Although Paul wasn’t her physical therapist, Debbie noticed him right away. He was equally interested in her and found an excuse to talk to her about her new wheelchair.
They first became involved with Joni and Friends because of Paul’s desire to use his training as a physical therapist to serve God in some way. When Debbie heard on the Joni and Friends radio program of a need for physical therapists to join that Wheels for the World outreach to Romania, they knew this was the opportunity Paul had been waiting for. Debbie had first been exposed to the ministry and Tada’s story after reading her book “Joni,” following her own injury in 1979.
While they initially were involved primarily with Wheels for the World, the Faculjaks were soon inspired to begin other types of ministry throughout Albuquerque. “We spent a lot of time collecting wheelchairs, and every time we picked up a new chair, it always brought to mind how a prayer was being answered in another part of the world,” Debbie said. “I thought that while we had done a lot of receiving from our community, we needed to find a way to give back.”
They launched this effort in 2003 with a Vacation Bible School for children with disabilities, offering a moms’ brunch simultaneously so they could receive some pampering while their kids were being taught about God’s love. They also provided family portraits – a luxury of time that many of these families had never before experienced. Other events included banquets for families themed around the Luke 14 admonition in the Bible to “invite the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind,” with kids’ fun days and romantic evenings for the parents.
Up until this time, most Joni and Friends Area Ministries were run by paid staff, but Paul and Debbie formed a board and launched as a “Chapter” on a volunteer basis, a model which has since been adopted in other regions. Tada visited Albuquerque for the launch in 2004, and the Faculjaks were encouraged by her example. “Joni is such a great role model in her obedience to the Lord,” Debbie said. “She reminded us to just be available.”
Since 2010, the Faculjaks have been serving as Liaisons to Peru for Joni and Friends, bringing the “Beyond Suffering” disability ministry training courses to Peru in conjunction with a disability ministry there. It will soon be spreading throughout Latin America, beginning with Dominican Republic and Argentina. In addition, under their leadership, the Albuquerque Area Ministry was able to host its first Family Retreat in 2014 in partnership with Grace Church, which is the ideal for Joni and Friends – to see the local church equipped to take the lead in ministry and outreach to those with disabilities.
“Joni and Ken have been an amazing example to us, as a couple and as individuals, as they have modeled Christ’s love for those Christ loves – individuals with disabilities,” Debbie said. “Joni and Friends has given us the opportunity to serve the largest unreached people group in the world – those with disabilities, which reaches across all nations, cultures and economic spectrums – and we feel humbled to serve that community.”
Paul and Debbie Faculjak wonderfully embody all of the Joni and Friends’ criteria for the Volunteer of the Year award as they are individuals who serve as role models for other volunteers, and they inspire individuals to become actively engaged with Joni and Friends. In addition, they also exemplify Joni and Friends’ mission and demonstrate exceptional commitment, service and leadership.
“I can’t think of any other volunteers who better fit all of our criteria than Paul and Debbie Faculjak,” said Vice President of Field Services Marc Stein. “They have such a commitment to serve the disability community, not just with physical relief like wheelchairs and respite, but they have a heart to share the hope and the love of Jesus with those who need it most, individuals who are often overlooked and even outcast because of their disability. We appreciate the Faculjaks so much for all they do.”
For more information about the Joni and Friends Albuquerque Area Field Office, for local volunteer opportunities or to sign up for the 2015 Family Retreat, please visit http://www.joniandfriends.org/albuquerque/.
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Note to Editors: For more information or to arrange an interview with the Faculjaks, please contact Melany Ethridge of A. Larry Ross Communications at 972.267.1111, or firstname.lastname@example.org.