You will love our guest blogger, Katie Garvert. She works with special needs kiddos and families at her church. You will be touched by her words.
With faith, hope, and Love,
Lori & Becky
People have said to me, “Working with the special needs population is a special calling.” Absolutely, but it is not more or less special than anyone else and the calling God has placed on them to be a construction worker, homeschool mom, worship team leader or any other occupation.
We all have special callings.
God gently nudged me to step into the special needs world once I spent a summer with little six-year-old Evan. He was enrolled in summer school the first year I signed up to volunteer. He had Cerebral Palsy and took his first steps that summer. That was the moment where I distinctly remembered watching a new world come unlocked for someone. I took walking for granted and Evan showed me perspective and blessed me by sharing his joy. I have been an advocate for this special people group ever since.
I am humbled to walk alongside this special population who challenge me in my faith daily. In the past two years I have spent a great amount of time reflecting and focusing on the “life lessons” these special needs families have taught not only myself by my church as well. God has been so gracious and merciful as I recall these tender stories. None come without pain or suffering but each of these individuals and their unique set of skills and strengths point me to my heavenly Father and encourages me to act more like Jesus.
Six years ago we had a new family move to our church. They were a military family and they plugged into our special needs program full throttle. Their daughter, whom we will call Carly, had a disorder known as microcephaly. She was bound to a wheelchair, unable to walk, to talk, or to eat independently; she needed full support to do anything on her own. And yet she came to church every Sunday. With summer approaching her family insisted that all of their children participate in vacation bible school (VBS). Knowing Carly’s limitations, there would be little she could actually engage in and would require a specialized trained volunteer, who had nursing experience, to care for her during those four hours. While I love working in the church one of the hardest parts is recruiting the right people for the right student. There are times that our families wait two years to find the right volunteer to serve their child. However, God provided Carly a volunteer and the desires of the family were fulfilled as all the children were registered for VBS.
Our plan was for Carly to be wheeled into all inside VBS activities and back to our self-contained classroom where her medical needs could be addressed and supported. Truly we were able to push the easy button. Happy kid-happy family.
The pure joy Carly experienced and expressed, as we wheeled her into worship was a shocking gift. As Carly entered our huge worship center, she would lean back in her chair, tilt her head to the sky, offer our Father the world’s biggest, beaming smile while tears rolled out of her eyes as the songs played. Her constant stream of tears and beaming smile continued until the music stopped. It was incredible and super convicting to see how she could unconditionally worship our Father and Creator while locked in her chair.
You see, I didn’t know Jesus the same way Carly knew Jesus.
I can sing, walk, eat independently, dress myself…yet Carly who couldn’t do any of those things purely worshiped and adored our Heavenly Father.
Joy is not dependent on our circumstances.
As the week went on, the whisperings of Carly and how she worshiped brought more VBS volunteers to accept or rededicate their lives to Jesus than any other VBS in our church’s history. We all can use daily practice in allowing ourselves to lean into our daily trials and struggles and know that our joy is not contingent on our circumstances. We all have the ability to worship our Father in our pain and suffering.
Carly entered the gates of heaven six months after that summer’s VBS came to an end. I can tell you she showed me that joy is not dependent on my circumstances and she will be a living story that I will pass on to my grandchildren.
Walking alongside these families is not easy. The heartbreaking stories that they share, the perseverance that is required of them daily, the not being able to fit in or be accepted can sometimes be defeating. However the smiles on their face when they get to act out a bible story, or the excitement that is created by asking them to pray out loud for someone in our church, or the precious sounds of their voices as they worship our Lord far outweigh the struggles and the pain. What is my role in all of this? It’s to show them that I care and that someone “sees” them.
These families have a different kind of courage, one that I will always wish I had. God called me to special needs ministry…for that…I am grateful!
So what are you called to do for the Kingdom of God?
Katie Garvert is a wife to Adam Garvert for the past 14 years. Adam and Katie have two beautiful and active girls Anna (9) and Gracelyn (8). They love living in Colorado where both Adam and Katie grew up and enjoy making new memories as a family.
Katie Garvert is the Access Ministries Coordinator for Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Woodmen Valley Chapel currently serves around 90 individuals affected by special needs. Over the past nine years Katie has helped WVC establish special needs inclusion programming over virtually every age group and stage of life for this multi-site church. The Access ministry hosts a dad’s support group, regular parent respite events, sibling retreats and respite camp experiences for students with special needs. Katie also oversees the church’s deaf and hard of hearing ministry. Through her role with WVC, Katie connects attending families to different agencies in the Rocky Mountain Region while also serving as a family advocate at students’ meetings in schools. Katie frequently speaks at other ministry conferences to train church leaders for better special needs inclusion. Prior to joining the WVC staff, Katie was a special education teacher in the Colorado public school system.