The summer months are a busy time for your Baptist State Convention staff. During this time of year staff are spread out across the state and around the world serving on mission trips; leading, teaching and preaching during camps and retreats; and participating in events in our Baptist associations and churches.
One special event that happens each summer is the Convention’s Happiness Retreat. This year, these three-day retreats are being held four times in July at Caraway Conference Center, and once at Truett Camp. Happiness Retreat is similar to a Vacation Bible School, with times of teaching, worship, crafts, recreation and a talent show.
Happiness Retreats are unique because they are specifically designed for youth and adults with developmental disabilities. Did you know that in the United States, between six and seven million people are developmentally disabled?
Donnie Wiltshire is our Convention staff member who oversees Happiness Retreats, as well as annual retreats for people who are blind or deaf.
God has gifted Donnie for this special ministry. He has a unique ability to care for and relate to people with disabilities. Because of his education, his experience and his passion for working with special needs people, I consider Donnie to be among the best in this field of ministry.
I also thank God for individuals like Judy Autry from the Convention staff and many other volunteers who make it possible for us to provide these ministry events. Last year, more than 800 people attended these retreats. Each year, several people with special needs accept Christ as Savior during the retreats.
About 236,000 North Carolinians are blind or visually impaired.
Only about two percent of deaf people in our state have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Most of our churches do not have ministries in place to reach people who are blind, deaf or developmentally disabled. Yet, it is so important that we reach out to these individuals and families. The challenges of raising children with special needs can be very overwhelming, as families experience additional financial burdens, as well as the challenge of balancing time spent with a special needs child and other children in the family.
We must remember that people who are different deserve to hear the gospel. God loves them just as much as He loves us. Jesus died for their sins, just as He did for mine. We must reach out to them with the same love we have experienced in Jesus Christ.
If your church is not doing anything to reach these individuals and their family, please pray about what you can do. Perhaps you can provide transportation to church, or maybe you can teach a class or a weekly Bible study for people with special needs. You could offer Bibles, tracts and sermons in Braille or on an audio CD.
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” – Matthew 25:40 NKJV