Dancing With True Image-Bearers

A dazzling night for men and women who live with disabilities

It wasn’t the Academy Awards, but ballgowns, tuxes, tiaras and crowns nonetheless dominated the landscape, and stretch limos ferried event goers to their red-carpet entrance.

The grand event was the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine—a prom that takes place in churches around the world for men and women ages 14 and older who live with disabilities. This year, approximately 90,000 people participated worldwide. Valley Church in Des Moines, Iowa, is one EFCA church that has been hosting the evening for the past three years.

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Guests at Night to Shine
Guests at Valley Church’s Night to Shine prom wait for their limo rides.

Talk of the upcoming event began to reach fever pitch in November or December before the February prom. Beautiful, unique gowns were donated by bridal stores and the public to ensure that all the ladies at the dance felt special. Approximately two weeks before the big night, women filled the church to choose their gowns and have them custom tailored—again, all donated time and talent.

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Guests with buddies
Two guests, with their pre-prom buddies, wait to get their hair styled before the dance.

On the big night, men strutted in wearing crowns, taller than life, in tuxes donated or paid for through donations. They proudly and confidently stood in line to get their shoes shined while the ladies had their hair, makeup and nails done to complete their desired look, all completed with no cost to the party-goers.

One man walked more than 20 minutes in frigid weather to experience the dance. He had no suit or tux, so volunteers scoured a clothing closet to find a suit that fit perfectly. (He was driven home via Uber after the prom since it was 7 degrees that night.)

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Guests on the red carpet
During the “Grand March,” guests are escorted by their buddies and introduced on the red carpet as the king or queen of the prom.

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Dancing at Night to Shine
The big highlight of the night is the dance.

Every participant was paired with a buddy escort, with many more men and women working behind the scenes. Participants heard from Tim Tebow (via live feed) how they are loved and valued by Jesus.

The buddies—mainly high-school and college students volunteering their Friday evening—were amazing. Each escorted his or her special guest (some old enough to be a grandparent) arm-in-arm or pushed their wheelchair partners around the event, had prom photos taken together, and then proceeded straight to the dance floor. The smiles and outbursts of joy were infectious.

Night to Shine 2017 Highlights

Helpers come from all backgrounds and religions, as do honored guests. What a powerful tool to show the love of Christ to all who attend—to “let your light so shine” (Matthew 5:16).

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Pastor Quintin with Miss Iowa Teen
Valley Church Lead Pastor Quintin Stieff poses with Lydia Fisher, Miss Iowa’s Outstanding Teen, who volunteered to help crown kings and queens at Night to Shine.

Valley Church’s very mission—to mobilize everyone’s God-given potential to deeply love Christ and their neighbors—makes Night to Shine a natural fit. “People in our community who are affected by disabilities are true image-bearers of a loving, wise, awe-inspiring Creator,” says lead pastor Quintin Stieff.

“Valley Church did not start its ministry to those affected with disabilities with this major event,” he continues. “This is the culmination of probably 15 years of small steps. But when you see that each of those small steps makes such a difference in one person’s life, it just opens your eyes. Start with one person. Start with one family. Don’t try to do great things. Do small things with great love.”

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Superheroes and guest in a photo booth
Volunteers from Iowa League of Heroes enjoy the photo booth with a guest.

While thrilled with their grown-up confidence and elegance, most guests were more enthralled with superheroes Spiderman and Batman, along with other popular characters—each of whom asked to have pictures taken with the kings and queens of Night to Shine.

Therein lies the contrast for all who participated: Throughout the grown-up evening, child-like innocence remained, and stirred all of our hearts.

But after the hoopla and party goodies are all stored away, how are those with disabilities incorporated into churches for the remaining 364 days? How does your church minister to those with special needs? Please tell us in the comment section below.

Lead photo caption: This couple at the Night to Shine event has been together for several years, and Tiffany faithfully attends Valley Church and participates in many of the church’s social events. All photos by Valley Church.

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