IT’S TIME TO SHIFT!
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now, you are the body of Christ, and each one of you a part of it.
Let’s see, SHIFT? SHIFT WHAT? Shift our thinking? Shift what we’ve been doing? Shift our marginalized mentalities? Shift and just get out of this place that we’ve seemed to be at for way too long? Yes, yes, yes and yes!
Trying to find a church over the years that would “take in” our family with 2 of our 3 children being special needs was always a challenge. Even large churches and well-known ministries would say, “We’re just not equipped to serve your family, I’m sorry”, or “Can you please leave with your son? He’s too loud for our live recording, but you can watch from outside” (with a cute smile). Just what we wanted to hear, right? In a lifestyle circumstance that automatically makes you by default isolated from people and social events, let’s go out and be alone again, right? Not.
Although God has always graced us with a home church over the years, In fact, it was quite easy to pick a church. The first church that was willing to work with the high flexibility that was needed to embrace our family was the jackpot choice for us; we noticed that most of our special needs families and friends were not connected at all in a regular church service. Most of them were home alone, uninvolved, and unreached by the church. It just became too hard to try it again, exhausted by the time you get to church just to be asked to leave because of your child won’t stay seated or is just too loud, or so they thought.
Statistics show that 32% of families with children with special needs leave at least one church because their kids were not welcomed or included. 46.6% of families said they refrained from even participating in a religious activity because their children were not welcomed or included, and 55.8 % kept their children from attending because support was not provided, or parents were expected to stay with their child throughout activities. 86.5% of those families who do attend services said their church needs more training and education about disabilities. (www.church4everychild.org)
But what does that leave us with? All these families called to be IN THE BODY OF CHRIST, EACH ONE HAVING A PART, yet they’re isolated and not receiving or functioning in their place. Could this possibly be why we’re stagnant? Iron sharpens iron, yet are we missing a blade?
1 Corinthians 12:1 “Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.” God does not want us to be uninformed, or err from lack of information, to not understand or to be ignorant of, concerning spiritual gifts. Every born-again believer has gifts given to help build, heal, and complete the body of Christ. There are no spare tires in the Kingdom.
The disabled, the poor, the homeless, and rich man alike. We are a body, and need each part. With parts missing or not functioning in it at all, how can we be whole and complete? Here are 4 ways we can help, coming from a firsthand perspective as a family with special needs children.
First, REACH OUT to families with special needs.
That’s proactive on our part. WE EXTEND. WE PROVIDE A WAY. Most of us are home alone without a way to enjoy a corporate worship service, or for that matter, barely get out of the house to the grocery store without strategic planning. GO OUT and connect with special needs families that you might know. Offer to caretake for a small window. Visit day camps, schools, or programs in your city and see how you can help serve them. Plan a free event to serve them. People have asked us before, “where do your people come from?” and we simply reply, “we go to where they’re at.”
Luke 14:21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
We hold a very simple, organic, flexible worship service for the disabled where families can attend together without being afraid that their child will “disrupt “the service. It’s adventurous to say the least, but so beautiful it is, and I believe brings a smile on God’s face. “COMPASSION TO LOVE AND REACH THE UNREACHED IS THE KEY TO BEGINNING.”
Second, we need to SERVE this community.
Matthew 25: 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
When it really comes down to it in the end the question will be, did we love? In Matthew 25 it wasn’t the gifts of God that separated the sheep from the goats, but the genuine serving love of God that was the proof in the pudding of a true sheep. Serving this community can really be done with simple efforts. Make a note on your service times or church website that special needs families are warmly welcomed. Have a couple helpers or “buddies” ready to assist parents with their children when they visit. Look for ways to serve and reach the families outside the church.
One reason for growth in Aimee Semple McPherson’s ministry is that she organized NEED-MEETING activities for all people. One thing we have implemented is a free respite night. Parents with special needs children desperately need a break from the full-time care that comes with raising these treasures. When you add “FREE” to that, you can be guaranteed you will be successful in reaching and loving on families with special children. The need is overwhelmingly high, and the provision is extremely low. Another event we hold is a summer camp for the disabled. Parents here get a week of rest while we enjoy their loved one! CAMP HERMON is my personal favorite event where many of our campers participate in worship and in the preaching of the Word. (Even though many are non-verbal)
Thirdly, we must EMPOWER them in the body of Christ by helping them discover their God given gifts, and then enabling them to be used in the body as uniquely gifted individuals.
Intercessors, worshippers in song or art, servers, or maybe, their very presence is our gift. Ooooooo, now doing this can be a little messy, but it’s real, and obedient to the Word of God concerning the body of Christ. I think most of us imagine the ideal worship service as beautiful songs with skilled musicians, powerful preaching and an experienced ministry team at the altars. It sounds good, like a fruitful gathering, which it certainly can be, but for some reason I’m not so convinced it’s God’s only idea of beautiful assembly.
How about empowering and honoring even the weakest? We need them, in fact they’re indispensable. (or absolutely necessary) The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty. 1 Corinthians 12:21-23
We have this one special young lady in our Anglo congregation that never ceases to amaze us. She is usually the first one up for prayer when given opportunity, the first one praying when asked to pray, and always seems to bring “just the right gift” for a person each week. She also was the first one to respond when the invitation was made to bring food in for the homeless. To this day on Sundays she brings in food that SHE PREPARES AND BUYS for the homeless. She told us, “I always wanted to bring food for the homeless. I was always told I would!”
We also have our dear friend Joe. Everyone says once you meet Joe, you never forget him. He loves people. He loves to talk. He listens, and HE LOVES TO PRAY. Joe talks an awful lot, but if you’re listening, you will hear God’s voice through him. He is an intercessor. He is always bringing up current and personal events that need prayer. We need these ones in the body, and sometimes I wonder, if these simple, labeled disabled, overlooked and often misunderstood friends are really not so “disabled” at all in God’s eyes.
Lastly, we have much to LEARN from the disabled community.
Ephesians 4:16 says, “He made the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow SO THAT the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love NLV
It’s one thing to reach out and invite the disabled, another to accept and embrace them, but to empower them and RECEIVE FROM THEM is another whole enchilada. Looking to the poor, the homeless, the child, misfit, the sick or disabled to actually have something to bring to us, to ME, (now that gets personal) that will build me, complete me, heal me, is an undiscovered road not traveled on often. Parents will more often share their life long lessons of raising a beautiful child with special needs. Rich as it is, how about making room for the voices who have no voices, for my benefit? NOW we’ve shifted.
“We who are different provide depth to those willing to look beyond the surface”
– Aaron Cvengros
Written by: Annette Cvengros
Special Treasures Sanctuary and Respite Outreach
Waukegan 2 Foursquare