10% of the nation have disabilities. 90% are unchurched. If that is not a mission field, I do not know what is.
Yesterday at church, the sermon was pushing praying specifically for missions. And Saturday, I got to go to a small conference where a minister and father set forth his ideas and framework for a successful special needs ministry. And as this is obviously where my heart is, the two entwined themselves in my mind.
My church is taking baby-steps to setting up a special needs ministry. Right now, the framework is in my court for more tweaking...which makes the fact that EVERYONE IN MY FAMILY KEEPS GETTING SICK all the more frustrating!!! I am not fussing, not really, but for now, the fact that the implementation is slower than Christmas is my fault...which stinks.
But The Guy (every church has one, you know, "The Guy" who knows everybody and everything?) at our church has a friend who is a minister and also has a son with profound Autism. Anyway, he was invited to give a presentation to our church's children's ministry staff and a few lucky extras like me and other Idea Men and the folks who started The Pier (a local thrift store specifically and almost exclusively hires those with disabilities)...And it was AWESOME!
Paul Thompson is the senior minister at First Baptist Church in Jensen Beach, FL. He has started the ministry called Enable. He knows his stuff and gives practical working information on how to set up a special needs ministry. He also gives concrete Biblical support of why this ministry is so important. He referenced the Biblical passages of Luke 14:15-24, where Christ specifically asked those with disabilities to his banquet table. 1 Corinthians 12:14-26, where Paul talks about the Body of Christ as being incomplete without even the seemingly inconsequential parts, because they are indispensable. And finally, Matthew 25:31-46, speaking about the "Least of These" as being a judgement of attitudes and not a measure of value, and that the needs become a tool to use in reaching out. He also gave me the numbers I opened with. He is doing his doctoral thesis on this, and so he is not throwing around numbers, these are confirmed.
Of course, Paul Thompson's presentation set heavy on me, and only underscored what I feel like I need to be doing.
But then yesterday, with the sermon calling us to pray for missions, I was struck again at how my "missions" mindset has changed. And I am asking you to reach out. I know that as families touched by special needs, you often feel isolated, tapped out, and exhausted. I know that you are laying heavily on God's grace just to get through some days. But I PROMISE that God will give you a little extra strength to reach out to others and offer God's grace and strength to those struggling. I promise that even if you are not touched by special needs, that if you reach out to someone struggling with special needs, you do not need the "RIGHT WORDS". All you have to do is love someone. Paul tells those who volunteer in his Enable Ministry, "I am not asking you to sign up for a ministry, I am asking you to love and care for someone." If your tongue is glued to the roof of your mouth because you don't know how to start, then start praying for them. Eventually, God will get you beyond yourself and you can start.
I am talking about families who have someone with special needs in it and I am speaking about those who have the special needs themselves. There is no disability too big that cannot feel Christ's (and yours!) love, whether they can verbalize it or not.
Welcome to a new mission field. They are waiting and ready to be loved. GO!