February 21st, 2011 at 9:57 am
In January 2008, God began changing my life and the direction I would go in ministry. I returned to my home church, South Garland Baptist Church, after my father passed away and the church where I served as the children’s director for four years closed. It was a difficult time in my life, and I turned to God for direction.
Upon coming home, He placed the desire on my heart to begin serving in the special needs ministry. The special needs class had nine-year-old twin boys with cerebral palsy and seizer disorder. The children’s minister at the time was having trouble getting help for the class. Not knowing what I was getting involved in, but wanting to follow God’s direction, three of my daughters and I began to volunteer in this class.
Although the boys cannot communicate like everyone else, we quickly learned that they had their own form of communication. For example, if they want one of my daughters to sing a song to them they will sit on the floor and clap their hands and kick their feet. They also love people. When someone returns to class, the boys go over to give them a hug. Soon, these young men held my heart in their hands. They have blessed my life and the lives of my daughter more than we could ever bless them.
As we have worked with them, we have seen progress in the boys. It has become important to me to train teachers to keep them safe and work with them on their level. We do not know what they can learn or what is going on inside and will never know if we do not try. Most people want to help; they just do not know where to start. Helping people understand about special needs and how much they will be blessed by blessing these children and their families is key in my ministry. Education and making this ministry visible is so important. God will equip those who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and serve Him.
I contacted Diane Lane, Texas Baptists’ preschool and children’s ministry specialist, for information on special needs. She invited me to help at the convention’s Special Friends Retreat, an event made possible by gifts through the Texas Baptist Cooperative Program and Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions.
My first year, I assisted the Bible study teacher. The next year, my daughters joined me, and we became a team teaching at the Special Friends Retreat. Every time we return to the retreat, we are amazed at how much these campers are truly in love with Christ and how much they want to share His love with others. They have become an example to me and my daughters on what it means to be a Christian.
At South Garland Baptist Church, we now have several children with different needs who are part of our Sunday school classes. With one child, we have a buddy who helps her with her work. My oldest daughter works with a boy who has autism during service. She and the other teachers have impacted these children’s lives. It is wonderful watching others who do not have children with special needs get involved in this ministry.
Five years ago, I never would have expected to be in special needs ministry. I have four healthy daughters, and until God touched my heart and opened my eyes to special needs, I had never thought about serving in a special needs ministry. However, God showed me He uses all types of people. That I did not have to have a child with special needs to understand and be able to make a difference. God provides what is needed for us all to open our hearts and step out in faith into an area that may be at first uncomfortable, but in the end God will bless us so much more for following Him.
By Joyce Still, children’s ministry director at South Garland Baptist Church in Garland