Larry and I returned from the 2013 Accessibility Summit on Sunday night and I've been anxious to give an update and express our gratitude ever since! It's always hard to believe so much can happen in just a couple of days. Frankly, I'm still processing it all. God is doing beautiful things within the broad community of people serving in disability ministry and we're especially grateful right now for friends at McLean Bible Church who host this annual conference attended by almost 600 people. Our experiences shared today are representative of many similar stories from hundreds of folks who are planting seeds and reaping harvests of encouragement, insight and soul-saving work.
God is always faithful and we had the privilege of seeing that in so many ways before, during and since the conference.
- We were sent off with the great personal encouragement of notes from our prayer team — so empowering and comforting.
- Just before leaving we found out our dear friends Kirk Stoa and daughter Jana were in DC so dinner was arranged and we spent our first night treated by really fun fellowship and a fabulous meal. We received that as a personal touch from God Himself who knew just what would kick off our trip perfectly.
- A group of special needs moms who have been using the Finding Glory small group curriculum asked to meet us for breakfast on Friday. During our rich conversation and prayer time, they shared that one of the moms in their group had left the church for another religion after her child was born with disabilities. These women invited her to participate in their group and then as they all shared Glory Stories the last week, this woman gave her testimony. As a result of their study and fellowship together, she's come to full faith in Jesus Christ and caught God's vision for His good purposes in her challenges! Well done ladies!
- God answered many prayers as it relates to the keynote speakers this year who gave hope-filled messages and proclaimed Christ clearly. Clay Dyer, professional bass fisherman born without legs and only part of one arm was a firecracker of energy. Emily Colson (daughter of Chuck Colson and author of the beautiful book Dancing with Max) was fabulous. We had the opportunity to meet her a the leader's lunch. She's down-to-earth, courageous, inspiring and delightful!
- Larry gave his presentation "The Importance of Special Dads" to a packed room of men and a couple of women. The strong male turnout alone was a huge answer to the prayers of conference organizers who share our heart to engage and spur on dads who are faced with the enormous challenge of leading their special needs families. Larry shared very helpful insights and generated powerful discussion among participants. Of course, he kept them laughing too. I was so proud and blessed to see Him in his element and know that I get to be one his love spills out on every day. I'm very excited to see how God is going to increasingly use CLC Christian Leadership Concepts to develop men in all areas of their lives.
- There were hundreds of visitors who came by our exhibit and so many hungry for prayer and encouragement. It was gratifying to serve that way and to meet many with a strong interest in using the Finding Glory small group curriculum in their churches. I believe we sold over 30 copies of Finding Glory in the Thorns and at least that many FG Discussion Guides. One church in Houston, TX is starting their group this spring and bought 12 study packages. Another woman came by the table to tell us their group is currently on Lesson 4 and one of the participants just accepted Christ as Savior and Lord!
- God is opening eyes and hearts about the need to care for those who are in caregiving roles as well as the often forgotten/lost group of people experiencing mental health issues. We were thankful to see there is growing sensitivity to the demanding role of caring for aging parents too. We are increasingly hearing about churches using the Finding Glory curriculum for "Caregiver Support Groups."
- God gave insights and resources to church leaders wanting to do better reaching out to special families. I had the privilege of being a panelist for a session with these folks serving alongside Joe and Cindi Ferrini (FamilyLife speakers and authors of Unexpected Journey), Karen Jackson (director of Faith Inclusion Network), and Jolene Philo (author of Different Dream Parenting). I know God stretched and encouraged all of us during that conversation.
- We got to exhibit right beside our friends Nathan and Laurie Chuba from Virginia. We met them at the Summit last year and Laurie immediately volunteered to serve on the Walk Right In Ministries Intercessory Prayer Team. What a joy and privilege to share those hours with them and then finish the weekend with a wonderful prayer time with them.
- Larry and I had a quick day afterwards to sleep in and play a little including part of an Orioles game and some sunshine before heading back to "Narnia." (For those who don't know, they had 13 inches of snow while we were gone and school for two of our daughters was cancelled. Prom pictures were taken from a snow drift just for posterity!)
- Carly was very well cared for by my folks while we were away and grand memories were made as Erin experienced her senior prom surrounded by her grandparents, both sisters and many friends. Praise God everyone stayed safe and healthy.
I was hoping to keep this recap of Glory Stories shorter but there really is SO much to tell and I believe God wants all of us regularly putting His power and presence on display (Psalm 20:7, 34:2, 96:2-3). So thank you for indulging me, for praying with us, and for helping others to know that God is very much alive and His Word is active among us! Save the date now for the next Accessibility Summit coming April 4-5, 2014.
And whenever you have a Glory Story of your own to share, will you please let us know? Our Intercessory Prayer Team loves to celebrate and sometimes it's appropriate that we share those stories for powerful encouragement at this Blog.
May God bless you today. Please keep praying for the growth of disability ministry in the Church, for people experiencing disabilities, for caregivers and their families and that God would be made known throughout all of this stretched and courageous community of precious people!
We're very grateful for the opportunity to walk with you in Christ.