I just came home from an incredible, rare evening. On the surface, it might not seem that incredible or even that rare. We attended our married daughter’s large disability ministry’s end of the year talent show. Now, a lot of community organizations and “workshop” type of programs have activities for adults with cognitive disabilities, so it isn’t unusual to see a program of some sort just for these folks.
So what was the incredible and rare part? The incredible and rare part is the part that involves twenty teens and tweens serving, loving, reaching out to, and investing in these special people, week in and week out expecting nothing in return.
A little background: Five years ago our daughter had a vision as a high school senior to start a ministry in our church for disabled people. Yes, there are those community organizations and programs for them—but they do not address the spiritual. They offer fun and sometimes even fellowship, but they do not provide spiritual teaching and sometimes, depending on the type of program, may not offer unconditional love and acceptance. Cami wanted what Joni Ereckson Tada offers through her Joni and Friends (JAF) ministry to be available at our church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. (This all started when Cami began volunteering with JAF the summer before her senior year—well, it really all started long before then, but that is a post for tomorrow!)
So, to make a long story short, she did it—at the age of seventeen. She founded, with a special education teacher as her mentor and guide, a ministry that began small and now reaches out to over a hundred cognitively disabled adults in our city every week. Now, she and her husband work tirelessly to serve these often forgotten ones.
Back to tonight—and that rare and incredible part. Cami has mostly teens and tweens as her volunteers. (It is an extremely difficult task to recruit workers in this type of ministry.) She started out with just a few kids—her siblings and their friends. She took them with her every week and taught them disability etiquette and protocol. She modeled for them how to reach out in love and concern for “the least of these.”
What I witnessed tonight was much more than a talent show—to me, it was a compassion show. I marveled as I watched young men and ladies reach out to those who are so seldomly reached out to. To teach them how to sing a song or play an instrument so that they could do a “talent” in the show. To help them up on stage, put their arm around them and tell them—“you can do it!” To laugh wildly at knock knock jokes that sometimes made no sense. (But not laugh at the men and women sharing.) To give two thumbs up as someone left the stage and longingly looked to a certain volunteer for affirmation. To hug someone who maybe hasn’t been hugged all week—yet desperately needs it.
The “clients” may have felt that it was a talent show, but I am sure it was much more than that. And I am blessed to be a part of it—and to see my children serve those who are often overlooked. And to know that my sons have learned that “it’s not all about them”—that there are hurting, needy people in our world and that we were put on this earth to serve the Lord by serving them.
Tomorrow—tips for teaching our children to serve the Lord by serving others.