This is the final installment of the trilogy known as Ezra and Special Education. If you missed parts one and/or two, you can find them here:
And now, Part Three:
My sister taught the Special Education classes at an elementary school in Pennsylvania for many years. She developed a certain skill set to help kids learn things that would help them throughout their lives. She studied each student trying to understand how best to help them learn. She cared about each child. And she had a seemingly endless amount of patience as most of these students struggled and fought to get a grasp on each morsel of knowledge. She saw their value, and wanted the best for them.
That makes her awesome. And it reveals a lot of my weaknesses. But at the moment, it makes me ask what we are doing to help these kids understand the Bible, to grasp the gospel, to know Jesus. I’ve never heard an announcement from a pulpit about the Special Needs ministry. I’ve never talked to someone who said they were going to go back to school to take some classes that would help them teach these children not math or spelling but the truths of God. I’m not saying these things and these people are not out there. I’m just saying I haven’t heard about them. And that is causing me to wonder.
I also have two different friends who have had children with Down’s Syndrome in the last couple of years. It made me care more about their well-being. These kids are awesome, kind, and loving. But I don’t want them to just be happy, I want them to have the greatest opportunity to know as much of Jesus as possible. I just don’t know how to help there.
In 1 Corinthians 9:22b, Paul says, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” And so, I’m just wondering what we might be able to become, so that they might be saved. I know their parents are doing all they can. And honestly, the special needs students I’ve met over the years have been some of the kindest and most Christ-like people I have known. They have shown unconditional love in a way I have seen few other places. But I want the church to give to them as well.
Will you share any thoughts you have? What have you seen? Share the stories that you may have already heard, maybe even been a part of. I’d appreciate it.
5 thoughts on “Ezra and Special Education, part 3”
Todd – it is SO cool that God put this in my twitter feed today. (I’ve only read part 3, but that was enough for now – I’ll go back and read the other 2 parts when I finish responding.)
My 23 year old daughter has moderate mental retardation (I HATE that word, but it’s what we have to work with.) She knows that she is going to heaven because of Jesus! Her “simple” faith has been an inspiration and example to so many people, I wish I could have her impact.Her joy in worshiping the Lord has brought tears to more eyes than I can count.
We saw that there was little “out there” for her peer group, in terms of a Bible study that they could relate to and participate in. So, we decided that was something that God was telling us to do. We now present a Bible study for people with special needs. It’s called Friendship Circle. We meet twice a month with kind of an ancient church model: singing praise songs (yep, some of yours), studying God’s Word, doing a craft that will glorify God and remind us of his promises for us, then sharing a meal.
My church has seen its value and is now working toward a church service designed to be welcoming and inviting to all, but ESPECIALLY to our brothers and sisters with special physical and mental needs. I’d encourage everyone with a heart for “the little ones” (young or old) to take that step of faith and share the Gospel message with them. Whether it’s in a Bible study, in your home, with a special service at your church, wherever. The joy that we see in our friends at Friendship Circle when they talk about and learn about Jesus and the promises that God has made to them, is awe-inspiring.
I could go on an on about this, but for now, I’d just say – THANK YOU for sharing this with us. If anyone would like to chat more about it, you can contact me thru our website (which DESPERATELY needs updating) at http://friendshipcirclebr.org
Thanks again! And may God continue to use you and bless you to His glory!
Todd, obviously this strikes a chord for us. We have seen God use our son, Cooper raise awareness at Highpoint and open the door for many other special needs families to finally find a place in a church. Sadly, what we hear a lot is churches that turn people away because of the special need. I definitely think we can get more creative. When we consider Jesus’ words on the “least of these” we must ask how to apply this to people w/special needs.
Thanks for writing this!
We have a special needs young adult daughter. We were thrilled to find Upward Bound Camp (for special needs) here in Oregon. It operates all summer, with campers ages 12 thru all ages of adults. There have been wonderful testimonies come out of that place. See upwardboundcamp.org; some of the stories are there. Perhaps you might consider giving a concert there or doing a fundraiser for them?
Blessings from Winds of Praise Broadcasting in Newport, OR!
I’ve become acquainted with Colleen Swindoll-Thompson, daughter of Chuck Swindoll. She directs the Special Needs Department for Insight for Living. They offer “special needs” support to anyone who has encountered a crisis for which they cannot move forward without support. This includes physical compromise, emotional or mental dysfunction, loss, divorce, betrayal, death, trauma, and more. Their focus is to educate, equip, empower, and encourage those who are hurting. Their Facebook page is:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Special-Needs-Ministry/109071132482250?sk=info and website is: http://www.insight.org/specialneeds
I’ve been visiting a new church recently. In an adult Sunday School class I’ve seen firsthand how a group of people have embraced the special needs daughter of the teacher. Yes, there are multiple interruptions during the class time from this young girl, but I’ve observed such grace and patience toward her from the teacher and class. It is so refreshing to see this dynamic in action, and also very convicting to my heart when I don’t respond with that level of love and compassion. I’m reminded of the disciples trying to divert the children away from Jesus, but Jesus instructing them to let the children come. It’s shameful to admit, but sometimes I’ve acted more like the disciples than like Jesus. I’m grateful for Colleen’s ministry and the outreach of many others who minister to people with special needs and teach the rest of us what a privilege it is get involved in their lives. We need each other to learn how to love well.
Love truly is a universal language that is spoken at a level understood by every human soul. Some people who seem to have little understanding of earthly things have an amazing capacity to grasp love in a profoundly simple way. Same with God. Many people who reject God have intellectually rationalized Him away, but I’ve noticed that the people in my life who have Down’s, Autism, and mental retardation accept the truth of God and their need for Him as matter-of-fact. As long as they trust the person who “introduced” them to Jesus. At whatever level they know God, their faith is the purest I’ve ever seen. Absolutes. One danger I see: “white lies” Americans are so fond of perpetuating where mythical characters are treated as real or even given equality with God. Imagine a 9 year old boy with Asberger’s and some mental retardation who thought Santa was God and the tooth fairy was one of God’s angels. and if santa and the tooth fairy are lies, then maybe God is a lie too because everyone thinks you’re stupid so all they do is lie to you to make fun of you. I think we need to be more mindful of what we say is truth. So if you’re serious you want to help them understand God, make sure you’re a trustworthy resource because they may lack an ability to see shades of gray or distinguish fictional characters from real people.