In the past month we have experienced something special. Something that we knew existed but had yet to experience for ourselves. Something which puts so much HOPE in us for the future, and so much JOY in the present. We have experienced a new kind of ministry. One that has opened their arms to our family and gone out of their way to make things work, and work WELL, for us.
This church is First Baptist Church of Orlando, and this ministry is their Special Friends ministry, run by Michael Woods.
Let me share a little more about this situation... We first approached Michael Woods as we realized we were going to be looking for a new church about 8 weeks or so ago. When we first spoke, it didn't start with "we want to join your church," or "we are looking for a new permanent place to go to church." No, it started with "we haven't been to church as a family in several weeks, we are looking for somewhere that is already established that we can 'rest' at, we don't know where we are going or what is happening next, but we need somewhere that our family can worship together soon."
Mike and I set up for the whole family to go over to meet Michael Woods one afternoon and see the church campus, the special needs room, and for Michael to get an idea of the temperaments of the kids and ask questions, etc while we spent about 20 minutes or so together. Even knowing that we weren't sure (and still are not) whether this would be a long term solution for our family or not, Michael went out of his way and has made it abundantly clear to us on a regular basis that he has a JOY in serving our family and our children. There is not a burden that comes with having a large special needs family there. It's not because this is a huge church or because there are people there with nothing better to do than spend time in special needs ministry. This is a successful ministry because there is a passionate person running it who truly cares for the children involved, trains the volunteers well so they are not overwhelmed with the classroom, and who takes the time to know the children and families individually.
We are impressed not only with the way that the church special needs ministry has welcomed our family in, but in the support, encouragement, and prayer that they have offered as well. Even though we are not members. Even though we are in such a transitionary place in life that we don't know where we may land tomorrow. Even though we didn't come in offering what we can do for the church. Even though this church isn't in our neighborhood, not even in our city. It's an hour drive to get there, but not for a moment will we complain about the time or gas that it takes to get there, because what we have experienced has been something so refreshing that time and money cannot compare.
It is said that the greatest things in life are to love and be loved. We are experiencing that, and are grateful for that peace and the ability to have a moment to 'rest' each week as Michael and I listen to God's Word, experience musical Worship, and our children are taught the good news of Jesus Christ at the same time.
This, my friends, is something special. And I hope and pray that this special something will be a spark that turns to a flame in The Church. We pray this is something that we can bring in to whatever ministry God is preparing us for in the future as well, and we are so very thankful to Michael Woods and the volunteers that run the Special Friends ministry at FBC Orlando.