About 16 years ago, a group of CUMC parents joined together to address a growing need, not only in their own families, but also within our congregation and community. These members helped develop a unique Sunday school class known as Blessings for children with disabilities. Through the years, the Special Needs ministry has expanded to provide monthly Parents Night Out events, special retreats and collaboration with other churches and service providers throughout the Mid-South.
On Friday, Nov. 2, the ministry will host its annual Special Needs Fall Retreat, an overnight event in Rash Hall in conjunction with Young Life Capernaum. Special Needs Coordinator Ashley Parks says lots of volunteers are needed to help out with games and activities throughout this night which – according to parents–is a highlight of the year for many children and young adults.
“Our son, Ben, is 19 and has Down Syndrome. He is blessed to lead a very active and fulfilling life, and so much of that is because of the wonderful volunteers and organizations that give of their time and resources to do things for Ben and his peers. The Special Needs ministry at CUMC (which partners with others, like Second Pres) is a source for many of the special things that Ben gets to do during the year,” said Elizabeth Sumner. “One of his favorites is the overnight retreat coming up in November. Although Ben attends camps during the summer, he has no real opportunities during the school year to have an ‘overnight’ experience away from home, and I know this is true for most of his friends. Thank you so much for making this event, and other special ones, happen for our kids and young adults.”
“I never knew about the special needs world until my sister, Ashley Parks asked me to volunteer around 20 years ago,” said Leslie Perry. “I instantly fell in love with the carefree and honest ways of our special friends. My first encounter involved Jordan a child with Down Syndrome. I sat beside her while she was waiting to ride a horse. I asked her name and she told me Jordan. I proceeded to tell her that I had a daughter named Jordan, and she quickly reached up to hug me and told me she loved me! I was HOOKED! I can name so many who have inspired me to laugh like they do, forgive like they do, and above all, love like they do! Some may question why people are born with certain disabilities…God does not make mistakes! What better way to see the face of Jesus than through the childlike faith of a special needs friend! Blessings ministry has been a blessing to me.”
To register or volunteer for the upcoming fall retreat, contact Ashley Parks.