When they walk down the red-carpet, we snap their photo, we give them fame and we cheer for them in various ways. Now, I am not talking about your celebrity crush, I am talking about people with special needs. What makes them so special, and why do we view that in a negative context?
The world sets those with disabilities aside as people with less of a voice, significance or input. Through my experience and the truth of scripture, people with special needs are extraordinary because of the way they live with the fullness of joy and how they subconsciously teach others in their surrounding communities to do the same.
I first got involved with people with a variety of special needs during my senior year of high school. I devoted an hour of my day to hanging out, helping and engaging with these students. If there was anything I looked forward to in a day, it was that hour. The only thing I found bittersweet about leaving after graduation was leaving my newfound friends, who never failed to bring a smile to my face.
This past summer I worked for a non-profit organization called Champions Special Ministries. This organization goes from city to city to engage with special needs people in the area, to give them a camp experience, to share the Gospel and expose the worth they already possess. Champion’s motto is “A voice of love and hope for those with disabilities.” We took this motto with us as we traveled to seven different cities and six different states across the mid-west.
When campers arrived, we would roll out a red carpet, dress up, snap their photo and cheer for them as they entered. From the moment they arrived we gave them a stage. This stage was not meant to exemplify their differences from a typical person, but aimed to allow them to engage in a way that shows purpose and permits their story to be heard.
One story from this summer stands out to me. I had a camper named Sean who was on fire for Jesus. Sean has cerebral palsy, which is a disability that limits his physical capabilities due to loss in muscle tone and coordination. Sean uses a wheelchair, but that doesn’t inhibit him mentally or his ability to impact the Kingdom. Personally, I strive to remember that this world is not my home, and my God is preparing me a home in Heaven far better than I have ever known. This promise was first brought to my attention at our staff retreat. I was told I would see that part of my story being healed this summer. The fifth week of camp my camper Sean, who we called Pastor Sean because he always had his bible on his tray in front of him, gave a devotional for our talent show. He preached out of 2 Corinthians 4:16:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”
Sean is ready to run and jump before his Heavenly King, and he has great faith. Even though Sean has a disability, it didn’t stop him from using the voice God gifted him with to encourage me.
God works in extraordinary ways through extraordinary people like my friend, Sean.