Category: FAMILY

Student Impact: Special Needs Aren’t That “Special” At All

Written by Teresa Goodnight

Let’s cut to the chase. Kids with “special” needs are looking for love, social encounters, opportunities to grow, and education. There’s nothing “special” at all on their radar. They are looking to grow their relationship with Christ just like the rest of us. These students and their parents want exactly what the rest of us want—a place to belong and to be a part. As the Church, and certainly as Christian schools, we are going to have to do some rethinking of our position here. Could it be that we’re simply not paying attention to what we are not paying attention to in the area with these children of God? There’s a gap. One group in Owasso decided to do something about it.

Pretty little girl with pigtails, smiling

Julie Paul and a group of families and professionals launched King’s Grove School, a classical Christian private school for persons with special needs, this year in Owasso, Oklahoma. They started with 11 students, who are receiving an incredible opportunity to experience Christian classical education in an environment coupled with physical and occupational therapy. From my assessment, their program is possibly akin to Regent Preparatory School except that it’s moving at an appropriate pace and setting for their unique learners.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Julie, the Executive Director of King’s Grove. God has been challenging Community Spirit and our readers to think about the missing links in opportunities for those labeled with special needs in our existing structures. So, I wanted to get a peek inside the heart and souls breathing life into these amazing, but often overlooked souls. They challenged me right where I sat to even further rethink my own views on those with special needs.

“This is a program that hasn’t been tried before in our state.” Julie said. “ The three pillars of our school are Curriculum, Therapy and Community all built on the foundation of glorifying God in all we do while sharing the Gospel and making disciples of ALL men. We’re using a nationally recognized classical Christian curriculum specifically designed for special needs. We integrate therapy throughout every school day. We have a full time physical therapist and occupational therapist on staff. Next year we plan to add a speech therapist and an additional OT and PT aide.” Julie went on, ”We wanted a pilot group of families willing to help us begin this year, so, we self-selected for this first group. Within the design of community at KGS is the need for partnership with families to ensure a successful education for our students.. The Lord says the family is the primary teacher in the child relationship and we desire to come alongside families with special needs to help them in the areas of academics and education while they remain the primary source for life instruction for their children.”

Several similar schools have begun within existing schools on the east coast according to Julie. However, at this time, King’s Grove is a stand alone school and they decided to up it a notch with their integrated therapy specific to academics. This method allows the students to have access to having their sensory needs met within their daily school routine. King’s Grove wants to help families raise their children in Christ in their school the same as any other Christian school—even though that includes a few things not always found in a normal school.

 So far, the feedback has been fantastic. I don’t know how parents could be anything but overjoyed. In just the small amount of time I spent at the school, everything I saw was truly magnificent. I saw their faces. These kids were thriving. It was so beautiful to see them in an environment tailored specifically to grow them into who God created them to be. There’s a sense of purpose to every encounter. “That’s not by accident,” according to Julie. “The student program is designed around purpose in everything they do.”

Julie knows firsthand the challenges of parenting a child with special needs. She and her husband’s eight-year old son went to public schools for a day before they realized the environment wasn’t right for him. He’s non-verbal and on the autism spectrum like so many students. So, she started homeschooling him with this specifically designed curriculum. She quickly realized her path was going to be bigger than just focusing on her son. Now she can offer him, and others, the Christian education she and her husband want for him, while he gets to experience socialization at the same time. When I walked by him in class, it was easy to see he was in his element. That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Giving these incredible kids a way to be their best selves? I could see their joy, as they had instruction with a teacher engaging them on whatever level they needed to be drawn into the experience of learning.

Students and teachers at King's Grove

The sensory rooms at King’s Grove School is one example of a simple way to meet these children’s needs. Any parent who has a child with sensory issues understands the need for some downtime to regroup. It can make the difference for the entire day if they just have room to regain their composure. Sometimes being in a classroom setting for too long can become a bit overstimulating. Sometimes the child needs a safe place to go and sort of catch their “sensory breath” if you will. It’s a simple technique that could easily be employed in every school with children who can experience sensory overload. It’s just one of the ways King’s Grove works to lead the way with instructional care fitting the needs of the students that attend there.

Julie added, “If the student can learn better self-regulating skills overtime through therapy and with a break in the sensory room or outside—it creates a win-win scenario. Then, the student can regain needed focus and composure to go back into the academic environment for instruction.” She continued, “A natural and calm setting is essential for our students to thrive. We spend a good amount of time outdoors to meet general sensory needs and then use a program called the Sonrise Method within our sensory rooms to encourage socialization and calmness to their abilities and meet sensory needs indoors when appropriate. Instead of our students having unmet sensory needs and derailing their education time, they can come into this room for a few minutes or longer depending on their needs that day. It gives them some time where they are not thinking about academics but are still in a learning atmosphere. There’s purpose to the play, instruction or interaction. Every single part of our day has a purpose to it. “

Integration

Through efforts towards community, King’s Grove School hopes to help Owasso and the greater Tulsa area see the need for special needs persons to be truly integrated into their communities. Julie said, “There is a benefit to our families to give excellent education to our special needs students. Yet, if there is no community willing to accept persons with special needs into their daily lives our purposes fall apart when our students reach adulthood. Unless their families move away, these students will become adults here. As a community, and especially in the community of believers, we want all of our citizens to be thriving in service, fellowship and work where applicable. Our communities and churches will not operate at their fullest purpose and potential unless all of our persons are involved and valued. We do not need to retrofit the community. We do not need a different part for some and another part for others. We need to retrofit people’s mindsets to value the personhood God has designed in all individuals within their community and network for the purpose of His glory and the furthering of His Kingdom. We are to do this together as one body.” King’s Grove is teaching these students how to have a meaningful purpose in society. They are being discipled to serve Christ.

Julie said, “Students at King’s Grove aren’t just receiving an education. They are also receiving that needed discipleship to teach them how to be contributing members inside the Body of Christ. We see their giftedness for His good work daily. The fruits of the Spirit are being taught inside these classrooms along with the academics to help live them out. We are striving to walk alongside them in community, education and discipleship as God grows them into who He created them to be.” I agreed with her. These students were being taught how to fulfill God’s purpose for them—to do what God created them specially to do.

As a Christian community, as the Church, we need to be thinking about how to help them help us to fulfill God’s purpose in His kingdom.

How can YOU Help?

King’s Grove School is looking for persons to partner and champion their students and vision by adding volunteers to their school days and in securing a firm future to help more families through donations. 

KGS has a great first semester group of volunteers. They hope to expand their day to day volunteers for their students.  Julie shared, “We are looking for persons who want a life changing experience. Our volunteers spend time with the students in both academics and socially. Most volunteers come once a week. Our school day is only 9:00–2:30. Some volunteers come in the morning and some in the afternoon. We vet our volunteers similarly to the Little Light House and provide training to help our volunteers feel ready to be with our students. Most of our volunteers have never had any formal training or time with special needs students. They just want to come and have a great day.” She continued, “So many of our volunteers comment on what a happy place KGS is. One volunteer texted me after their first day and said, ‘ Julie, the school broke me today. After seeing the students work hard, love on each other and then praise the Lord during music through song and dance, well, I just had to praise the Lord.’ That’s what we mean when we say we want persons who want a life changing experience. Be ready. It truly is.”

Julie also expressed the great need for donations during this first year of school. Private special needs education hasn’t been attempted at great lengths because it is very expensive. The national average to educate a neurotypical student is around $8500/ year. The national average sky-rockets to $34,000 / year for a student with special needs. King’s Grove School keeps things simple and purposeful with curriculum, campus and supplies. However, the cost of personnel that includes two teachers to a classroom and professional certified full time therapists is expensive but absolutely necessary. “Class sizes are intentionally small. That is a non negotiable for us. It is essential to the learning environment of our students. We never want money to be a reason that families cannot attend KGS. We want families who will partner with us in our approach to Christian education. Because of this our tuition makes up only ⅓ of our operations cost. We rely on fundraising and private donations to meet our annual budget needs and will rely on our community to continue to support us financially as we grow to accommodate more families.” Julie added, “ Since June of this year, we have had over 200 requests for application to our school. The need is so great. Our families share part of that financial responsibility but we pray our communities will see that this is an opportunity for all of us to improve and add beauty and value to our society and daily life. Your investment isn’t just for them it’s for everyone!”

King’s Grove Schools have several ways to donate. They encourage private giving and also are running a “GROW THE GROVE” campaign that encourages recurring monthly gifts of any amount. “Every single person in the greater Tulsa area can make a huge difference,“ said Julie. “Whether you donate $1 / month or $1000/month, you are impacting families and your own community. Two of our own students have donated their own allowance to their school. How beautiful is that? The Lord is using the smallest acts for the greatest impact to His kingdom.”

When I walked away, I found myself looking forward to more Christian schools in our area volunteering at the school as part of their own journey. KGS is looking for peer to peer volunteers to come on Fridays during their enrichment time to share in the non-academic experiences at KGS such as art, music and movement, with students their own age. I can already hear the stories from the students who went—thinking they were going to help and finding themselves walking away changed by these kids.

 I’m envisioning kids volunteering at the fund raisers and coming up with ideas to help fund King’s Grove. Every encounter shows me the gaps and the distance we have to go, but new foundations are being built. When God is through with the Church, I’m praying that He finds a community so fully integrated with these amazing students. As they journey into adulthood, I pray that He shines the light on it to help replicate this success throughout all of His work here on Earth. After all, He is the one who knew these children in their mother’s womb. He has certainly prepared works in advance for all of His children to do. 

Pray with me for God to move mountains to equip this school with the most integrated, fun-loving, people-loving students, volunteers and financial resources to make one GIGANTIC kingdom impact. Can you imagine? Hopefully very soon we won’t need to imagine it.


King’s Grove had over 200 families reach out to find out more. More will be trying to come. Right now they have nowhere else to go. There is no Christian school we can find offering an integrated program right now. Funding is always an issue, but now that we have someone making these amazing kids a priority, I think it’s at a minimum up to the rest of us to support them.

Do you want to be part of reaching ALL of God’s children: King’s Grove does not charge students the full amount needed to educate their children. It’s a ministry operating off of the donations, volunteerism, and hearts of people just like YOU! (yes YOU!). With the end of year “donation” season approaching—why don’t you add them to your list!

These kids are being left out on Christian education. They deserve to be educated with a Christian curriculum.  Jesus said in Matthew 19:14 “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Will you help King’s Grove bring the opportunity to know Christ in their school environment? Let’s not stop them. Let’s give them everything they need to impact the world for Christ. Then, just sit back and watch.

Hop online at www.kingsgroveschool.com. Scroll to the bottom left side for both the volunteer and donate buttons. If God’s children are all a part of the body of Christ (and we know they are)—then when we aren’t bringing in and equipping those with special needs, we are essentially a body trying to operate without an essential functional piece. Can you imagine how well the Body of Christ will function when we’ve enveloped ALL of God’s children, equipped and joining in God’s missions prepared in advance for us to do together? #GoDoBe

Little boys drawing with teacher


Written By: R.A. Goodnight

“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.”

Benjamin Franklin

It was late, around 1 a.m., when I was ripped from my dreams. As consciousness returned to me, I recognized the sound of our home alarm screaming in the night. I looked to my right and, through the glow of the television, I could tell by Teresa’s eyes that she hadn’t triggered the alarm system. As my feet hit the floor, I grabbed an HK pistol from the bed side safe and chambered a round. Teresa grabbed our infant daughter dialing 911 and headed for the closet, while I stepped outside the bedroom and closed the door behind me. Until the police arrived, almost twenty minutes later, I stood between an unidentified threat and the safety of my family. (BTW—That’s 20 minutes IN THE CITY for the police to arrive).

I look forward to the day when firearms have no place in our world; to when we each live securely in our own homes and have no need to know the ways of war. (Isaiah 32:18; Isaiah 2:4 NIV) But today is not that day. In the current environment in which we live, I have been thankful more than once to possess a means with which to defend my family or myself.

Regardless, we cannot deny that such rights do get abused. The country has been terrorized by many tragedies over the last few years, even the last few weeks. I cannot imagine how I would feel if I received a phone call telling me I had been separated from my daughter or wife due to a violent act fueled by another’s disorder or hate. My innermost being cries out for those who have had to live that nightmare. And, in the middle of the tears, the pain and the regret perhaps we find ourselves questioning and searching for solutions. But, hidden amid the chaos and fear, there are cleverly disguised traps in some of the solutions being proposed.

The “Red Flag Laws” that have gained support should raise red flags themselves for any who value their freedoms, regardless of our opinions on firearms. These proposed laws, should they become law, will pave the way for the abuse of many of our liberties, not just our second amendment rights. The basic idea proposed is simple: If an individual believes another person is capable of acts of violence and owns firearms, the concerned individual can petition to a judge. If the judge agrees, law enforcement will be dispatched to the accused’s place of residence to confiscate any firearms. Many believe that this is a reasonable idea.

Why do I suggest that we be concerned?

I believe many individuals reason such laws would never have an effect upon them, as these laws are only for those who intend harm toward themselves or others. But think for a moment on how intent is being established under these laws. If you offended someone, if a social media post was misinterpreted or if your religious persuasions were deemed hateful, an opposing individual could raise a red flag against you, even if you didn’t own a firearm. “So what?” some have responded. “A judge would be able to tell the difference. So, these laws have no way of being abused.” Do we really believe that?

Consider this. For the last two years we have seen the country waste millions of dollars on legal action attempting to prove that our current elected leaders committed treason. How did all of this begin? The opposing party convinced a judge of alleged guilt, based upon lies and motivated by hate. If similar laws can be used against the highest office in the land, why would we believe ourselves to be immune from such tactics?

What effect could such laws have upon our other protected rights? Consider these:

  • The first amendment protects our right to religious beliefs. It protects our right to think, believe, speak or write ideas as we choose. Red Flag laws pave the way for those beliefs, ideas and words to be weaponized against us. This is already happening at an enhanced rate toward Christian beliefs and these laws will only make that easier.
  • The second amendment is obvious. A citizen of this country has a protected right to own a firearm, unless they have forfeited such right through proven and convicted criminal activity. Your religious beliefs and expressions of your Christian faith do not constitute criminal activity, even though many would like to change that.
  • The fourth amendment protects private individuals from unreasonable search and seizure. How reasonable would such laws be if activated only by the word of another?
  • Similarly, the fifth amendment ensures that our property (in this case a firearm) cannot be confiscated without just compensation. It also protects our right to due process. Due process would demand that any claim be proven prior to confiscation.
  • The tenth amendment states that powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution are reserved to the states or the people. The power to confiscate personal firearms has not been granted to the United States via the Constitution. To the contrary, it is restricted from it. The states are given the authority on how they would choose to deal with the reoccurring issue of private firearms ownership.

Let me be clear on this point: This article is not about firearms. Ownership and use of firearms are subjects that each Christian needs to decide upon for themselves. What this article is about is our awareness, our ability to look beyond the clamor and see dangers that threaten other fundamental liberties that we will not compromise on. Freedoms such as religion, speech, press and due process. When did these ever become negotiable? It is about giving authority to men over aspects of our lives, where they do not have any authority (constitutionally or spiritually), nor should they.

Even if not a firearm owner, why would we trade our liberty to think, believe and worship without immediate fear of retaliation at the promise of security provided by men—a questionable promise in of itself? It is a high price to pay for something they cannot even guarantee. In the end, we risk losing both. No additional security paid for with our liberties and, once you give them up, they are difficult if not impossible to get back without a fight.

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Benjamin Franklin

Thankfully, I have heard two of our state representatives express grave concern for the dangers these laws pose. Both Congressmen Kevin Hern and Congressman Markwayne Mullin have expressed similar concerns should such laws be officially proposed. They have both stated they will not support them. Congressmen Mullin shared a nice podcast addressing why he would not support them and you can listen to it on Soundcloud (link below). In his podcast he asks some very thought-provoking questions. For example, “So how can a judge, by asking a few questions make the determination that a male or female is not fit to bear arms without due process? We can’t.”

We thank both of these Congressmen for their continued cautious support to protect our freedoms.

In the meantime, let’s pay attention and listen to what is being said (or not said). We certainly can’t just go by what we see and hear on television. There are many important aspects of our daily life hanging in the balance. These kinds of proposals require extensive research and thought. They are not to be taken lightly, because sometimes the very essence of the law is in what is NOT said rather than what is written.

https://soundcloud.com/user-213561710/mullinpoints-podcast-episode-24)


I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories. man2man@omegaleague.com 
@omegaleagueman


Thesis By Natalie Stitt Regent Preparatory – Student, Guest Author

Here is Part 2 of Natalie Stitt’s senior thesis. If you missed Part 1 of Natalie’s article, check out the first half online at
www.communityspiritmagazine.com.

Just as ancients did, many in the Church today assume that disabilities are due directly to sin, and therefore have the overarching, if not sole purpose to be healed (Cross 317). Although this concept is visible in the Old and New Testaments, it is fundamentally a pagan idea: the notion that at any turn, a slight mistake could offend the gods and leave the sinner suddenly struck by lightning or turned into a cow terrorized the ancient world, and as Christianity spread, this idea was mixed with Christian thought. This concept of divine punishment heavily influenced both the early and contemporary Church (Moss).

In Jesus’ teachings, his disciples once asked, “‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:2-3). We tend to think that if something is bad, it is always divine punishment, but Jesus’ words in this passage should dispel any thoughts that disabilities are the results of God’s wrath (Yong 87). On the other hand, I do not mean to suggest that God is absent from the creation of those with disabilities; Scripture is very clear that there is purpose behind every individual, especially those with disabilities. When Moses confronted God about his speech impediment, asking Him to choose someone else, the Lord responded with, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11). His response shows how purposeful each individual with special needs is: they are fully created by God, disability and all.

While it is folly to attribute disabilities to be direct effect of God’s wrath, sin might have something to do with the existence of disabilities, and for this, we must turn to Thomas Aquinas. When discussing physical impairments, Aquinas contends that disability, along with several other experiences that he deems “features of the human condition,” is not on direct account of sin, that is, divine punishment, but yet another manifestation of original sin in this world (Cross 318). The human condition does not only include disability, but all the ways that sin manifests in humanity: being prone to lie, having an addiction to alcohol, being born without the use of the legs, and having Down syndrome are all aspects that fall under Aquinas’s categorization (328-329). Despite physical appearances or mental abilities, theologically, there is no distinction between someone with or without disabilities.

In a sense, all effects of original sin are hindering in some manner or another: we are all disabled to a certain degree. I’d like to turn to Bach, a scholar of disability in theology: Both [disabled and not] are respectively created by God; both live in the fallen creation; both (as damaged creation) are dependent on the salvific deed of Christ; both are reconciled to God through Christ; both are members of the Body of Christ, both deficient and dependent upon others; both gifted with divine gifts, both expectant of salvation (Bach, as cited in Kunz, as cited in White 20).

In this light, the state of original sin unifies humanity, especially within the Body of Christ. One cannot treat a fellow sinner with contempt or arrogance because “all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23). When Christians have a misconception of sin as it relates to disability, they see an individual with special needs as a mistake, if not a punishment, that requires healing. Nancy Eiesland, herself living with a disability, comments on the issue from experience: “our bodies have too often been touched by hands that have forgotten our humanity and attend only to curing us . . . healing has been the churchly parallel to rehabilitative medicine, in which the goal was ‘normalization’ of the bodies of people with disabilities” (Eiesland 244). She claims that instead of being welcomed into a loving and accepting community, she was merely viewed as an imperfection that needed healing and normalization.

Theologically there is nothing wrong with intercession for healing, but as Eiesland emphasized, one’s humanity and one’s disability cannot be separated for the purpose of healing, and healing with normalization in mind, is not without danger. In the gospel, it is very clearly stated that there should be no partiality in the Church (James 2): nothing about an individual should cause the church body to treat her in a better or worse manner. We are all defective, we are all broken, and we are all sinful, and no one is more or less than another. We should always keep this is in the forefront of our minds when we interact with anyone, with and without disabilities. The Lord does not bestow weaknesses or disabilities upon humanity in order to discourage them, but rather, through the relationship established on the cross, to make them perfect in his strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). Any suffering that we experience on earth should be a reminder for what Christ accomplished on the cross: he trampled Satan, and in death, gave us life.

The first step towards inclusion must begin with how we view individuals with special needs. In the New Testament and especially in the examples set by Jesus, diversity was obvious: men and women of all different backgrounds were unified as they worked to further the kingdom of the Lord. Jesus’ image of the Church as a body emphasizes unity over difference. Jesus even commanded that his followers “go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” (Luke 14:21). He did not say “open your doors and let them come” but rather “go, and bring them in” (White 12). Later the Apostle Paul elaborates on Christ’s teaching concerning inclusion; in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 he says that: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

Painting by Natalie Stitt

As Paul states, there is unity in diversity: “there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). The unity that Christ instituted in the body of the Church was not motivated by a mere embrace of diversity, but it came from seeing each and every individual as a bearer of the Imago Dei; their value was nothing that could be proven, displayed, or won, it was instilled through God’s breath of life.

In today’s culture, where we base a high priority on rationality and intelligence, a hierarchy of humanity and, consequently, of disability, has been constructed from the measure of one’s intelligence and has been deeply ingrained within our society. People, Christian or not, usually view a neurotypical individual as on a ‘higher level’ than an individual with Down syndrome, and likewise someone with Aspergers is ‘rated higher’ than one with a profound mental disability. Although life on earth functions on the basis of classifications such as these, there is no tier of humanity even hinted towards in the Bible. “The value of a person, in God’s sight, is not measured by his or her knowledge and accomplishments. The value of a person is ultimately in the realm of love” (Edwards 73). People have no justification in classifying their fellow humans on any basis other than the love that the Father has freely given. It is for that love that Jesus came to earth as a man and died on the cross: it wasn’t for the intellectually qualified alone, but also for those that the general population has consigned to a lower category, perhaps irredeemably so.

As stated above, there is no theological difference between a completely dependent individual and you or me. The Church may not openly classify people on the basis of intelligence, but they do make classifications as to how much charity an individual requires, which is based off an assumption of a caste society. Charity, when properly motivated, should only prove to be beneficial to society: believers, as commanded, should always reach out to those in need. An issue does arise however, when an individual is stripped of their personhood and viewed as an object of charity, which is almost always for the satisfaction of the giver. It typically happens in one of two manners: in some cases, an individual with special needs is given special treatment, condescended to as if they are a child, or ‘helped’ by a member of the congregation. Although these actions in themselves may not appear malicious, they can be degrading to that individual’s inherent value, and in some cases, that individual can detect the air of false charity. The so-called ‘giver’ in this situation feels like a saint, a perfect benefactor to a person, whom they deem to be less than themselves. On the other hand, the misuse of charity may take place between an entire congregation and those with disabilities, not just between one member and another with a disability.

In many cases such as this, the Church will ‘invite’ an individual with special needs into their congregation and present them as their ‘special’ member. It gives that specific church a more diverse appearance and also makes them feel as if they are helping those in need. Although this situation, like the last, appears to be an honest attempt at inclusion, the heart is nowhere near the right place. Both of these situations stem from a selfish desire to be seen as good, not to simply fulfill the commandments and do good. Christians, as fallen and selfish beings, must always be reminded that works, for the sake of the good and not for the sake of self-satisfaction, without recognition are the most fulfilling way to show love; in Matthew it is written, “be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

Charity, when properly motivated, should only prove to be beneficial to society: believers, as commanded, should always reach out to those in need. An issue does arise however, when an individual is stripped of their personhood and viewed as an object of charity, which is almost always for the satisfaction of the giver. 

The most vital aspect in the repositioning of the heart is love. Love, as has been perfectly demonstrated by the Father through Christ, is one of the hardest yet simplest things we need in order to include those with special needs into the Body of Christ. In I Peter 4:8, it does not say, “love those who are convenient to love,” but rather “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Loving is not something that is convenient or easy: Christ’s death on the cross was the opposite of those things. There is no better way to truly experience love, than when the object of your affection becomes unlovable (Lewis 118). That is not to say that individuals with special needs are unlovable; in most cases they are quite the opposite, but oftentimes they have no way to reciprocate the love given freely to them, just as we have no way to earn or repay the Father’s love.

There is no better model to admire here than Christ (Hoekema 22). Theologians have dissected the defining aspects of humanity over and over, but just as a scientist can break down an element only up to a certain point, there is a baseline which theologians cannot proceed past. Humans, as centuries worth of philosophy displays, are complex and unique creatures layered with desires and flaws, but each and every human being is made in the holy Image of God. Whether it is acknowledged or not, this intrinsic value is something that can never be added to or subtracted from; it places all humans, despite race, gender, socio-economic status, intelligence, and physical ability under one category: children of the living God.

For centuries, people with disabilities have faced discrimination and contempt, even in the Church. Their intrinsic worth has been overlooked, and consequently, they have been ignored, they have been refused access to the sacraments, and they have even been marginalized from God-ordained community that the Body of Christ is to provide. An individual’s value, whether they are at the cognitive level of a toddler or of a genius, is nothing that can be added to or subtracted from: it rests solely on the basis of God’s breath of life, his holy image (Lewis 116). It is something that spans across all of humanity; every individual must be treated with the utmost respect: if they are not, not only is their humanity marred, but the sacred image of the Lord is defiled. This factor should dispel every air of discomfort, indifference, and most certainly pride, and should establish and enforce full inclusion of those with special needs in the body of the Church. In all of your future interactions with those with and without disabilities, always remember Jesus’ words, “let all the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

Works Cited in Thesis 

Admin, Gardens. “Oklahoma Disability Statistics.” Oklahoma Department of  Rehabilitation Services, 13 Aug. 2018. 

Cross, Richard. “Aquinas on Physical Impairment: Human Nature and Original Sin.” Harvard Theological Review, vol. 110, no. 03, 2017, pp. 317–338. 

Edwards, June. “Children with Learning Difficulties and the Sacraments.” Children with Learning Difficulties, 1994, pp. 70-81. The Way, 17 Jan. 2019. 

Eiesland, Nancy L. “Sacramental Bodies.” Journal of Religion, Disability & Health, vol. 13, no. 3-4, 2009, pp. 236–246. 

“Five Statistics We Can’t Ignore: Disability and The Gospel.” The Banquet Network, 4” Sept. 2018. 

Greenberg, Ben. “Inclusion Is a Jewish Imperative.” My Jewish Learning, 8 Apr. 2015. 

Hoekema, Anthony A. Created In God’s Image. 1st ed., Eerdmans, 1994. Print. 

“Jewish Values and Disability Rights.” Religious Action Center, 3 Dec. 2015. 

Lewis, C. S. The Four Loves. HarperOne, 2017. Print. 

Moss, Candida R. “Disability in the New Testament.” Bible Odyssey, 1 Oct. 2014, www.bibleodyssey.org/en/tools/video-gallery/d/disability-in-the-nt 

“Orthodox Theological Perspectives on Disability.” World Council of Churches, 21 Oct. 2015.

Reinders, Hans. Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008. Print.

“Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics and Statistics.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public

Life Project, 11 May 2015. The Bible. New International Version. Biblica, 2011. Bible Gateway.

White, George. People with Disabilities within Christian Community. 2014.

Yong, Amos. The Bible, Disability, and the Church: a New Vision of the People of God. Eerdmans, 2011. Print.

Our Governor’s daughter has a beautiful heart. However, if you just read the article and don’t take action, you just might break it. Natalie prayerfully prepared her thesis hoping God would use it to impact our community . . . to change us. We have an opportunity to become different, to do things differently—in our churches and our schools. Both entities of God’s Kingdom need to reconsider our positions to make sure we’re in alignment with the challenging words of this teenager. I challenge you to think about what your next steps could be to help make amazing life altering changes to our ministries.  Then #GoDoBe.

Written by Teresa Goodnight

The Wiggles. Most people who have had a child in the last three decades have had at least a small dose of “Fruit Salad.” As the Wiggles have said, it is “Yummy. Yummy.” This group, launched in Australia by Anthony Field, sets most of life to funny little tunes for singing and dancing. Their shows are full of energy. The kids are up singing and dancing. It’s truly a big, super duper dose of fun. They sing about allergies, play games with song and dance, and employ the crazy antics of a singing pirate, Captain Feathersword. Plus, there’s Henry the Octopus, Wags the dog, and Dorothy the Dinosaur.

Our Wiggles journey has spread from NY to LA, because our daughter enjoys them so much. We dress her up in the standard Emma Wiggles garb with her bow, yellow shirt and a tutu. Our daughter really loves them all. Lachy delights with a piano, a little gymnastics, and a whole lot of singing and dancing. Simon dances and sings a nice little rendition of Simon Says in a playful game. Anthony? He sings while playing his guitar and even his bagpipes leading the fun and rhetoric of the show.

What’s been incredibly interesting to us is the large portion of the audience full of differently abled children, who are so excited to be there. At the show in Los Angeles, we sat next to a young autistic boy, who clapped the entire show with utter delight. At the show in Tulsa, the crowd was just full of children who couldn’t speak, walk or really communicate well—except there was no disguising their love for the Wiggles. The young boy next to us was 13. He was getting a little impatient waiting for them, but was in such a happy place for the entire show. In fact, of all the children’s shows we have seen—this was by far the most diverse audience all united in their love of giggles with the Wiggles.

After interviewing Eastland Assembly of God about their ministry for handicapped children and adults, we have come to understand the amazing appreciation of musical performances to the majority of the differently abled children and even adults. The expressive singing and dancing with the colorful attire seems to be the exact right mix for most of these kiddos. It’s a great program to watch to gain ideas for expanding church programs to teach these kids about Christ. It’s not complicated. In fact, there are likely lots of teens and even adults in the congregation, who would love to get a chance to express their sillier side with song and dance while making a difference in these precious lives.

We were able to see a young girl, maybe 13, participating in the “Make a Wish Foundation” program. I’m not sure of her exact condition, although most children participating in this program are not likely to live much longer. She had her sensory headset on to keep the music from being too loud for her little ears. She danced with amazing joy, even once clapping her hands with utter delight in a super happy moment she experienced. I snapped a few photos from my seat with tears running down my face. It was just the sweetest moment to share with her.

Sometimes being silly, having a little fun in your heart and sharing some singing and dancing is all you need to bring delight to any audience. It removes the walls put up by differences—mental, physical, financial or political (OK. I am hoping there!), It is an experiential reminder to us all that within each of our differences lies the joyful heart of our Father in Heaven. As Natalie Stitt reminds us of in her thesis, we are ALL made in God’s image. When you’re at a Wiggles show, it’s really a living, breathing example of what doing life together can be when you open your hearts and minds and take down the perceived barriers.

#GoDoBe

Written by Mary L. Williams

My widowed, 80-year-old mother used to say, “I had to help the elderly person in the grocery store.” She remained active and healthy until her mid-eighties. Her wisdom and understanding of God’s Word was astounding. Her years in the church and her divine encounters through prayer and fasting became a comfort to many, both young and old. She learned to trust in Jesus Christ and His finished, atoning work on the cross. My mom was certainly an overseer in the church and in her neighborhood (as well as an ordained minister). Her spiritual enlightenment in Christ came through years of growth in wisdom, knowledge and understanding of God’s word, purpose and plan. As an elder, the imperative is to help others grow and avoid pitfalls by sharing wisdom and experiences—to oversee as a shepherd to a flock. 

Are elders trivialized in the modern church structure? Young people seem to be recognized more as leaders of the church and needed for expansion of ministry. However, to trivialize a contribution an elder (or the elderly) can make in the modern church structure is indeed a tragic mistake. Statistics site that in American Christian congregations, older adults consider religion more important than adults 39 years of age or younger. Young adults are 10 percent or more less likely to attend weekly worship services and pray on a consistent basis. Millennials tend to give financially to purposes or causes to fight for more than to organized churches or religion. Therefore, the question becomes can millennials substitute for the sagacious directives of the silver hair, laugh lines around the eyes, un-botoxed foreheads of men and women who are proven faithful to family, friends and the church? Absolutely not. We need both. 

Paul needed young Timothy in furtherance of the gospel, yet, Timothy needed Paul as a spiritual father and instructor on “How” to establish the church and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Timothy was admonished by the Apostle Paul to ​“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity (love), in spirit, in faith, in purity.” I Timothy 4:12.​ Paul’s advice to the church overall is to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and to wait before ministering to develop in ministry. He is not time specific about age, but more so about being conscience of the time for development before ministering.

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”

(James 5:14)

In the previous biblical examples, the young and the old were able to mutually work together to effect change necessary for the Body of Christ to exist today. Therefore, the question is not “Do we need elders or should the young and energetic (not restless) lead in the magnitude we’re experiencing today?” The vital question may be “Are elders discipling the young and are the young receiving discipleship?” In both cases, the giving and receiving must be done with love and mutual respect of each other’s place and calling in the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, call for the elders of the church and do not despise the young. Teach, preach and encourage all people to prayerfully embrace their season of purpose with meekness to the glory of God. There is no such thing as retirement in the Bible while we are still on the earth. To be finished means to no longer exist in this life in view of biblical standards. At 80 years old, Caleb told Joshua “Give me my Mountain!” (Joshua 14:12) Like Caleb, know your place and occupy it with love, wisdom, knowledge and humble dignity to fulfill God’s mission to build His Kingdom in the earth. He will give you strength in times of weakness (Prophet Elijah outran a chariot; 1 Kings 18:46) and courage with provision in times of trials and every season of your life (in the wilderness Hagar said “ . . . in this place God sees me and cares for me,” Genesis 16:13).

The Holy Spirit can guide us through the ever-changing trends in our society and church programming. God has already set the structure through the five-fold ministry and the gifts and administrations of the Holy Spirit. Young and elders alike are subject to God’s ordained structure to achieve holistic growth in Christ. And when it comes to defining “old,” I agree with the person who said, “Old is always 15 years older than my current age.”



Senior Moments, sponsored by Visiting Angels
918.609.5600 Tulsa or 918.333.7400 Bartlesville
visitingangels.com/greencountry


Written by Teresa Goodnight

Natalie Stitt’s article has already touched so many. We’ve had families thanking us for approaching the subject both for schools and for churches. It’s opened my mind beyond where God started me. I pray with this little story God inspires you to move into action. It’s really that simple.

Forming a ministry for those who are differently abled is incredibly difficult. Right?

Wrong.

Few things could be further from the truth. Our two-part series with Natalie’s senior thesis challenges us all on our role as the Church (and as Christian Schools) to go into the community and seek out those with disabilities to bring them to God.

Job 29:15 (NLT) says, “I served as eyes for the blind and feet for the lame.” The Bible is full of references to God’s heart for those with any kind of physical or mental needs. However, many of us have unknowingly created a world where they don’t seem to belong. Does that even sound right when you read it? Not in a Church called to reach the least of these, it doesn’t.

There are scattered churches in our area, who have made wonderful efforts towards reaching these souls for Christ. However, as Natalie referenced in her thesis, the needs of those with a handicap of some kind aren’t really “special.” They have needs just like any of us—to be loved, included, cared for, part of the Body of Christ. So many people believe a lie Satan puts in their minds that ministering to those who are crippled in some way is difficult. Eastland Assembly is one church who has proven otherwise for 26 years now.

“Eastland’s ministry started with puppets at Hissom Memorial Center (a residential training facility for mentally disabled children).” shared LaDonna Harper, who now has the reigns for the ministry with her husband, Al Harper. She went on, “The church launched the ministry with Jason Couch, one little member. It grew quite quickly by word of mouth. It has been steady ever since.”

Jason was an autistic boy. He was also the pastor’s son. If we think about the newfound awareness for autism we have these days—it’s better than it was, but still very misunderstood by most. So, 26 years ago, it was really a shot in the dark to begin this ministry. LaDonna said, “Since then, we have 150–170 people each Sunday who attend the service. That includes caregivers. We have about 100 people or so with special needs, but we also have the 75 or so caregivers. That’s a captive audience, because the caregivers bring them to ­services at their request.” LaDonna continued, “Most of the ministry on Sunday mornings for the service is done with songs. You talk about pure praise. It is just beautiful.” When she mentioned the caregivers attending services, being fed the Gospel, it even further opened my heart as to why this ministry is so critical to a church in their efforts to reach the world for Christ.

LaDonna said, “There are separate services but sometimes we bring both groups together with our regular service. Those in the 0–21 category attend the regular children’s and teen programs. They would have someone from our church with them full time if they needed someone from the church or they might have their own caregiver. The adults have their own class.” In Eastland’s program, the parents get a needed break with their children being so well cared for in the classes. Just a little extra attention really ministers to the entire family when you think about it. All parents know parenting is incredible, but a little break goes a long way. When a child has a disability, that can be even more true. It’s really a ministry to so many different people when you think about it.

LaDonna explained, “We use the ‘Action Bible’ chronologically with the Bible stories. It looks like a comic book, but it’s amazing. We just go through it with them.” LaDonna said, “Sunday school at 9:15 and 10:00 service so that they can have their meds at noon. That’s about the biggest bit of advice we have, because everything else is just holding a regular kind of service. That timing gives them room to get back to their facilities and homes for the medication.”

One other tip LaDonna had was to skip the donuts. LaDonna laughed, “We used to have a larger Sunday school when I brought donuts. It did get them out of bed, but the sugar affects their behavior so much. That leaves their staff dealing with those impacts when they get back. So, we steer clear of the donuts now to create the right situation for everyone.”

LaDonna shared, “We have parties for holidays like the 4th of July and of course we have a big Christmas party. We give them gifts. Sometimes that’s the only gift they get. Many are wards of the state. They are aged from their early 20’s to 75 or so. Actually, half of our congregation has been here the whole 26 years.”

We give them gifts. Sometimes that’s the only gift they get. 

I was in awe of what LaDonna was doing. However, realizing she had ZERO training in special needs ministry or education was the biggest surprise. LaDonna said, “We decided to fill in when the team left the church to try to help other churches start ministries like ours. I would come in and sing, but I didn’t really think about being part of the ministry. My husband is an engineer. We just never thought about this ministry. It’s been an amazing journey. Most people that come see them in worship can’t watch without crying. My mother in law was Presbyterian and is now Baptist. She just sits down and cries at the service. It’s something to see.”

LaDonna shared, “There are many times when you go through struggles in life. Sundays are more like salvation for my husband and I. I know that Jesus truly is our salvation, but there’s so much love
in this service; it just gives you a peace
for the rest of the things going on in
your life.”

It’s quite beautiful and contrary to popular belief, quite simple. That’s really the message here. Of course, there will be challenges once in a while, like with any ministry. However, if your church isn’t doing it—then maybe God is calling you to be the one to get the ball rolling? Maybe? It may not be anything you’ve ever even thought about before reading this article. However, if you drop in on Eastland Assembly for one service and take a tour, it might ignite your heart with fire you never even knew were burning inside of you. God certainly lit LaDonna and Al with a fiery passion, equipping them with exactly what they needed to bless these families. #GoDoBe

LaDonna Harper invites people from other churches to come check out their services to get ideas and inspiration on what you might be able to do at your church. Their door is always open. She said, “I’m not worried if someone starts another ministry that we lose attendees. If the new location is closer to them, then it’s better for them. This is about what’s best for them.” Stop by one Sunday. See if this might be the God has prepared in advance for YOU to do.

Dr. Pfanstiel operates Broken Arrow Pediatrics, which has provided care to children and families for decades now. As a parent who specifically sought out their office due to their reputation as doctors, Christians, and fantastic care—I really wanted to share their hearts with our readers. When you have an appointment with Dr. Pfanstiel, you come out with great healthcare but also nuggets of wisdom to help you be a better parent. Dr. Pfanstiel shared, “Part of what I bring into my practice is that I try to impart rather than teach from experiences. Dr. Terry and I both try to connect with our patients and their families. We probably both do it in a little bit different way, but we want to connect.” That connection demonstrated in their practice funnels into each patient’s life in a multitude of ways. So, now for a few of those nuggets!

I asked Dr. Pfanstiel his thoughts on the main ingredients for raising our children right in a Godly home. Without hesitation, he answered, “The key, I believe, to being a good parent in all cases is being there, being present with them in their lives and activities.” Dr. Pfanstiel emphasized the importance of prioritizing that “presence” for our kids and how that demonstrates our love for them. We all know it’s easy to get wrapped up in life, careers, and mile long to do lists just needed to get into bed. It’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in things that seem important (and maybe are important), but making time for things that matter plays a critical role in children’s lives. Sometimes we don’t realize how much it actually DOES mean to them.

“The key, I believe, to being a good parent in all cases is being there, being present with them in their lives and activities.”

As a busy doctor, Dr. Pfanstiel knows the demands of career as well as most. Being on call, needed in an emergency—these are just commonplace occurrences in his field taking you away from the family. He shared, “There was a movie several years back that really impacted me. It was based in West Virginia— ‘October Sky.’ The young boy in the movie built rockets in his backyard. He always invited his dad to come to his things, but his dad was a coal miner and couldn’t make it. Finally, when he was getting ready to make his big rocket launch, his father took off work and showed up. It was such a meaningful moment for the son for his dad to be there. Something in me just broke as I watched it.” Dr. Pfanstiel started to carve more of his own time out for his children. He continues to do that with his grandchildren today, as it was evident from all of the smiling family photographs. It’s time invested that builds relationships that last.

Dr. Pfanstiel and his wife, Roberta, raised 6 children. They have children in all sorts of meaningful careers making a difference in the world—doctor, lawyer, teacher, IT, police officer/military and Philip, business manager for the practice, who arranged the interview for me. Really, those kinds of paths for their children are evidence of the kind of character and walk with God their parents had. They learn from what they see. Dr. Pfanstiel shared, “We have to understand that everything we do and say is picked up. We don’t realize it sometimes. Just the gifts that they are (children), we believers would believe they are gifts from God. Each of us have our own experiences with our own background, our parents, our family, our heritage, our history that affect us. Those experiences reflect who we are and how we respond or act.” That’s certainly evident in the Pfanstiel children with all of their careers being impactful to society. They are positions making a difference in the lives of others. I wonder where they learned such traits? Dr. Pfanstiel gives all the credit to his wife Roberta, but it’s easy to tell that a great set of parents making right choices can make a difference in the future of their children. I agree. Being there for our kids just matters to them. It’s not always possible, but purposefully trying to make that time is incredibly impactful when you make it happen. Set your heart and mind on a mission to carve out time—plant those seeds, and watch your children grow!

Dr. Pfanstiel encourages families to think a little bit about just how busy they get. He said, “One thing we did, I would encourage people to do, I see a lot of these kids that are every quarter in some kind of event out there. I think that’s too much. The parent is just run, run, run. I think you need to have more time. We tried to limit our kids to one sport a year.” It’s pretty easy to fall into the “soccer mom” curse with kids in multiple seasons, multiple sports and little time to breathe as a family. His sage advice always makes me stop and listen whether we’re visiting him in the office as a patient or talking at an event. Maybe that’s because his family has such a legacy.

Dr. Pfanstiel has been in a solo practice since 1983 in the Tulsa/Broken Arrow area. Broken Arrow Pediatrics has been here for almost 13 years with Dr. Terry being with him every step of the way. The Pfanstiels landed in Tulsa after what felt like a direct call from God. While running a successful practice in North Carolina, his wife Roberta came to him and said that she felt God was calling them to move for Bible school at Rhema. Dr. Pfanstiel didn’t really hesitate. He made arrangements, packed their bags and headed west. He gives a lot of spiritual leadership credit to his wife, which fits with his history. “We were raised Lutheran. My wife came from a Presbyterian background. My mother was a spiritual leader then as is my wife now. I’m really thankful for that.” It’s clear that Dr. Pfanstiel has always appreciated the role of Godly women in both the household and the workplace. It definitely shows.

Dr. Pfanstiel said, “My wife survived six kids spending an hour or two with the Lord every morning. She says that’s what has taken her through. I’d leave at 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning but it was so important to know she was home with the kids. I didn’t worry about my kids.” “We both tried to be there for our kids events. It was an advantage of having a solo practice. I could say that I wasn’t working on a Thursday, because I had a soccer game.” Each of the kids, as adults, have been appreciative of the fact that we tried to be at their events.

As a father, he learned to balance between being the provider and being present in his own children’s lives. “I think the highlights are that along the way I looked at different avenues, but I wanted to be free to do it my way.” said Dr. Pfanstiel. That translated to having free time to spend with his kids when he needed it. It also included being able to pray with patients or discuss the Lord as was appropriate for the situation. Dr. Pfanstiel said, “Dr. Terry and I, I think we practice good medicine. Dr. Terry prays without everyone. I pray with some. Sometimes I’ll ask the older children that if I pray for them that they also pray for me. It just delights me.“ His dedication to following God, being a present father and husband, as well as play out in all that he touches.

Dr. Pfanstiel encourages family time for his patients. He said, “I try to encourage meals together. My wife kept the family together. I didn’t get home some nights until 7:30 at night and she would hold dinner for me so that we could have time together as a family. Those are events and moments that are kind of checklist, but I try to emphasize the things that I thought were good to families when I’m with my patients.”

In their home life, it seems Dr. Pfanstiel would come home to take on a role akin to Richard Pryor in “The Toy.” He shared, “I came home and played with the kids. Roberta would get us all packed up and ready, taking care of everything. I’m so thankful we were two. I’m so thankful she stuck with me.” It was clear their family had their own secret sauce in how they worked—but the key takeaways have lessons for all of the families in his care.

We were lucky to have one of Dr. Pfanstiel’s sons, Philip, in the room with us for the interview. Philip is a teacher as well as the practice’s business manager to name a few of his many hats. Philip recounted his life with his mom and dad working to make the kids a priority. He said, “I was always impressed by how they (office managers) would always get him out of the room (when he was with a patient). Now that I’m his business manager, I’m realizing that was a big deal.” Philip went on, “My parents always had time for us. They came to our events. We ate meals together. We went to church every single time the doors were open. We went to Sunday School. We went to church. We had wisdom searches or devotions on a routine basis.” It was easy to see what an impact his family’s decisions had made on him as a child and even as a father today.

Philip shared about how he and his siblings learned such valuable lessons from their parents. They really exemplified a life with Christ. Philip said, “As a father, the two things that have kinda stuck with me: Children spell love T-I-M-E and more is caught than taught.” He went on, “My parents walked the walk. They are both people of integrity. We saw how they reached out to people. We saw how they brought people into the home. We saw how they would give. My dad’s a doctor and he’s driving an old beat up car. He’s not gonna spend money on a car when he has kids. He’s gonna take care of us. You do what God’s called you to do. In his case, it meant giving up a good practice in Charlotte, NC to come to Rhema.” I heard a play by play list of exactly what discipling your children in Christ looks like in action.

Dr. Pfanstiel shared, “We built this practice with newborn babies. We would work at the local hospitals and get to know parents. Meet them. Try to address them and encourage them.” He continued, “I am where I’m supposed to be. I do try to touch father’s lives. I try to ask them what they think. I really try to let them know this is a special gift from God (being a father).” That’s my heart: Fathers, families, the Lord, giving kids goals to go for, being there for them.” He ended with this, “God doesn’t make any carbon copies. Everybody is unique. Everybody’s got a purpose. Everybody’s got a story and a history. Everybody’s got a reason to live. I see it that way and life’s special.”

I couldn’t agree more, as Broken Arrow Pediatrics is an incredible practice with two of the best pediatricians I know. They do their jobs with honor, while following Christ and imparting wisdom and experience to the families they see. They are about ministering. They are about families. They are living discipleship experts taking what God has put in them and sharing it with others. I can’t imagine a better purpose than that!

#GoDoBe

Written by Mike Henry Sr. – Follower of One

A disciple is a learner. But when we think of learning and learners today, we draw a different picture than the one Jesus intended. Classrooms are a modern invention. For ages, formal education was for the few. Before public education, most learning came by doing. We apprenticed or we followed a master to learn a trade. We did what our parents did. We learned how to grow crops or make furniture by watching and helping our parents.

Great Commission

Jesus last command in Matthew is often called the Great Commission.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 ESV

When Jesus issued this command, I doubt many heard him say we needed to create a curriculum and start holding classes. We don’t need to pursue accreditation. The two steps to making disciples are baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that he commanded. Teaching then was modeling.

Disciples Choose

When our children are young, we can tell them things. We can guide their thought processes and encourage them to see things from our perspective. But as children age, they want to make decisions for themselves. After a while, everyone chooses their own path. The people who work with us, or even for us, are volunteers. In the end, we all have a choice.

Jesus came, suffered and died so we could keep that choice. We forfeited it at the fall. But God sent Jesus to make sure we could all choose. Imagine what we would do if we all saw God in all of his glory. Once Adam ate the apple, he became afraid. God remains veiled so we are free to choose. Jesus died to give us a choice. We can follow him and receive eternal life or we can choose our own way.

Choices are also influenced by our resources. Jesus said it was more difficult for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to inherit the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, and Luke 18:25). The more money we have the more choices we have. Since we live in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, most people we work with and interact with every day have the resources to choose their own solutions. Asking becomes the big phobia. We don’t want to look like we don’t know, so we make our own decisions and we live with the consequences.

God designed his strategy around how we model our faith. In Acts 1:8, the resurrected Jesus said,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts 1:8 ESV

As We Go

Many consider the above to be a command, but I think it is a statement of fact. The “Go” at the beginning of the Great Commission in some translations can also be translated “as you go.” When Jesus tells us we will be witnesses, he’s telling us as we go, we will testify to the truth of Jesus. Our lives will be on display everywhere we go. We’re God’s only marketing strategy.

We all have sincerity meters. We sense when someone isn’t genuine or when they have an ulterior motive. And you’ve heard sayings like “Talk is cheap,” and “monkey see, monkey do.” How we live matters more than what we say. God created us that way and he designed the strategy (modeling) for identifying and developing his chosen people.

Model Faith

To make disciples we must model our faith. We live like we believe Jesus and our faith is on display for others. Both baptizing and teaching require modeling. People won’t trust Jesus or follow him until they see how trusting Jesus works. They don’t want to look stupid and most people object to being told they’re wrong or “lost.” When we live dependent on Jesus, he causes others to question and choose.

Jesus is the model. He chose to come to earth and suffer and die in our place. He came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45). When we model Jesus our life will cause others to question. Our light shines before others so they may see our good works and glorify our Father (Matt 5:16). Our modeling becomes the first step to making disciples in any context.


Mike Henry Sr. is the Founder and CEO of Follower Of One, a ministry designed to mobilize Christians in the marketplace. Get started by taking the Marketplace Mission Trip.


“Our mission is to provide the best product at the best price that gives our clients the best value. It’s pretty simple,” said John Wyrrick of John Wyrrick, LLC Custom Homes and Remodel. Given a minute, I might have said the exact same thing to describe his company. John and his team have had their hands on one of my homes, my sister’s home, my best friend’s home and her parent’s home just to name a few. If there was a nit-picky request to be made—I guarantee one of this crew made it. Two of the houses were sold several years later—above market and within weeks of listing. The other two, if they ever part with them, will do the same. There’s no question. I suppose selling a house within a few years for both a profit and in record time, that sort of confirms the mission.

Having built, sold, and remodeled homes, I can attest to the costly casualties when you pick the wrong team—costly in time, money and quality. Mark Twain was spot on with the concept that the difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and lightning.” When you’re talking about builders and remodelers, make no mistake—they can look similar on the outside, but the difference in their core can make or break your project (and YOU!). 

Having worked with John, his character has always been evident in the way he handles his business. He and his wife, Pam, built this business while raising four children in South Tulsa. Attending Church on the Move, they also host a Bible study group in their home for their friends. The Wyrrick’s desire to follow Christ flows from their home life to their business.

John said, “We believe in listening to the client. We try to keep people in a good and enjoyable place through a challenging process. We do weekly meetings to be completely transparent as we go. We do fixed cost or a cost-plus model, whichever makes the client more comfortable.” Since John ends up friends with most of his clients, he really enjoys getting to know them in the process. 

John has worked hard to vet his crew over the years. He said, “We strive for the best service we can give. Our team knows the client is in charge. We know and understand that it is an honor and privilege to serve them.” 

John said, “As a father, I tried to stay focused on our kids. We remained very selective in our projects, building houses from several thousand to over 10,000 square feet for carefully chosen clients. With the kids grown, we have time to offer our higher level of service to a larger number of clients. It’s pretty exciting, really.” He continued, “When your standards are high for what you want to deliver, you don’t accept more jobs than you can handle. In this business, you can’t. We have been doing this for 26 years with new homes and over 36 years all in. So, we’re committed to doing what we say we will do.”

John’s design team also works with clients to prepare and spec out the job together. John said, “We can use the client’s plan or we offer complete design services as well. Pre-construction budgets let our clients know exactly where they are prior to starting. We try to eliminate variables and changes up front so the actual process is more enjoyable. When clients know exactly what they are getting and what it will cost, they end up really satisfied with the results. That’s a win-win.”

John Wyrrick, LLC Custom Homes and Remodel is ready to work with you to see what it will take to make your dreams a reality. Give them a call and get on their schedule for a consultation today!





Written by Teresa Goodnight

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

Proverbs 22:6, New Living Translation (NLT)

I attended a basics of Christianity class with my four-year old daughter at Jenks First Baptist one Sunday evening. It was fascinating to watch her listen so intently. I had the opportunity to explain our faith with the teacher as he went. The event moved me to tears, because outside of our Bible readings at home—that was the first time in her life that we had the opportunity to experience this kind of class together in a church setting. Why was that? It struck me funny. Why hadn’t we had that opportunity before? Was it not a good idea?

Before I finished my thoughts, I saw my daughter’s hand shoot straight up to answer a question. Honestly, I didn’t even hear the question. She must’ve been the youngest one in the class, but to my surprise—he called on her. I was a bit petrified. We didn’t discuss it. What would she say? Wow. She nailed it. I realized things we taught her before armed her with the answer like attending youth church, reading her Bible for Kids (It’s the YouVersion Kid’s Bible with activities—you have GOT to get the free app if you don’t have it for phones and tablets!) So, some of what we had been doing was working! It’s nice when that happens. However, the class really challenged me that I was not understanding how much “Jesus teaching” she was ready to absorb. She left wanting more of it. So did I.

Somehow, the way we do church separately, I was missing some great opportunities to strengthen her. It just never occurred to me. Part of that is because most churches keep everyone in the right box. Married. Single. Kids. Teens. It’s kind of a given that it’s a right thing to do to group together on these levels. However, it shouldn’t be the ONLY ways we are engaging with our kids during church I think. (case in point!)

Why weren’t there more opportunities to engage together in discipling our children hand in hand with the church? I wondered, have some of the churches forgotten (with me!) how much these kids are ready to absorb? Are there studies out there showing kids learn better in environments with their parents sometimes? Maybe we should mix more of these opportunities into their path on purpose?

In that short time, we took the kids from 0 to 60 on the “What’s this Christian stuff all about” gage. From Adam and Eve and the fall to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We tackled it point by point with a nice picture we drew together. Jesus was God’s son. We drew out on paper diagrams to show that no matter how good we are as men and women—that we fall short of God’s perfect standard. We talked clearly about God coming to us because we could never bridge the gap. We only connected to God through grace, accepting Jesus Christ as our savior. I’d bet that many of the parents learned (or were reminded) of a few things along the way as well. After all, those basics like salvation by grace and not by works are some of the things that trip us up most! My spirit was on fire with the concept that felt so new to me.

Then, just few Sundays later, we had a blended service at church for families. My daughter came into the service with us. She sang worship songs with us. I was so thankful to God—sharing worship with my husband and my baby girl. This moment praising God together was seared into my heart forever. When they played “Raise a Hallelujah” for the Fall’s Creek video segment, she sang loud enough to be heard for rows around us. Everyone around smiled. She fell in love with the song in the Easter play at Victory Christian Center. My husband has been very intentional about filling her with great Christian music, and it is working. This big people song pierced the heart of my little girl. She said, “Mom—I totally know why they used that song when Jesus rose from the dead that day in that play.”

As if God needed to poke me harder on the matter, during worship she whispered in my ear, “Mommy—I’m sorry I kicked at your arm in the car.” She was frustrated at something in the car, and from her car seat reached as far as she could with her foot to shove my arm. She had been immediately disciplined of course, but in the midst of worshipping our God—His Spirit was alive and active with her. She whispered again, “I’m not going to be mean anymore either.” She hugged me more times than I can count. I held her as the worship continued. We swayed back and forth in the presence of our almighty King together. It was such a beautiful moment of confession, repentance and learning in the presence of our God. My heart once again just couldn’t contain both my joy and my thoughts on why this interaction was so important.

When worship ended, with a blank piece of paper and crayons given to us at the door for her, she began to draw. The sermon began. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to her doodles. I looked down about 15 minutes later. There it was. She recreated the image from our basics of our faith lesson several weeks back. She drew the chasm between us and God with Jesus connecting it. She drew the cross. She drew the tomb. She even included the arrows going in and out of the tomb. She whispered to me and explained every bit of it. She didn’t need to explain it. I knew exactly what it was. I looked at my husband. Tears filled my eyes again. God had my full attention on the matter.

Watching God working in her heart and growing her into His child—it took my breath away. In some ways it boosted my own faith, watching the sweetness of Him moving in her in ways she understood. It felt right to be there with her. From here forward, I know these kinds of interactions need to be part of her world. They need to be part of my world. God absolutely wanted me to see all that He could do. He wanted me to experience a glimpse into what He experiences when we learn things, when we respond to His spirit, when we flat out nail it.

So, why am I sharing this story with you?

I was reminded in a beautiful way, one I won’t soon forget, how important sharing these kinds of experiences with our children can be. My hope is that by telling you about our experience, that you will seek out your own experiences like these. I don’t think they are always going to just happen. I think we need to be intentional with them. You can even help your church start offering them.

There is power in a basic discipleship class, teaching our children the foundations of our faith. It meant more doing it together—for both of us. She paid attention more. She was eager to show me what she remembered and learned. It was Jesus-centered discipleship with my baby girl. And, best of all? It was really simple to make happen.

What kinds of action steps did we take?

Well, we decided to dedicate a lot of space this issue to discipling our children. We sought out some examples of that kind of discipleship to share with you.

Other steps? We started a new LifeGroup (Bible Study) at our church inviting parents and children to take the journey together for 6-8 weeks. The focus? Discipleship 101 with our kiddos. It’s a great way to teach the children. It’s also a safe way to help newer believers to become solid in the basics of their faith with their children. It’s one easy way parents can grow with their kids in the basics of our faith in a safe, fun environment.

What actions could you take? Whatever you do, don’t just put it off. I’m a full time mom with a high maintenance rugrat. What we put off until tomorrow—well, that tomorrow becomes next week, next month, next year. These kids are only little for so long. They only embrace such interactions with excitement for so long. If you need help? Send me a note at teresa@communityspiritmagazine.com and I’ll sign you up for a class we are putting together to teach others these basics in a way they can share them!

If you’re already engaged? Incredible! Send your tips on disciplining children to us. We’d love to publish and share more ideas! It’s too important for their walk with Christ to miss the chance while we have it.