Last night, I was on a Christian cable TV show in the West Palm Beach/Vero area.  There were several questions that we explored.  Can mentally challenged people receive Christ into their lives?  Do they need a salvation experience to go to heaven?  Have you seen a change in people who are mentally challenged once they are saved?

Over the weeks I have been writing and passing things on to you via this blog, we’ve explored the first two questions but we’ve not worked together on the question regarding life changes once mentally challenged people receive Christ into their lives.  Does it really make a difference when people who are developmentally disabled have a salvation experience?

Ask Barbara’s mother.  She will tell you that the changes in Barbara have made such a big difference that she and her entire family have returned to church and come to know Jesus as their Savior.  Sarah’s mother will tell you the same thing.  She was impressed that Sarah goes into her room almost every evening after work and supper to listen to her Bible tapes or her Christian music.

These families are good people, anyway.  They work and play by the rules of living honestly.  They taught their children the moral principles of right and wrong.  Yet, there was something so attractive about what Jesus did in their children’s lives that they wanted a taste of it also. 

Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  We do classic ministry evangelism and discipleship.  We want to give our parents and caregivers a respite time.  In this way, they can attend their own churches.  Of course, we want parents to know that their children are safe.  Therefore, we encourage our parents to visit at any time but none of our programs are geared for parents. 

We don’t ask parents to volunteer.  We even provide transportation because we want to be sure that parents have as much respite time as possible.  Nevertheless, Sherry’s parents began attending one of our north Brevard programs because they were so impressed with the pastoral attention that Sherry had received over the years.  Now they attend regularly.

In Volusia when our programs began, they were held on Sunday afternoon. Susan and Carol didn’t come the first weeks that their children attended.  They dropped their sons off at the door and went to grocery shop or use the time to just hang out with friends.  However, it didn’t take long for them to want to see what was happening.  They became vital volunteers and tireless workers. 

We were invited to attend a county-wide church picnic a couple of years ago.  We gathered 88 of our members from Melbourne and Vero.  They joined another 100 people for a 4th of July picnic.  I lost count of the number of people who came up to me and said, “I’ve never seen such joyful Christians.”  Many of them had tears in their eyes.

Last fall there was a bit of a crisis at an agency that involved one of our members.  After the feathers had stopped flying, one of the professional from that agency said, “I’m an atheist.  Yet I’m so impressed with the Special Gathering members who work here that I wondered if I can attend your Melbourne program?” 

Does change happen?  Yes and people see it.  Parents, professionals, the church and the community.

What about your members?  How has their relationship to the Lord impacted your community?