Thursday, August 16, 2012

Service that Makes a Difference

     For the last two Wednesdays, I have had the privilege of caring for Branson while his parents are working.  As many of you know, he is a special needs child with a very rare brain malformation.  His ability to communicate is somewhat inhibited although he can let me know when he needs something.  At times, it is very frustrating for him not to be able to tell me exactly what he wants, but if ever there was a happy child, it is Branson.
     Each morning as I pray for family, I ask the Lord to show us (as grandparents) how best to minister to Branson's needs whenever we are with him.  I do not ask the Lord to change him because the Lord gives good and perfect gifts.  Instead, I ask the Lord to help us learn best how to support his parents, build a good relationship with this precious child and teach him what we know.  I am most grateful for the family and friends on both sides that have been involved in giving love, support and care.  It is a big task, but one we happily embrace to the glory of God.
     Even today, our culture still has difficulty accepting and ministering to the needs of those with disabilities or special needs.  If a person is not "normal" (by the world's standards), they have a hard time navigating through life.  To this, I ask, who is "normal"?  And what are the guidelines that are used?  Oh, we have tests and other measurements to compare growth and development of the individual, but what really can it show us of the character of the person and their eternal soul?
     There are so many that have been given up as hopeless that have added so much to enriching the lives of others.  For example, Helen Keller was thought to be a lost cause.  Having lost her sight, hearing and the ability to speak at a very early age due to a high fever, no one knew how to communicate with her or teach her life skills.  By God's grace, a teacher, Anne Sullivan, came into her life and managed to help her find a voice at a time when others would have given up all hope.  Helen Keller went on to attend Radcliffe College and graduate cum laude.  She wrote an autobiography of her life and became socially active in fighting for the rights of the disabled.  Who would have ever dreamed that she could accomplish this, and yet, God had a plan for her life.
     Another story of someone who was born with challenges is Leslie Lemke.  He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 31, 1952.  As a premature baby, he developed glaucoma and blindness and had to have his eyes removed surgically.  In addition, he had cerebral palsy as well as brain damage.  His mother gave him up for adoption at six months of age and nurse, May Lemke, adopted him as her own.  She had raised five children, but considered it a privilege to take this child.
     May had to teach little Leslie how to swallow which took nearly a year.  He showed slow progress after seven years of faithful teaching.  She strapped Leslie to herself to teach him how to take steps one by one until he could walk on his own by the age of fifteen.  She taught him piano at a young age by putting his hands over her own while she played.  He responded to music and seemed to love it.  Her patience, caring and love all paid off in an amazing way one night.
     As she and her husband lay sleeping, they awoke to hear the sound of music on the piano.  Leslie was playing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 which he had heard on television.  From this beginning, he went on to play not only classical but also ragtime and modern tunes.  All he had to do was hear a piece and he could reproduce it perfectly.  Doctors called him an autistic savant.  One part of his brain responded to music with incredible genius allowing him to play a wide range of music.  The story is legendary.  He has played concerts and is still playing for nursing homes and other facilities to this day.   His music was his language and he managed it very well.
     In these two examples, we see two women, Anne Sullivan and May Lemke, who gave of themselves to serve another.  While others might have given up on Helen Keller and Leslie Lemke, God put them in the care of someone who could bring out the talent that lay locked inside their physical bodies.  As Christians, this is what we are called to do.  Not only for the disabled, but for all who are in need or want.  We are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.
     Matthew 25:31-40 expresses these words of our Lord:  "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food.  I was thirsty and you gave me drink,  I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me,  I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'  And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'"
     Whether in the work place, at home or in our communities, we are the ambassadors of Jesus Christ.  How we treat others and serve them is seen by our heavenly Father.  It is for Him that we live, breathe and have our being.  Our actions, words and deeds are meant to reflect His glory.
      Even as I pray each day asking God to change me so I can understand and serve the needs of little Branson, we all must seek the Lord to work in us a heart of patience, love and self sacrifice so we can meet the needs of others.  May we have the diligence and perseverance of a May Lemke or Anne Sullivan that does not give up on anyone; for what God has created is precious in His sight.  As we serve the least of these, we are serving the Lord Himself.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights here as an encouragement to others.  Please feel free to leave them.

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