At times, an author hits a universal nerve and their thoughts and beliefs become a phenomenal success. That is what happened with Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life. Most of us had not given much thought to our destiny until suddenly Warren forced us through his thesis to look beyond our every day existence and probe the direction in which our lives were heading.
As Christians, we knew that our destiny has been wrapped around the needs of a fallen world. However, Warren forced many of us to take our destiny more seriously than we had previously.
When working with the mentally challenged community, we sometimes lose sight of their need for destiny. Their need for purpose is as much a driving force as any other adult. The question we need to continually keep before us is: How can I help my members discover their destiny in Christ? Here are some things which help them and may also help you.
1. We remind our members often that their life is not a mistake. Each person has a purpose no matter what their circumstances of life. While Jennifer could neither talk or walk, she taught me so much about love. When I held her hand, she would squeeze my hand in hers. Though her entire body seemed to be without much muscle tone, she could gently squeeze my hand. Jen would even say my name on occasion. She didn’t say, “Linda;” but “Linda Howard.” When she had to be placed in a group home about 50 miles from our town, I didn’t see her for about three years. When I bumped into her at the mall, I approached her. She raised both arms to me and said, “Linda Howard!” Her caregiver was dumbfounded. He questioned me, “Are you Linda Howard?” I smiled, nodding my head. “But she doesn’t talk!” he exclaimed. I knew that but she said my name. That is love.
2. We reassure our members that their lives can have a positive effect on the lives of others. The first person to really accept me at Special Gathering was Howard. He was probably one of the most obnoxious people who ever lived. Nevertheless, Howard’s contribution to our fellowship was his acceptance of every new person. During one Bible class, we were talking about the gifts God has given to each of us. Howard said, “I don’t have any gifts.” Reassuring him, I quickly polled the class asking each person who was their first friend at Special Gathering. Without exception, they said Howard. It was a fact that Howard didn’t wear well but he made a great first impression. As long as Howard was a part of our fellowship, we knew that each new member would find his place because of Howard.
3. We help them to understand that love brings acceptance. As our members reach out in genuine Christ-love, almost everyone responds with gratitude. More times than not, gratitude leads to acceptance.
4. Living without a disability does not mean that you live with love and acceptance. The destiny of our members can be tried to their disability in a positive way. We can strive to help them understand that embracing their disability, rather than hating who they are may mean that others will see their peace and draw from them a love for themselves and their Creator, God.
Destiny isn’t reserved for only able-bodied folks with a high IQ. In fact, seeing the profound effect our members have on the lives of others often forces those who labor among them to reaccess and know that God can and does use us for His purpose.