As a young mother of a newborn special needs daughter, I was faced with a perspective from some, including from physicians and medical professionals, who looked at my husband and me and said, “We will not intervene medically because your daughter will have no ‘quality’ of life.” We were young, confused, and distraught. Our daughter was sent home with us to die. God used her short life to spark a fire and a mission in our lives to speak up and encourage our exceptional children and their families that God has a unique purpose and calling on their lives.
What the culture may see as broken and worthless, God sees as precious, as extensions of His Glory here on earth. From this, Shekinah (which means God’s glory displayed), was birthed and began around a humble kitchen table and has grown by God’s grace to be a ministry today of Word of God Academy to hurting families and their children.
What do you think of when you hear ‘special needs’, ‘handicapped’, or ‘disabled’? Our first thought is most likely one that includes terms such as autistic or visions of wheelchairs and handicap parking signs. We live in a visually-driven culture that sadly does not look past labels and preconceived notions. WOGA Shekinah School is faced with the challenge of breaking out of the limited cultural perspectives about our disabled population and the preconceived ideas of the value and worth of individuals.
Families with children who face uncommon challenges have not had the opportunity for their children to receive a private school education. I believe this is an area that we need to examine and challenge ourselves to think outside of the box. We need to be willing to create programs that make it possible for these children to receive an education based on biblical principles. These families face astronomical challenges with medical needs, overwhelming therapy needs, and other physical care of their children.
I have sat with many parents who weep and express that they just want their child to be loved and seen for who God made them to be. What an opportunity for the Church and school to bring these families into an atmosphere of love, acceptance, worth, and value in Christ Jesus! I do believe there has been a recent awakening in the Church to begin to offer programs for these exceptional children and their families. Today, I challenge Christian schools to begin to pray about how that can be accomplished in their setting.
It seems overwhelming and almost impossible to do, but start small. Shekinah began with one student, and I feel I am most qualified to say that God provides, He does not despise small beginnings, and He will bless your efforts to reach this population one step at a time, one day at a time, one school year at a time. In my experience, as Shekinah school grew in enrollment, God would bring one passionate worker after another who were dedicated to teaching, praying, growing, and learning alongside the most precious, uniquely created children who are God’s gifts to us all.
These children have unique callings and abilities that God intended to use in enriching our lives and drawing others to Him. We can be a part of nurturing and encouraging these children, even if it is as simple as sharing the joy of the Lord that they exude when they are in a room or writing devotionals about God’s grace and love through a communication device. We all have value, purpose, and ‘quality’ of life in our Lord Jesus.
Finally, I have witnessed typically developing children learning alongside those with unique challenges and I am blessed by the understanding, acceptance, and compassion that I see develop between the two. When we provide these opportunities in our schools for integration, our students are uniquely prepared to minister to and include those who are different from them. They also recognize the value of life as God intended. For my fellow educators: this is one way to battle the cultural trend of devaluing life—deciding for society about which lives have value and which do not. When our schools take steps to prepare a place on our campuses for the special needs population, we are saying to our students, our families, and our communities that God’s love is big and He sees purpose and value in us all.
Education is the process of preparing individuals for God’s given purposes for them and eternity, no matter their perceived abilities.