Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' (Matthew 25:44, 45)
I was called to be a missionary when I was a small child. In our church the missionaries were the rock stars. As soon as I graduated from Bible college, I was eager to leave for parts unknown to preach the gospel. As I waited to hear from God regarding which exotic, foreign country I should go to, life happened. I earned degrees, taught general and special education students for decades, got married, and raised two great kids. Before my 50th birthday I became very ill and was hospitalized. While I was on my sick bed reflecting on the past, tears sprang to my eyes. I realized the call on my life to be a missionary was just a child’s dream. In that moment, I felt the touch of the Good Shepherd and knew Jesus was near. In His touch was the knowledge that I was indeed called to be a missionary and I had been working on the mission field all along. He revealed to me that my mission field was special needs students and their families. I began to understand I Thessalonians 5:24 more clearly, The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.
In my years on the mission field, I have greatly enjoyed teaching and ministering to exceptional students and their families. God used the knowledge I gleaned as a teacher and administrator in the public school system to open the first Champions Club outside of the Lakewood Church. Currently only 1% of the churches in the United States have a ministry for students with special needs. The Champions Club was created to meet the unique spiritual, physical, sensory, mental, and emotional needs of exceptional students. Pastor Craig Johnson is the founder of the ministry and I am the Regional Director for the ministry. There are now
Champions Clubs all over the world. God provided me with the opportunity to co-write the Champions Curriculum with Pastor Johnson. The curriculum makes the gospel accessible to everyone including exceptional students. It teaches all students how to begin and grow in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ and how to share His love with others. The curriculum has a wealth of activities created to enhance the communication and social skills of students.
Last year my daughter asked me to take a mission trip with her to The Passion Center for Children in Malawi, Africa. She had gone on a similar trip as a sophomore in college and it changed her life. She began talking about these amazing people who were filled with the joy of the Lord despite their great need for food, shelter, and medical care. I couldn’t imagine such a place. I felt God’s call to go, but really wasn’t sure what I could do for these wonderful people in this great country.
We arrived at The Passion Center for Children in Malawi, Africa on July 9, 2015. The Passion Center for Children was established ten years ago to rescue, redeem, and restore orphaned children and their communities impacted by AIDS, disease, and poverty. The staff seeks to meet the spiritual, educational, and practical needs of the whole child living within the whole community for their whole life. They do this by sharing God’s love with others and meeting the practical needs of the individuals who live in the community. They provide medicine for widows and orphans, medical training for the individuals who serve them, shelter for the homeless, and the staff invests in the spiritual leaders of the next generation through their pastoral care program. Finally, they pay for all educational fees and tuition for the children without parents to attend school.
On my third night in Malawi, I was honored to be able to attend a banquet honoring ten amazing young men and women who were orphaned as children but are either attending or have graduated from college. This was an incredible event because in Malawi less than 15% of all students finish secondary school and only about 1% go to college. God received all the glory that night as I listened to story after story of His astonishing grace and the dedication of the staff at the Passion Center to minister to these individuals. At every turn, the Passion Center has been blessed by God because they are practicing the true religion. James 1:27 states, Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. They bless those the world considers the least of these, but in God’s eyes they are truly the greatest.
It is very evident that God was doing great things at and through the Passion Center in Malawi, but I wondered if God wanted to do more…something new. I didn’t fully understand what I believe God had in mind until I heard Brian’s Story the next day.
Brian was a young man who lived in a village near the Passion Center. If he lived in our country, he would have probably been diagnosed as Autistic with a language delay and a processing disorder. The pastor described to me how difficult the evenings were for Brian. The darker it got outside, the more agitated he became.
In his village, no one truly understood what was wrong with Brian. They thought he was possessed with a demon or just brain damaged. They didn’t know what to do for him or with him. One evening many months ago, he became confused and wandered onto someone else’s property. The owner of the property, thinking he was an intruder, beat him and Brain hasn’t been seen since. It is widely believed that Brian was beaten to death. I have no doubt that if someone had provided information to the village people regarding disabilities and accommodations and worked with Brian to learn how to self soothe in an appropriate way, he would be alive today.
For Brian and the many children who are in need of special need programs and services to live and thrive in Malawi, I believe God will open the door to establish a Champions club (special needs ministry) in Malawi Africa.
Here are some additional stories and pictures of students who are currently in need of special support in Malawi, Africa.
This is the lovely Priscilla. She is six years old and was born with a physical birth defect. She is unable to use her right arm. She enjoys school and learning.
Grace, with the beautiful face, wants to advance in school, but it is difficult for her because she is learning disabled and there are precious few resources available for her overcome her challenges.
Naomi is a precious angel. She is royalty in God’s kingdom. She was born HIV positive and needs medical care and a quality education. She loves books.