Friday, February 01, 2008

A Special Need for Special Needs

Imagine dashing to the hospital with your wife in order to deliver your first baby! You get checked in, everything is going well, the baby arrives... and a look passes over the doctor’s face. You don’t know what he sees, but in an instant you know your life has changed.

The medical community calls it an “accident of nature” or a genetic disorder – you learn to call it by whatever particular name it has been given. “It” changes your child. He is never going to be “normal” and neither is your life. You begin to learn words you had never heard of before and doctors and hospitals seem to be your best friends. Along the way, little dreams die – I guess we will never do “that” together... I suppose it will always be like “this.” And with each realization the door to despair cracks open a little wider.

You are a Christian parent and trust that in God’s good providence, He will provide you with all the resources you need in Christ and through His church. But life under the sun proves the church may not be quite on top of serving parents like you. They have never had to deal with a small intelligence in a large body or a medical fragility that requires nearly 24 hour a day care. They don’t understand.

Then days turn into years. Moments of joy and grace pop up all the time, but so do seasons of fatigue and feeling overwhelmed. Mostly, there is that gnawing frustration of no one seeming to understand. “If people just knew what this was like they would...” and we fill in our own blanks.

Such is the life of many parents of children with special needs. That is why I love and endorse and do all I can to serve The Elisha Foundation.

TEF exists to serve parents of kids with special needs – and it does so in the best of ways. Every year, they hold one or two family retreats. These parents are invited to bring their families for a few days of peace as a team of volunteers cares for their special needs child and the rest of their kids.

While the kids are being ably cared for, mom and dad are being ministered to. The TEF folks bring in volunteers to lead worship (imagine half an hour of uninterrupted corporate singing!), preach, provide meals, consult on educational, governmental and financial issues and even things like a relaxing manicure for mom! Three days of respite. For some parents, the first such break in many years. Yes, years.

I will be in Oregon again this year to serve these families. And I wanted to offer you an opportunity to do the same. I realize there are one thousand worthy charities hoping for your money, but if you can relate a little to what I describe above, perhaps you would consider supporting TEF? Besides all the hard work of an army of volunteers, they need money to make this happen. Donations can be made via the website – just have your VISA or MasterCard ready.