Lights of God by Darryl Orrell

The bible teaches that we are to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength and second to this, we are to love others as we love ourselves. In my experience, no group of people comes closer to living out this teaching of love than those with special needs. I say this because they are among the most loving, accepting, caring and humble people I know— seems Christ-like to me. I say this because they are among the most loving, accepting, caring and humble people you will ever meet and I believe in many ways, walk closer with God.

I consider it a privilege and an honor to call these people not only my friends, but also my brothers and sisters in Christ. I would be remiss if I did not take a moment and somewhat introduce you to some of these specially gifted lights of God. Although I could name dozens who are as uniquely gifted and God-loving, I will focus on three.

I will start with a young woman who is always so excited about bringing her Bible to study and letting me know about it. Recently, in the midst of her peers, she showed great faith by confessing a wrongdoing and did so without hesitation or trepidation of being judged. It was such a wonderful testament as to the inner workings of the Holy Spirit in her life and her peers applauded her faith.

A man who is normally quiet and blends in with the crowd stood tall one evening during Bible study and said with a clear voice, “I want Jesus!” The room seemingly became silent as many were simply in awe over what God was doing in his heart. After talking with one of the leaders, he went on to accept Christ as his Savior and Lord and since that time, he has a light in his eyes that will never fade.

I must tell you about another brother in Christ who was recently baptized and if you did not know about that, you do not live in his town! Seriously, if you met him, you would quickly surmise that he has a driven passion for God and for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. His fun-loving spirit and playful mannerisms make it easy for him to approach or be approached by others and share the gospel in his unique and gifted way.

In the last year alone one local special needs ministry has had seven people step forward to profess Jesus as Savior and Lord. Likewise, many ministries in our area are experiencing great success in reaching those with special needs. So what is the secret formula for this success?

The truth is, there is no select formula or distinct way to share the gospel and disciple those with special needs, but there is one common approach – Inclusion. In this context, inclusion refers to a place where everyone is encouraged to partake in praise and worship; experience God’s infinite mercy and love; grow in knowledge of His word; contribute actively in the Lord’s work using his or her God-given talents.

There are many special needs individuals and families who struggle to find a church that welcomes and more importantly includes them. Sadly, many give up out of frustration and hurt, unable to find a church that can meet their spiritual and physical needs. In a country where churches reside on nearly every street corner and in between, how can it be that those with special needs have such difficulty finding a church home?

It seems many churches take a passive approach to actively seeking out those with special needs, welcoming them to the church, and discipling them in their walk with God. Such an approach might stem from misconceptions perhaps crafted by none other than Satan himself. No doubt, he either views such people as being easy spiritual targets or considerable threats or in some cases perhaps both.

I have come across a wide-range of reasons for why some churches do not have a special needs ministry or any plans to initiate one. Some of these reasons range from “Our staff is neither trained nor equipped to work with people with special needs” to “We’re not medically prepared in case of emergencies.” Many of these assumptions and comments arise from fear of the unknown and misunderstandings.

Church staff and members do not need specialized training to minister to those with special needs nor have a medical entourage on the alert. What they do need is to know God’s heart and have a passion to love and lead everyone to Christ. In addition, should an emergency arise, handle it as one would for any other church member. As I have often heard and firmly believe, “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.”

Do not fall victim to misconceptions and fears, but rather embrace every opportunity to reach out and touch lives as Jesus did and do so by faith. By loving and helping those with special needs, you have the greatest means of actively communicating the gospel. Nothing speaks to one’s heart more so than the message of love and it lays the groundwork for the inner workings of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

I have had the pleasure over the years to witness God working in and through many friends with special needs and abilities. It is such an amazing experience to feel God working through you to encourage someone with special needs and yet, all the while He is working through them to encourage you as well.

Inclusion is not only a blessing to those with special needs, but it is also a blessing to the entire church body. Imagine the impact on a church body and visitors who see someone with special needs confessing openly to the Lord; someone who stands tall to announce he/she wants Jesus; someone who shows just how easy it is to share the gospel and love of God by being one’s self.

Perhaps you are considering the possibility of starting a special needs ministry in your church or local area. If so, please be encouraged to do so for as the Lord Himself points out, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-38) In doing so, you will quickly come to realize that perhaps we were not put here to minister to those with special needs in as much as they were strategically placed here to minister to us.