This past Sunday we had another successful New Friends event at the Veterans park in Cleveland, Wi. For two hours a month teens from Manitowoc Lutheran High school and a couple teens from Sheboygan North High school get together to befriend individuals with special needs. They have the opportunity each month to put their faith into action by loving and accepting our kids just the way they are and to also share with them that Jesus loves them. It can be extremely difficult for individuals with special needs to make friends especially those on the Autism spectrum, like our son Dillon. It takes very special people to take the time to be patient and understanding with our kids and these teens that come every month are absolutely extraordinary. We had eleven families with special needs attend and Scott and I just love visiting with them and meeting their kids. We started off the event with a devotion led by Pastor Endorf from St. John St. Peter Ev. Lutheran Church in Cleveland. He shared with us the Easter story and a message of Hope. After the devotion the twenty-one teens paired up with their new friends for an Easter egg hunt in the park nearby. They then played football in the field and some played basketball. Inside the VFW building they were spending quality time with each other playing cards, painting pictures and putting puzzles together. Some of the parents were talking amongst themselves offering each other support and understanding. My boys had so much fun hanging with their friends and we got to experience as a family what other families get to experience on a daily basis. These special teens make magical moments happen at each event making dreams come true in the lives that they touch. My family looks forward to this event every month and words can not describe the joy that I feel at the end of each event knowing that there are people out there that truly care and know the definition of love…..God’s love.
Ask Jackie: Unexpected Blessings
Yesterday, being July 4, our team took the opportunity to enjoy some of the more touristic parts of Arizona. The morning began with an early (really early: 5:00 a.m.) hike up to a beautiful view – so I am told. I was not personally awake at that ridiculous hour. Spending time in a climate so completely different from the Midwest had given us all a better idea of how truly extensive God’s creation is. In place of rivers, lakes and deciduous trees are mountains, mesas and cacti. By the way, don’t touch the cacti. It sounds pretty much like common sense, but they really do jump out at you and grab your hand! While we appreciate the beauty and diversity of the region, it would take a while to get used to the heat. If any of you back home are wondering how hot it feels here, turn your oven up to about 350˚ F, open the door and stand in front of it all day. Thankfully, every building here has a serious air conditioning system.
We have about 297 miles until we hit Saint Louis, Missouri. After a weekend spent with family and friends, we are back on the road. At present we have stayed mostly in the north and not far from the Belle Plaine area. We have had the pleasure the last few weeks of working with some established Jesus Cares Ministries programs. Now the task of helping start new programs begins. Our first location in Phoenix will be a lesson for all of us. We will experience things, that we will be able to take with us to the next location. We all have the belief we will be doing amazing work.
Last week spent our time observing and participating in current Jesus Cares Ministries programs. It’s been rather stormy and dark outside, but our experiences have been just the opposite. The success stories that we heard and the programs that we visited were an inspiration to all of us as we start to bring Jesus Cares Ministries to new churches. Today we begin our travels outside of the Midwest.
It’s been a fun three weeks so far. Wednesday was a picnic in Glencoe, Minnesota. Some of the residents from The Lutheran Home: Hope Residence in Belle Plaine were there, and it was fun to get to see them again! It’s amazing how close we are growing to the people we serve, even if we only spend a few days with them. Even more amazing is how they remember us. We haven’t seen these residents for a couple weeks, but we still were able to talk about “that one time we played Yahtzee” or “when I won Wii bowling”.
Earlier this week we were staying in Watertown, South Dakota and Monday night we had our first actual Jesus Cares visit to a church. This church has had a Jesus Cares Program for about 11 years, so it was a great opportunity to see what this program can grow into.
SME has come a long way over the last 5 years. To think that my first team of students didn’t carry laptops and only a few had cell phones is hard to believe. 6 years later and I’m learning how to blog our adventures and creating YouTube videos. It really is amazing how much things have changed but more so how God has blessed this ministry. In a little over a month, 7 college students will venture into new territory and experience a summer like no other. At least that’s my prayer. There is already plenty on our calendar this summer and yet so much more to add. I hope that at some point along the way you’re able to join us, visit, help, take us in or simply pray for our travels. See you soon…