Sunday, January 10, 2016

Charis

 
Have you found a purpose for your life that you're passionate about?  A desire that's so strong you feel it could burn a hole straight through your heart?

When I was younger, I just knew I was going to be a missionary doctor to Africa.  Over time, I was drawn to teaching, and through the years, that calling has come into even greater focus.

The fall after finishing college and marrying my Sweetheart, I began teaching first grade at a local Christian school.  I was there for six years before spending the next six years at home with my kids, and eventually returning to teach at the public school they both attend.

It was during my first few years of teaching that the initial glimpses of my ultimate calling began to unfold.  My heart was broken for students in the private school where I taught - those with needs that were not being addressed. I did all I could to help, often working with them after school to try to help them catch up.  But even when I was able to help them make it through first grade, they often left within a year or two in order to get the services they needed from another school.  It was heartbreaking!

And it was in those moments that God placed a vision on my heart.  For many years, I thought that I would one day start my own school - a private school with the resources to help students with a wide range of abilities - and not just those students who fit into "the mold."  Over time, this dream has developed into the idea of non-profit that would assist churches, schools, and other Christian organizations in better ministering to individuals with special needs and their families.  This would allow for a wider reach, more families being served.

As you can see, it was long before I had children of my own - children with a range of health and other needs - that this vision was born.  However, it is the needs of my own children that have made this calling personal.  When it was time for me to decide where they would attend school, my heart was torn.  The challenges they face were not severe enough that private school was totally out of the question.  However, I was faced with the option of enrolling them in a Christian school - where none of their other, "extra" needs would be met - or placing them in a public school - where there were speech, PT, nursing, and other resources available as we needed them.  It was such a difficult choice!  I had grown up in a Christian school and gone back to teach there for 6 years.  The majority of my life was invested in this place.  However, I knew they were not ready to meet the needs of my own children.  And, no, the problem is not an isolated one.

Yes, they all have a long list of reasons - some financial, some not.  However, when I look through the Scriptures, "It's just too hard or too expensive," was never an acceptable reason for not doing the right thing.  Public schools have, for some time now, realized their obligation to help students with special needs.  Should this not be even more true for our Christian schools, churches, and other ministries?  When Christ walked this earth, He did not limit his service to those who conformed to a certain image.  In fact, He spent the majority of His time ministering to those rejected by society:  fishermen, tax collectors, the hurting, the sick.

The ultimate problem is that when we exclude (or fail to reach out to) individuals with special needs and their families, we not only lose that individual, we lose the entire family - mom, dad, other siblings.  There is an entire group of people that we are not reaching with the gospel.  There's not enough time here to discuss the wide range of needs that exist.  I will add, though, that with the growing emphasis on foster care and adoption, Christian families are taking in more and more children with a wide range of needs that Christian ministries have hardly begun to address.

At this point, I have no idea when all of this will come together.  All I know is that I've been called to work toward this end and have recently felt the urgency to share my story with a wider range of people.  So, this is what I ask of you, my friends, right now...

1.  Please be in prayer with me about this.
2.  Share my story with anyone you know may be interested.  I would love to start hearing stories from others who could benefit from this type of ministry as well as others with a similar passion for reaching these families.
3.  My essential oil business is directly related to my ministry goals.  If you'd asked me two years ago, sales is the last thing on earth I ever thought I'd do.  However, I believe God is going to use this as an income source to assist me with this ministry.  I'd love to tell you more.

For those who made it this far, I am blessed to have you in my life.  Thank you for reading.  Charis (from the title) is the Greek work for grace.  It has been on my heart for some time now and will be included in the name of the non-profit once it's established.

Janel