A day of fun and brightness.
On March 26, an event called Spring Fling was held at Campbell University in Buies Creek for people with developmental disabilities.
“I am not blessing the participants,” said Macy Cook, a freshman at Campbell. “They are blessing me.”
Cook, who majors in elementary education, says this event sponsored every year by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), is dear to her heart. Her brother has special needs. Next year, Cook will be coordinating the event on campus.
Churches, group homes, and institutions have participated annually since 1983. The Saturday event drew a crowd of 220 people, twice as many as 2010.
BSC leaders would like to eventually have one at each of the state’s Baptist colleges.
Many of the participants have autism, brain injuries, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, or a combination of disabilities. A day such as this is an opportunity to set aside differences and come together for a day of love and interaction as the Body of Christ.
The Convention purchased the supplies, and lunch was provided by McDonald’s in Dunn and Lillington. Crafts, activities, and games were set up in the practice gym of the Pope Convocation Center. Participants could bowl, have faces painted, or make crafts.
Campbell students volunteered to help with various aspects of the event. A Facebook event was set up through the United Campus Ministries to advertise the event, and emails and other announcements were used to spread the word about volunteering.
“There is a point where families hit a wall and drop out of church,” said Susan Kubel, a special education and Sunday School teacher at Salem Baptist Church in Apex. “We found that parents were taking turns to attend church, and that should not be happening.”
Photo by Diane McClary
David and Wanda Hester bring their son DJ to the Spring Fling every year. The Hesters say the day allows families and churches to make connections and offers a time of recharging for the Lord’s work. See photo gallery.
Kubel brought nine children and 10 adults to the event. The group has attended the past four years. She believes that a day like this is meaningful for the children and adults who can come together for fun activities in a structured environment. It is a rare opportunity for them to participate in church-oriented activities, and the kids look forward to it every year, Kubel said.
The event is a big gift to the parents who are able to have a day to themselves, she said. At Salem, the Special Needs committee governs the needs of those with disabilities through a group called the Precious Jewels. There is a music program called the Jewel Chimes, and they offer Sunday School with a fully staffed extended session so parents can worship, Kubel said.
“I was working in the secular field, and I told God that I would work for Him only on Sunday nights,” Kubel said. “He changed my heart and I was strongly convicted. I was not using the talent that God gave me. He brought me to my knees and I surrendered and started working with the special needs program at church. The program has grown and it has been a huge blessing.”
For more than 10 years, David and Wanda Hester from First Baptist Church of Lumberton have attended this event. They believe it is good to make connections with others outside of family and to rekindle friendships. They both assert that this type of event is good for people in ministry to recharge and energize themselves for the Lord’s work.
Faithe Beam, Campbell’s campus minister, said this event is a wonderful way for students to minister to those whom they do not normally encounter.
One such student who looks forward to the event is Sara McCarthy Acosta, who works in the campus ministry office and is a Campbell graduate. She feels connected to this “hidden” population and believes it is important for students and staff members to connect with the community.
Tyler Ward, who is a graduate assistant in the campus ministry office and student at the Divinity School, loves the uniqueness of personalities of each participant. He helped to lead the event and has volunteered in the past. He thinks that students have a chance to get out of their comfort zone and show compassion.
Brandy Whitley, a first year pharmacy student, has volunteered three years. She coordinated the event last year and serves as the community service coordinator for Campbell’s Baptist Student Union. Whitley believes that it is important for Campbell students to learn effective ways of interacting with those who have disabilities.
“The biggest barrier to service is the heart,” said Donnie Wiltshire, BSC special ministries consultant. “The church should have a change of attitude to see the image of God in all people. There is a place for everyone in the Body of Christ.”
Offering a Sunday School class for people with developmental disabilities allows them a creative outlet in a structured and loving environment.
Incorporating people with special needs into your service is not hard, leaders say.
They can pass out bulletins, work with children, share testimonies, serve at soup kitchens or other ministries. BSC leaders can provide information and training for those who want to start a ministry within their church.
Wiltshire said another way churches can minister to those with special needs is to help them attend Happiness Retreat at Truett Camp in Hayesville or Caraway Conference Center in Sophia.
The Western Happiness Retreat is June 3-5 at Truett Camp. Dates at Caraway are: July 22-24, July 24-26, July 27-29, and July 29-31. The retreat will feature small group learning experiences, music, drama, creative movement, worship services, and special training sessions.
Contact (800) 395-5102, ext. 5629. Visit http://specialministries.ncbaptist.org.
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