As I write this post, I am also beginning preparations for Forever His Spring Day Camp for our special needs friends in the church and in the community. Forever His program has been the single best outreach event that I have ever been involved with. So many seeds have been planted and lives changed with a group who are often forgotten and unseen in our communities.
So what positive results did we have at our congregation and why do I want your congregation to have this experience too?
1) We provided a very special and accommodating experience for children who are typically left out of activities that typical children take for granted. We had a family who drove 3 hours from home and spent a night in a motel just so their child could be a part of our camp. Those of us with typically developing children take so much for granted. Camps, Vacation Bible School, holiday parties and Bible classes are just a few examples. Overwhelming gratitude was expressed to me and to our church family from parents who have been told repeatedly that they weren’t welcome. I saw comments on social media by parents who learned about our camp from other parents who had children in attendance expressing how unwelcoming their current religious group had been to their children and what a blessing the Karns congregation was to children with special needs.
2) We made contact with families who do not have a church home and non-Christians. All of our events are free of charge and welcoming to all in the community. Since starting this program, we have had one camper’s family who were already Christians and new to the area place membership with us. They learned that we would love and welcome their child with special needs through our efforts at day camp. We have had families who have attended worship services and other church events. There are other families who came away with very positive comments and impressions of the church family here. We not only showed love for their children, but it opened doors to build relationships and talk to them about Christ.
3) Perhaps the reason that might be least expected is how a program like this will change your members. Many Christians do not come in contact with children and parents who have special needs on a regular basis. They do not know the struggles of these families. They don’t get to experience and learn the lessons that the kids will teach them in joy, compassion and gratitude. As I’ve often said, these children are some of the greatest teachers that we can have in our lives showing us Christ-likeness.
We are now making preparations for our day camp in April! I can’t wait to see those precious faces again. Seeing those little faces smiling at you and seeing the joy in the faces of your members who volunteer are the closest thing on this earth to seeing the face of Jesus!