My husband, Frank Howard, is a scientist who worked with NASA until he retired seven years ago.  He wrote a small manual called The Cryogenic Handbook.  My understanding is that it has become the reference manual for handling and working with cryogenics–which are super cold liquids, such as liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.   Over the years, he garnered a reputation that spread around the world regarding his expertise in cryogenics.  However, as he sometimes reminds me, it’s not hard to be recognized around the world doing something that only a handful of people are doing.

While no one wants to be called an elitist, the reality is that there are only a handful of people who do what we do–evangelism and discipleship to people who are cognitively delayed.  When I began calling in Honolulu, a large metropolitan city, to find a ministry or a Sunday school class that taught mentally challenged people, I could find no such animal.  The pastor at First Baptist Church of Honolulu, one of the largest churches in the city, acknowledged, “Wow!  I never even thought about that population.  There is nothing that I know about; but there really should be.”  That experience isn’t unique.

Even more rare are people who are called as pastors or home missionaries to serve the developmentally disabled community in a full-time capacity.  Yet, it doesn’t mean that people who are called to ministry don’t have needs.  I’ve bonded with a small group of pastors who meet each week.  They love me and honor the people Special Gathering serves.  Even more, they support the ministry with their prayers and finances.  However, I am deeply grateful for the relationship that I am slowly developing with man and woman across the US and Canada who are serving–as I am–in full-time ministry.  Finding, like minds and kindred spirits is important. 

After returning from a visit to Joy Fellowship in Vancouver last week, I felt the need to put into writing what I had learned from the experience.  Joy Fellowship is similar but different from Special Gathering.  Some of the things are cultural–they hug more.  Some of the things are physical–they rent a building.  We beg and borrow.  The wonderful thing was that I found almost not spiritual differences.  They are excited to see the mentally challenged population coming into a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus–so are we.  They are concerned that their leadership grows spiritually–so are we.  They are careful about teaching the truths of the scripture–so are we. 

These principles are bonding points and we can learn from each other in regard to technique and practical application.  Who are the people that you trust to teach you what you need to know about ministry to people who are mentally challenged?  Do you have a support group that cares about your spiritual growth?  Does this group help to you weed through the thorny issues you face in ministry?