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Open Doors Ministry- A Story of Unconditional Love

By Nicole Zaccaria

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“When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Psalm 56:3 

If you have not had the pleasure of meeting Theresa Bussert and her son, Zak, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce them to you. I met Theresa in September 2014, shortly after I had joined Grace as the Open Doors Ministry’s Coordinator. Theresa was a single mom, looking for a church home for herself and her fouryear-old son. As she told me her story, I knew that God had placed her in the arms of Grace.  

Theresa knew that she wanted to be a mom. Coming from a family with several domestic and international adoptions, adoption had always been in her heart. She found Zak in Ethiopia and they immediately fell in love with one another. After overcoming many obstacles in the adoption process, she brought him home just before his first birthday. As Theresa settled into the life of raising him, she quickly became aware of some developmental differences in the way he learned and loved. Theresa found support for Zak to address these differences at home and at school. Despite therapies and the support that Theresa’s extended family provided, there were moments of grave worry and uncertainty. Theresa knew that she needed comfort from a church home.  As she and Zak sought this addition to their lives, they entered a dark time.  Although Theresa found many congregations that wanted her to be “a part” of their church, Theresa reports feeling that they wanted Zak to remain “apart” from the congregation. She sadly shared that she had never experienced such unwelcoming feelings.

When Theresa and Zak came to Grace, a plan developed to address his strengths and his challenges. Zak started as a preschool boy, and lasted about 10 minutes in the Sunday school classroom.  He is now consistently attending Sunday school and engaged in the lessons.  In addition, he has become a participant in choir, and in 2016, he sang in two different services! Zak also attended Vacation Bible School, and in December, he joined the Children’s Night Out, hosted by Chamus BurnsideSavassini and the Children’s Ministry team. This allowed Theresa to enjoy a relaxed dinner out with her sister, and her words of gratitude were profound. The name Zak’s birth mother gave him was Mintesinot, which means, “All things are possible with God.” There are times that Theresa continues to be scared and overwhelmed,  but she finds strength in this name. She also shared that Open Doors has just strengthened her faith. Theresa tells the story that when Zak started at Grace, there was never an alarm about his needs. During our first conversation in September 2014, Theresa had shared that her spiritual goal for Zak was to find a church community that could accept him for who he is. She now states that Grace is the church home that she had been searching for her whole life. She is forever grateful for the all-encompassing acceptance that Grace has bestowed upon them. This is why she attends Grace. This is why we have our Open Doors Ministry.  

Theresa and Zak’s story is just one of the many beautiful Open Doors stories. Our annual celebration is on February 25 and 26. We will host special speakers during the services, focusing on the Unconditional Love that defines Open Doors. We will also enjoy a celebration in the Activity Center between services on Sunday. We will have information about the ministry, as well as the opportunity to support us through various vendors: Special Sparkle will be returning to sell specially designed bracelets, authors will be selling books that vary in perspective about special needs, and we will have therapy dogs that have become a part of supporting our ministry. Please join us for this special day! If you or someone you know is seeking a church home and feeling limited due to special needs, please contact (nicole.zaccaria@peopleofgrace.org).We can create a plan and support you!