Rondalyn Abode is not from Oklahoma, but she is pouring her heart and soul into North Tulsa through her work at Crossover Community Impact, a nonprofit organization providing housing, health services, youth sports and private schools for boys and girls. Abode’s hoping her children — Temple, 14, Priest, 11, and Truth, 1 — will grow up with a heart for giving back to the community, too.
In an Oklahoma Watch feature “A Mile In Another’s Shoes,” an initiative to amplify voices we aren’t always hearing or call attention to the plight of those affected by public policy, Abode talks about her advocacy work on behalf of her children, two of whom have developmental disabilities.
There’s a philosophy of ministry called Christian Community Development. And one of the big elements is relocation. So, if you work full-time for Crossover, for instance, you have to live in the community or make plans to live in the community. It was an opportunity for us to serve the community and love on the people here. We officially incorporated Crossover Community Impact in 2011. And then, as crazy as things are, (my husband) Philip, at 33, starts having really bad nosebleeds. I’m like, you need to go to the doctor. You need to find out what’s going on. After a number of tests, he did have cancer. He had a tumor in his nasal passage, it was pushing against his brain stem and he ended up having seven weeks of radiation and chemo simultaneously. He lost 22 pounds in four weeks.
I already had to advocate for our family because our daughter, Temple, has a rare genetic disorder, and our son has autism. I was already accustomed to working with doctors, but that was a whole other beast. He had already started laying the groundwork for starting Crossover Sports Association, which was the first thing we did in the community. We build on the strength of the community, which is football and youth sports. He was outside with an umbrella because they had radiated the inside of his throat. He was not supposed to be directly in the sun. So he had an umbrella and it hurt to swallow his own saliva. So he had a little water bottle that you spit into and that’s where Crossover started.
One of the experts in advocacy said I should get a master’s in public administration. I applied to the program and got accepted. That’s when we found out Philip had cancer. I was like, I don’t have time to go to grad school. I need to get a real job. But because we had two kids with developmental disabilities, it was very difficult to get a job. Even with two bachelor’s degrees. Nobody would hire me. It was just the specifications that I had with regards to my time. My kids were my priority. The first organization that was willing to hire me was Educare, and it was because I was advocating for the kids with disabilities.
Both of my big kids have special health care needs. Temple was born in 2007 and she has a rare genetic disorder called chromosome 18 duplication, or partial trisomy 18. Only 10% of kids with her disability make it past their first birthday. And she’s 14, and she’s fire. Everything about Temple is absolutely remarkable. We’ve known that Temple had chromosome 18 duplication since she was 18 months old. And we knew Priest had autism since he was 15 months old. One of the things that I always pray is that God puts the people into our lives to help them do what they’re supposed to do. And that’s really what happened with my path to advocacy.
For me, it’s an opportunity to help my kids in the best way I know how. To advocate for them until they can advocate for themselves.
I want them to have a quality education and I want them to be able to choose what it is they want to do in the future. I think Temple is going to be an exceptional teacher. But in order to do that, Temple has to be able to do some basic things, like read and be able to do basic math. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to get through those programs. So I’m always advocating for their education. Both Temple and Priest have one-on-one paraprofessionals and that’s the result of advocacy and relationships.
I’m always thinking about how we can help Temple be more independent? How can we help Priest be more independent? We have the kind of doors that Temple can open on her own. We have the kind of showerhead that she can turn on. We have the kind of faucets that she can turn on on her own. She has limited fine motor abilities because of her disability. Our hope is to have a three-flat building or three story apartment. And we would ideally live at the bottom with Truth. And Temple would be in the middle and Priest would be at the top, but they would each have their own apartments.
Sports are such a big part of our lives. Priest was the first kid with a disability to play flag football. And it was very much mommy and me flag football. Temple was the first cheerleader with a developmental disability. She would call the cheer. She wouldn’t do them, that’s Temple’s personality. All the girls knew what she was calling and they would do the cheers.They loved her and she loved them. That’s been a big part of it – advocating for them to have community, because we know we’re not going to always be here. A community beyond just what we can provide.
For More Information
Crossover Community Impact is a nonprofit organization and outreach ministry of Crossover Bible Church. They provide health services, housing, youth sports, and operate Crossover Preparatory Academy, an all-male and all-female tuition-free, Christian private school. Learn more about their work here.
Our whole lives are right here. If we walked outside, I could show you my house. Because of relocation, we feel like we’ve changed the narrative from ‘them and they’ to ‘us and we.’ When you live in the community, if the school system is struggling, that becomes my problem too.
With us having Temple and Priest and having gone through all the things that they’ve been through, from getting their diagnosis, to understanding their diagnosis, to accepting their diagnosis. But not allowing that to be enough. There’s certain things that we can’t change. But there are things we can change. So let’s focus on those things. God has been incredibly gracious toward us. We’ve learned to celebrate absolutely everything that they do.
My hope and dream for them is very similar to what other people want for their kids. I want them to love what they do, whatever it is. I hope that it’s some kind of community development work, that they take on the passion that we have for this community and want to see it restored. That they want to see North Tulsa be known as a community of healthy individuals, faithful families, peaceful neighborhoods and thriving institutions. And that they have a role in that.