And they were bringing children to Him…but the disciples rebuked them.
But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them,
“Permit the children to come to Me;
do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
Mark 10:13–14, 16
In the 1960s, getting to church was no easy feat for our family. Mom not only had to corral and spit shine three young children, she also had to wheel Dad to the car, lift him into the passenger seat, and stow his wheelchair in the trunk. After we arrived at church, she completed the process in reverse order before negotiating the parking lot curb and the steps leading to the front door of the building. Once inside, the only place for Dad and his wheelchair fit was behind the last pew, under which he discreetly hid his urinal. When he needed to use it, Mom wheeled him to a dark, rarely frequented corner of Fellowship Hall because his chair was too wide to enter the men’s bathroom.
Looking back, I wonder why my parents bothered to go to church with so many hindrances stacked against them. But I’m glad they persevered. Because of their determination, I came to know Jesus, and my life was changed. And because my life was changed by Him, I spent the hot and windy weekend of June 10–12 at Hidden Acres for the first annual Wonderfully Made Family Camp for kids with special needs, their siblings, and their parents.
Our goal for the weekend was to remove obstacles so kids with special needs and their families could enjoy camp. To that end, sidewalks were poured so wheelchairs could get from here to there easily. A special dock was constructed so every child could give fishing a try. A pool lift was installed. In the barn, ramps and stairs were built so all kids could ride a horse. A personal buddy accompanied each child do outdoor activities: to the pond for boat rides–the first ever for many families–to the climbing wall, the zip line, and the giant swing. Buddies helped kids complete crafts, learn Bible verses, sing songs, and play games during program time. While their kids were in being cared for, parents enjoyed a program with Gary and Barb Rosberg Friday evening, attended support groups on Saturday morning, enjoyed massages in afternoon, and had a date night on Saturday.
On Sunday morning, every elementary-age child–and I mean every, single one–went on the stage to sing Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, the song they learned over the weekend. Proud parents stood to record the moment on video in photos. For many dads and moms, it was the first time their kids had participated in such an event.
I stood in the back, watching the door in case one of the kids who tended to run made a mad dash for the exit. I failed miserably at the job because my eyes were filled with tears as I watched the children on stage. I thought of how delighted Dad would have been to see every child included and of how he would have reveled in the luxury of bathroom privacy.
I also thought of how delighted our Father was in His children–those who donated funds and materials, as well as the 104 volunteers who served throughout the weekend alongside the Hidden Acres staff members–who obeyed His Son’s command by removing every hindrance so little ones such as these could come to Jesus and be blessed by Him.
Workshop Speakers Bottom row: Gail Kittleson, Jolene Philo, Anne Fleck Middle row: Jean Vaux, Cherie Dargon Standing: Mary Potter Kenyon, Sue Schuerman, Tamara Clymer, Mary Jedlicka Humston, Chris Pesek
I’ve never made a bucket list, though my list excuses for not doing so is quite extensive.
Too busy with family.
Too busy enjoying friends.
Too busy reading books.
Too busy writing.
Too busy planning the Wonderfully Made Family Camp (WMFC).
Too busy living to plan how to reach the end of life without regrets.
But despite the busyness, I recently checked 2 items off the bucket list I never made.
The first check mark happened at WMFC. All the members of the planning board, myself included, wore green tee-shirts so we were easy to find when questions arose. That, in itself was pretty cool, even though I usually had to refer the questioners who approached me to someone who could actually answer the question. But, in addition to the green shirts, the members of the planning committee were issued…
…drum roll please…WALKIE TALKIES…
…second drum roll please…with HEAD PIECES and MICROPHONES.
So I was able to fulfill my childhood dream of commanding thousands of people–or in this case more than 100. But who’s counting?–using honest-to-goodness spy gear. Or at least a walkie talkie and head piece generously donated by Scheel’s. (They donated 12 sets, valued at over $500. Cool, huh?)
Grand as that event was, it pales compared to what happened over the weekend.
For the first time ever, my daughter and I co-presented a workshop at the Cedar Falls Christian Writers’ Workshop. The topic was What a Manuscript Editor Can Do for You, and the workshop sprang from our mutual editing of each other’s manuscripts last summer. We discovered that each of us made the other’s writing better, and that we enjoyed doing it. Probably because Anne has a talent for spotting writing weaknesses and suggesting ways to shore them up. And I have a talent for weak writing that needs shoring up.
It is a match made in heaven.
The match is turning out to be much more than me being able to fulfill a lifelong dream of speaking or acting with one of my kids–another item from the bucket list I never made that has now been checked off. The match may turn out to be the start of a new professional partnership between Anne and me to offer book coaching services, such as manuscript editing and book proposal assistance, in person and online. (More on that this fall at DifferentDream.com.)
We’re in the dreaming stage at present, but who knows what the future holds?
For now I am grateful that in the busyness of life, God touched my days with not only the childish joy of using a walkie talkie, but also a mother’s joy in partnering with my adult daughter who has become a talented, determined woman.
Snowstorms. Ground blizzards. Below zero temperatures. They’ve been the constant companions of Iowans for several weeks now. The bad weather makes me long for spring and look forward to summer.
But I’m looking forward to summer for another very good reason, too. Central Iowa’s very first Wonderfully Made Family Camp will debut at Hidden Acres Christian Center June 10–12, 2016. I’m part of a non-denominational planning committee that’s been meeting since October. We’re trying to make the camp a reality for kids with special needs who aren’t able to attend other summer camps, for their parents who need respite and pampering, and for the siblings whose needs are often put on the back burner.
Fareway (a regional grocery chain) has already committed to providing much of the food. A local businessman has given $25,000 for sidewalks so the camp will be wheelchair accessible. $3,000 of the $15,000 in donations has been raised so 35 families and the 1-on-1 volunteers who will accompany the kids to all daytime activities. Most importantly, though our advertising campaign has barely begun, 15 families have already registered for the camp. Obviously, the need for the camp is real.
Now do you see why I’m looking forward to summer? To tell you the truth, I’m also shaking in my boots because we were expecting–perhaps naively–only 1 child with special needs family. But many of the families have multiple kids with special needs. One family has 5. That’s right, 5. So we need more 1-on-1 volunteers than expected.
Which is what today’s post is all about–recruiting volunteers. Volunteers to accompany kids with special needs during the daytime hours. Volunteers to help the regular volunteers at the swimming pool, rock wall, horse barns, and elsewhere. All volunteers must be at least 16 years old, and they must go through background check and sexual offender screening. Volunteers with special needs or medical training (teachers, teacher associates, nurses, EMTs, doctors, therapists, etc.) are especially needed.
If you’re interested in volunteering, donating, or registering your family to attend camp, visit the Hidden Acres website. You can download forms there, too. Or leave a comment below, and I will get back to you as soon as I can to answer your questions.