Last weekend, we had the privilege of spending multiple sessions with Pastor Rick and Janelle McLean from GCC special needs ministry. Although a lot of our time with them was informal conversations, I was able to glean a lot from their experience, encouragement, and challenges towards approaching those that may seemingly be different from you or I on the exterior. As Rick reminded us, we are all called to minister to one another because of 1 John 4:19-21 "We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." We are only capable of love because Christ first loved us, and through God's command we are called to love everyone - including those with disabilities.
During our Sunday lunch meeting, the McLeans recalled an encouragement where one of the disabled girls was sharing to others in the ministry how it was such a blessing for herself to have special needs because it brought her to salvation. All I could think of was "wow", that is such a powerful testimony of how the Spirit can transform the heart of the wicked into an understanding of grace and sufficiency that only God provides. Pastor Rick used this as an illustration of the evidence of fruit that comes only from the Lord, because many times there will be discouragement or questioning of whether things that are taught is truly understood. This reveals a lack of trust on our own part, but also that their minds are sharper than what we may assume. We were discussing how it may be uncomfortable or awkward to be around people that are different; Rick simply encouraged us that it is ok to feel this way but to not let it deter us from continual love and service towards them. We follow the examples that Christ has set before us where He approached those who were unloved in the community and loved them (woman at the well John 4, bleeding woman who touched Jesus' garment Mark 5:25-34).
Janelle referenced Psalm 139 in how God has designed us to be who we are - He did not make any mistakes and created people uniquely for a reason. We can recognize the awkwardness, but her exhortation was in how we respond. We must remember Jesus' example and motivation that He gave to us, as we are all created in the image of God. Do not use awkwardness as an excuse, because that is simply selfish. We are not normal vs abnormal - instead we're all abnormal with sin but are able to hide ours better whereas those with special needs are not. As like with anybody, the challenge is in loving somebody else without the need to be loved back. We may not be paid back in the way we expected or desired, but that is the essence of sacrificial and unconditional love we are charged to live out.
Finally, some of the prayer requests the McLeans asked for was wisdom and strength during the week of camping as issues always arise. We can also be praying for the recent decrease in attendees, as caregivers do not want to bring their patients to church related events due to aversion towards Christianity. Most importantly, we must pray that the focus will be kept on Christ in all that we do.