This a summary of the happenings at the October 14 Chicago Fly-In for Special Needs ministry leaders from David Hayward of Joy Fellowship in Vancouver, Canada.

David Hayward of Joy Fellowship of Vancouver B.C.

Just back from our third annual Special Needs ministry leaders luncheon at O’Hare airport in Chicago. We had a wonderful gathering yesterday, and praise God for everyone who made it.  (Tony Piantine from Camp Daniel, Richard Stimson and Linda Howard from Special Gathering in Florida, Don Boden and Brian Pratt from Bethesda Lutheran Communities (SonRise) in Indiana, Beth Kraiss from Colorado Springs, Charlie Chivers and Carl Hespe from Special Touch in Wisconsin, Connie Hutchinson (EV Free church in Fullerton) and Stan Higgins (Oaks of Hebron) in California, Nella Uitvlugt from Friendship, Laura Lee Wright from Northlands church in Florida,  Katie Wetherbee from Key Ministries in Ohio, and Don Anderson from Christ for People in Minneapolis – did I forget anyone?  Great to have some people there for the first time.

We had a fruitful time of fellowship and sharing, and plan to meet again in 2012 at a retreat centre outside of Indianapolis (hosted by Don Boden) – probably for a Thursday and Friday in mid October.  Don will be in touch.

Don Boden

Don Boden (who has recently affiliated with Bethesda Lutheran Communities – which has homes all over the mid-west) reports that they held 9 weeks of camps on their campus this past summer, and things continue to grow.  They work with about 28 local churches, (and serve about 800 folks with special needs)  This involvement with local churches seems to really pay off in helping them recruit volunteers for their camps.

Camp Daniel had four weeks of camps this past summer, and they are planning for five weeks next year.  They are about to open their second home, this one for ladies.  Pray for this new development.

Beth Kraiss had just been forced to make a sudden move from the church where her ministry with 175 folks had been supported for 25 years (a recent change of leadership and the new pastor felt this was not part of their mandate).  She is now settling in at The Springs Church, where they have found a new home.  Pray for their adjustment and blessing, and for Beth’s peace in a time of hurting.   I think Beth may have had a few pictures taken of our meeting, and if I can get those from her, I”ll forward them on to you.

Katie Wetherbee (Key Ministries) mentioned some of the free serminars and resources they are developing, that sound well worth investigating.  Katie also mentioned “Inclusion Fusion” an on-line Special Needs Ministry Web Summit being planned for the weekend of Nov.3-5 – keynote speaker Chuck Swindoll, with more than 20 other expert speakers.  This is for families and leaders in Special Needs ministry and registration (free) can be done at

Don Anderson with friends

Don Anderson of Christ for People follows an incredible schedule of outreach and support, holding two large mid-week services, and one Sunday service in a local institution, where other group homes gather, as well as visiting about 50 group homes twice a month each, to lead short worship services.  What an opportunity he has to enter the lives of so many folks on their own home ground – and witness to staff too!  Pray for his health and strength and wisdom.

Stan talked about a interesting project that Oaks of Hebron (that helps to serve people in supported living in California) are starting as a day program.  They are developing a vegetable farm, where they grow produce for use in their system and for sale to pay wages of those who work in it.  Quite an exciting idea.

Nella Uitvlugt

Nella, of course, represents the organization with the greatest reach.  Friendship groups (hundreds, serving thousands) are meeting in 42 countries, serving 65 denominations and developing resources for teaching adults with mental disabilities.

Special Touch also has branches (and camps) all over the U.S., and is active in trying to lead pastors and churches into becoming more inclusive.

Laura Lee (and Barb Dittrich who couldn’t aattend) have a focus on serving families and parents.  Connie heads a church-based ministry with children who have severe autism, and adults with mental disabilities.

Each of us are doing slightly different work, but serving the same Lord and very similar people, who are often unable to find the welcome they should in many churches.  Our goal is to introduce them to Christ and help them grow as disciples, finding and using their gifts, and encouraging and supporting churches to open their hearts and eyes to the blessings they may be missing.

We welcome Christian leaders who feel it would be of value to meet others engaged in this special ministry God has trusted us with.  We often work in isolation, and this network is designed to encourage and support us.  Let me know if you’d like to be added, or have some names to be added to this list.