One June my pastor asked if I would consider doing a summer ministry to our state residential facility for the developmentally challenged. I agreed and visited the following week for orientation. I left with the words of the director ringing in my ears, “The residents have an average understanding of a two-year-old.”
“How could we possibly minister to them?” I wondered. “How do you explain salvation or ask for a response?”
That night as I prayed I felt the Lord ask me “How do you minister to the two yr olds in your Sunday School?”
I thought about our curriculum for that age group.
I love mommy
I love daddy
I love Jesus
I can be a helper
These were all the simple lessons our teachers did with the young ones.
I asked some of the older kids if they would like to go with me on Saturdays to visit and do a program for the residents. I let them know the people they saw might look like adults, but their minds were like very young children. I assured them if they weren’t comfortable interacting with them after the program, it was ok. They could stay in the puppet trailer until it was time to leave.
The first Saturday I was nervous. My comfort zone was being challenged just by the number of physical deformities and behavioral issues of the people escorted to the front lawn to watch our presentation. As we got the puppet stage ready, the residents gathered some walking, some in wheelchairs and some on gurneys. I welcomed everyone and lead our puppet entertainers in the first song. This session was on creation with songs about animals. The response I received was not what I expected. Some had their eyes closed. Some continually made noises their heads swinging back and forth, blankly staring at the sky. One guy in a cowboy hat kept coming up to take the microphone out of my hand because it looked like an ice cream cone. I thought, “What are we doing here?”
I saw no connection or understanding. After the closing song, I made a point to go around to each person, patting them on the arm or shoulder as I thanked them for coming. The orientation video emphasized the importance of touch in their therapy.
Finally, I came to a young girl who looked to be in her twenties laying on a gurney bed with two wooden braces stabilizing her swollen head. Eyes rolled back; she showed no signs of recognition. I patted her shoulder and thanked her for coming. Turning to go to the next person, I was startled to hear her make a noise. Since it seemed in direct response to my greeting, I leaned down closer to her mouth and said, “Did you say something?” I heard a deep soft mumbled “Ooooo”, but it was melodic.
Unable to make out the words it took me a few seconds to realize she was singing “Jesus loves me, this I know…”
It was the last song we performed for them before closing.
At that moment, light broke through.
It illuminated heaven’s purpose.
It carried us through the summer.
It was enough.