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Abigail Dykstra is a 12-year-old girl with plenty to offer her church, school, and community.

Abigail's mom, Deborah, says her family has become immersed in the disability community since both her children were diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

Part of that journey has been not only finding spaces for her children to be welcomed into and be served but finding spaces where they can also serve others.

"Everybody belongs and everybody has a place to be," Deborah says. "Everybody has gifts to give, and we all benefit when we get to know one another."

Deborah says the family's own church has been a great example of doing this. Some Sunday mornings you'll find Abigail standing beside her father at Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church helping serve as a greeter and usher.

The Winnipeg church doesn't have a "disability ministry." Rather they've allowed the Dykstras to find ways for their children to serve and minister alongside others as well as being served. It's the kind of inclusion that Deborah has been working hard for and hopes to encourage others in 

"What has happened all along our journey is that people have come alongside and look for ways that they can help us when we've needed help. And they've looked for ways that they can get to know our kids and value who they are."

cooking clubThe Dykstra kids and others from their church gathered on one Saturday to do some baking together. They donated the baking to others in their community to bless them with. Finding everyone's gifts and the common ground shared between others can be the start of opening up those opportunities. That's what the Dykstra children and others did at their church a few weekends ago.

"My kids like to cook. I was talking about that with a couple of friends, and their kids also like to cook. So we decided we'd get together on a Saturday and do some baking together with the kids, and then we'd have something to give to somebody in our community who maybe would enjoy some baking and be cheered up by that."

Not only did the time in the kitchen together provide all the kids with a chance to bond, but what happened in between that time was even better, Deborah says.

"The best moment to me was when we were waiting for the baking to be done, and the kids were in the lobby throwing a ball around. My son was right in the middle of it. Most Sundays he doesn't interact with other kids at church, but there he was doing what other kids would do, and having a great time."

Deborah says she'd love to see more churches opening up to more inclusion.

"Just start with finding out what people like," Deborah says about how to become that kind of church. "We all connect around things that we like and are interested in. Once you get to know what someone's interests and abilities are then you can start to think of ways to do those things together."

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