I used to love rainy days because I knew that we would be playing dodgeball for PE. Nothing was better than pummeling your friend with a red ball, seeing people fall like flies, and tasting the sweet taste of victory! But before you started, you had to pick teams. There were the obvious first choices, then there were the "middle of the road" players, and finally there were the last people picked. These people didn't make a difference, were always out first, and really were not part of the team. Maybe you were one of these people, like my wife, and dodge ball days were the worst. These people were completely dispensable, easily sacrificed, and often got in the way of the real game. Unfortunately, we often treat people with special needs with the same attitude. But God's word teaches us that every person has a special place in the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:22 says, "On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable." People who have special needs are indispensable! We need them to be part of the church, part of our lives, part of our story. A funny thing happens...you might think you are blessing them, but God uses people with special needs to bless and teach us!
That is certainly true with my niece Piper. She is pictured here with my daughter Shiloh and they are best friends! Piper was adopted 9 years ago from Japan by Kelly (Creator of Zoe Clothing) and Shelley. Piper is fun, loves to laugh, and has an amazing singing voice (click here if you want to be moved to tears by her singing). She also has autism. Autism is defined as a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts. But, individuals who have autism are not defined by it. Like anyone else, they are children of God, who can love him and love others for his glory!
Piper is a constant grace in my family's life. We love having her over. She makes us smile, she loves us, and she has taught us how to love better. I know that having a child with special needs can be difficult but I want to encourage you with a verse. Matthew 11:28-30 says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” God promises his children that he will give them rest, and that His yoke is easy. In the midst of the "difficult days" please cling to this promise. Our God is great and will do great things through these SPECIAL kids!
I also want to give you two practical ways you can be an encouragement to families with special needs. First, invite these families into your homes and/or for play dates. I remember a family sharing that when you have a child with special needs, people don't invite you over. This broke my heart as she shared that this made life lonely. Second, commit to ministering to people with special needs. Our church has the Bridge Ministry and it has been a tremendous blessing.
We have designed a special shirt to celebrate these special people!