It was the annual gathering of Special Gathering members. Each year nearly 200 mentally challenged people meet in Vero Beach at Life for Youth Camp for Retreat Agape. For almost 30 years, we have met there from Friday morning until Monday morning each Memorial Day weekend. It’s a gloriously fun place for our members who are intellectually disabled. There are water-slides, a lake for boating and swimming, go-carts, putt-putt golf, a game room, crafts, bingo and a petting zoo.
Our morning and evening chapel services are as loud and roudy as a spiritual retreat is supposed to be. Yet, there is a great deal of love shared as the members of Special Gathering reconnect with people from other cities. Christ’s love flows freely as we praise and worship the Lord, ministering to each other. This year, powerful things were accomplished during our chapel services. We know that because the enemy of our soul was busy causing disruptions and distractions. The overhead projector went out just as we began our Saturday night service and one member became agitated and headed out the campgrounds, planning to walk home which is 75 miles away. The air conditioner went out for the Sunday morning service; and there was a huge thunderstorm at the climax of the Sunday night worship.
The climax of Retreat Agape is always our Sunday evening worship service. We end this service with the Lord’s Supper. Yet, as the thunder began to roar violently overhead, fear raced through the members with squeals and moans of concerns. We had to end our service abruptly, giving the bedtime medications in the chapel. Then we raced to the cabins sharing umbrellas and raincoats.
A pastor of a local church who was volunteering had agreed to help us with the Lord’s Supper. He looked at me inquisitively, “What happened? We aren’t having the Lord’s Supper?”
“Flexibility is the key to doing ministry within the disability community,” I said to him, laughing. “Fear took over the emotions of our members; and there is no way we should continue the service.”
Sometimes,we simply have to make the best with what is dished out to us in our lives as well as in our ministries. There are events that seem to ruin even the greatest of spiritual experiences. I, honestly, do not understand how the Lord will use this disruptive thunder storm for our benefit; but he has promised that all things will work for our good. Therefore, we know that God will use it.
There are thunders storms that attack our lives, changing our plans and even our destiny. Our husband or wife dies. We lose our jobs. We are forced to do things that seem hard. Our children don’t respond in ways we desire or planned. Flexibility can help us to walk into deeper water in the love of Christ. Using flexibility to make-do when life throws us off kilter can harden and strengthen our relationship with the Lord, teaching us to love the Lord more than we ever thought possible.