This might take a little bit to explain...
We have been finding some hurdles to jump in beginning this ministry at church. It is a big church with a lot of red tape, and I believe our administration/pastoral staff is afraid we're going to pull in these special needs kids and take off! So, in some ways beginning this ministry has been an uphill battle.
I am going through Experiencing God with our Women's Ministry Bible Study at church. In the first two units, Henry Blackaby talks a lot about seeking the Lord's hand already at work and joining Him as opposed to keeping the focus on how God wants to use us. Some of this seems to be to be just semantics, but I have been praying differently because of it. I have been asking the Lord for very clear direction as to what He is doing already in our ministry... what are the present needs and how can we meet them? I have prayed for clarity and a unified vision amongst all of us involved so we can move ahead instead of twiddling our thumbs waiting for more kids to come. What can we do well with the special needs kids we have now??
So, I felt like I've been given two very clear answers! We have two main needs right now: 1) a Sunday School class that caters to the needs of the kids with disabilities, but that does not separate them completely from their typical peers. And 2) care provided for the special needs children who cannot sit through the service so their parents can worship. So in praying for those needs...
I felt like the Lord has laid out two solutions:
A program called "Special Care" during one of the services, staffed by rotating workers. This will have a Bible Story, but will be otherwise unstructured. This will enable families to attend whatever they'd like and know that their children will be welcomed and well cared for, even if they have unique and difficult needs.
And a "Special Friends Sunday School Class" during the other service. This would have two meanings... This class will have any special needs children whose parents choose it. (Unfortunately, we have had only two students this fall, one 6 and one 14 years old. It has been a struggle to keep it fun and exciting since it has quite often been only one of them there. So I have been wondering if that's really what the Lord was wanting. Several of us have wondered if we ought to have the kids in age appropriate classes with shadows, but those arrangements have been difficult as well.) Well, here's the exciting part... my vision is to have typical children who are tenderhearted toward the special needs population fill up this class! So they would be being "Special Friends" to their disabled peers! And we will have bodies in the class to keep it fun! The typical kids will have an opportunity to minister to their peers and build relationships they might otherwise miss.
Now for the big hurdle... getting the go ahead from the Children's Minister. Remember the fears I mentioned before?? So early this week I called our Children's Minister to ask him about something else. I was frustrated on Thursday when I still hadn't heard back form him. Now I had two more things to ask him about! So, in my frustration, I knew it would now be Sunday before I'd get him because of his days off... I know better than to interrupt those no matter how impatient I am. Well, I felt convicted on Thursday that this waiting time was an opportunity to pray for our Children's Minister... that he might approve these ideas that I felt like had come from the Lord. So that's the direction I prayed. That the Lord would make this all clear by the response I got when I saw him next.
Slow forward to this morning, I saw him and asked him about these two ideas... and got a resounding YES! for both of them!!! And permission to have our next Respite Day so parents can go on Valentine's dates that evening! Now, I am so thankful for that waiting time I had to pray for Dwayne and his response. Even this morning at 5:30 (no, I'm not that spiritually disciplined, I just couldn't sleep.) I was asking for the Lord to give Dwayne support for this next step for which all of us involved have been praying.
And we've had two other hurdles jumped as well... we have been officially named a Disability Ministry at church, which will free us up to do a lot of these things without having to jump through so many hoops! And our first major event is a hoedown/square dance... at a Baptist Church!
So I prayed that the Lord would show me where He was already working... He showed me the present needs and has given me an opportunity to meet them! Much better than me trying something new on my own, even though it was something that was serving His people. It just wasn't how He wanted it done, apparently!