When the vision and goals for the GEMs (God’s Exceptional Miracles) Ministry were put down on paper a number of years ago, it was noted at the very top that every person needs the same opportunity to be taught God’s Word, learn how to be a Christian, feel valued, and experience love. Then we verbalized what that might look like in the church setting during Sunday School and worship. The GEMs Ministry Team unanimously agreed that including children with disabilities in all age-appropriate classes and activities was very important.
Supporting parents and families was our next priority. The ministry provides a monthly Parent’s Night Out where children with special needs and their siblings can come to a party-type event while parents or caregivers may have a night apart. These parents may need to rest, get a haircut, have a date night, go grocery shopping, or just sit in the parking lot for three hours alone. Our staff has been reminded often that our GEMs Night Out is the only place some of these parents feel secure in leaving their child or children.
New parents are often reminded before their baby is born to get plenty of sleep, because chances are that you might not get a lot of sleep very soon. Can you imagine not being able to get an entire night of good sleep or, in some cases, any sleep as the child grows older? That is a real occurrence for parents of some children with autism or other disabilities. When do the parents/caregivers get to rest? When God gave the Ten Commandments and it came to Sabbath rest, His message was clear: If creation didn’t crash when I rested, it won’t crash when you do! You know we need to rest. And for parents to remain healthy, they must rest. When David says in the 23rdPsalm, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures,” he’s saying, “My shepherd makes me lie down in his finished work.” It is hoped that GEMs Night Out helps some people get some much needed rest. An area that our team would like to focus also is in the area of support for families. Our ministry would like to organize a support group. It’s important for health care professionals or a special needs ministry to provide these families with support and training to handle the stresses they do face. Some research shows a high percentage of parents who have children with disabilities wind up in a divorce. Yet other statistics indicate that it is about the same for these parents and the parents with no children with disabilities. We want to help keep the stressors down so that divorce is never an option. I heard about a grieving father who recently said this to the mother when their child was diagnosed with autism, “We are in this together and do everything we can for our child while on this earth because in Heaven, there will be no autism.” Don’t you just love how God gives us hope for tomorrow? Coming together as a support group would mean fellowship, praying for their kids, and discussions that help parents or caregivers know that they are not on this journey alone. Please, let me know if you or someone you know would be interested in attending or in leading such a group. I can be contacted at 318-424-7771, ext. 117, 318-426-1363, or email@example.com.