On Friday, about 15 ministry leaders from around the US and Canada took the time to meet with each other for a few hours.  It is jokingly called the Chicago Fly-In because we fly into the Chicago airport.  We then share for five, eight or ten hours with people who are also involved in ministry to people who are intellectually disabled.

It is an intense time with little expense other than the cost of an airline ticket.  Because we fly into a busy hub airport, the cost is cut significantly.  There is no conference expense.  No hotel expense.  Each leader brings to the table their unique perspective and their experiences.  While our small group of leaders deal with people with special needs, there are practical pointers to learn that applies to every person.  Here are some things I learn that will help me in ministry and in my daily life.

Don Boden

Don Boden  started as a Sunday school teacher now heads one of the largest ministries in the US for people with disabilities.   He stirred in me a renewed energy for developing leadership in our youth.  Too often we have been content to let the world wrap them with ungodly influences that warp rather than shape their lives.  Boden’s vision is to shape the youth by example and training into men and women who are able and willing to serve the Lord.  I was impressed to seek out new avenues in example and teaching to shape the youth of our nation for Christ.  We cannot leave these young women and men to struggle alone against the enemy of their souls.  We must introduce them to the Savior who will love and challenge them to obtain great things for God’s kingdom.

Tony Piantine

Tony Piantine, of Camp Daniel in Wisconsin, is a wonderful friend but I saw a new side of him this visit.  As the youngest people there, he quietly moved from place to place gleaning from the men and women who are all older than he.  While he started his successful ministry without much support, his heart is to listen and learn.  That is the sign of a great leader.

Beth Kraiss from Denver, Colorado, started a small ministry 25 years ago that has grown to an outreach to 175 people with disabilities attending each Sunday.  Recent circumstances have reshaped her ministry.  She came with a broken heart.  However, during this hard time, God has moved in miraculous ways to sustain and even cause growth for the people who come each week to hear about the Jesus who has saved them from despair and grief.   I was impressed that in God’s economy there are no losses only gains.  Mrs. Kraiss had turned to the Lord in her trauma and He had upheld her and given her a new vision for people with disabilities.

Another ministry leader had gone through a severe fire this past year.  He, too, has seen God’s hand move on his ministry in miraculous ways.  Yet, this has caused him to reassess what God wants to teach him through times of sorrow and grief.  I saw a new openness to God’s leading in his life.  I was impressed to continue to seek God even when difficult circumstances are closing in on you.

David Hayward

David Hayward, from Joy Fellowship in Vancouver BC, was the convener for the year.  He had planned the event and sent out all the invitation, coordinating  times and flights.  Though we were gathered around nine tables, in a barren bus station in the O’Hare Airport, he moved to insure that everyone was welcomed and comfortable.  I watched as he made sure that he spent time with each leader.  It was apparent that he was able to make everyone feel comfortable.  The gift of hospitality was at work through him.  I came away wanting to be able to show that type of welcoming love to the people I encounter.

What are some of the things you have gleaned from people in leadership that you have encountered?  What good example did they display for you?