Monday, March 21, 2011

Ministering to those with Special Needs - Part 4

My heart has been so full the past several weeks with a desire to love and minister to those with special needs (as if you couldn’t tell by my series of posts regarding special needs :-) -- <See all posts in this Special Needs 4-Part Series>). The more I dwell on this, the bigger my dreams get.

As serving God in Bulgaria becomes more of a reality, I often think about the children and families there who are affected by autism (I’ve been told that Bulgaria has the highest incidence of autism in all of Eastern Europe). I wonder about how I could reach out and show them the love of Christ. In searching my autism resources online or talking with people, I discover ministries and ways to do just this. I have been told of a man who started an autism school in India touching the lives of so many there, including impacting the president of India himself. I just learned today of a ministry in Indiana that just opened up an orphanage for special needs children in Uganda (, where those with special needs are considered “cursed.” I don’t know if I could do anything as grand, but I pray that God could use me in my everyday life at least. I understand the loneliness, the struggles, the disdain and misjudgments of others. I know what it feels like to long to talk to someone who understands me and my child. I pray that God can lead me to people who feel just like me, and through our common connection, I would then have the opportunity to share the Gospel. Without Christ, the hardships of caring for a special needs child can be overwhelming. Many days, it’s only God’s grace that sustains me and brings me to the end of another day or allows me to have the strength and courage to wake up and begin another day. My heart hurts for those who go through life without knowing the comfort of God’s grace that sustains and peace that surpasses all understanding.

These thoughts then lead me to the here and now. In the Pottstown region alone, there are many families affected by autism. I hear story after story from Josh’s behavior specialist. In doing my own research or using the resources given me by the behavior specialist, I have realized that there are not too many connections in our area for parents to commiserate or get kids together for a play date. I have been thinking about how I could reach out to the community wondering if I should start an autism play group or a parents of autistic children support group. Doing something would be better than nothing. I then think about the church and how the church body could be ministering to these families and wonder how to incorporate my own dreams into a ministry outwork of our church. It’s a perfect way to demonstrate the love of Christ.

After all, I overheard one mother talking to another at my son’s special Olympics swim class telling her that she takes her son to particular church just because there is a ministry just for kids like him, and she feels it’s a good outlet for him. What a great way to open the door for the Gospel to be proclaimed! Our denomination has a special needs ministry and is training churches to minister to these special groups of people ( I am so excited about this work and have been in contact with the director multiple times. I am looking forward to meeting her in person this weekend. I pray that other churches will be burdened to take on this ministry to be a blessing in their own communities.

As my mind rapidly swirls in thoughts and dreams regarding the potential to minister, I pray that God would keep my heart open and receptive to the ministry opportunities He brings me daily and that He would burden the hearts of others to love these special children and adults and their families.

Joshua and David enjoy one of the many cool sensory activities at the Special Needs Class at the Spring Valley YMCA.

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