“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40).
A man comes to church firmly clutching his Bible. Throughout the service, he pages here and there. A young woman sits and constantly stares at any new sound that is heard in the sanctuary. The woman behind you sings the parts of the liturgy that she knows off key. The creed, confession, and prayers are said faster than another can keep up with.
These short descriptions refer to a group of people who live in our towns and cities. They usually are taken care of in group homes or by their parents. They are referred to as developmentally delayed. They belong to the vulnerable part of our society.
But in seeing the joy when a hymn sung in church is known, the angelic smile that a young man returns when you smile right at him, the enthusiasm displayed by the small movement that is all the person is able to do, you see the love that they have for their Savior. How can their needs be met by any congregation?
The Lutheran Home Association of Belle Plaine, Minnesota, started the Jesus Cares Ministries program in 1998. Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM) assists congregations in reaching out to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and communities. Nationwide, JCM programs encourage Bible studies, worship, and fellowship opportunities. JCM staff members:
- Offer step-by-step encouragement
- Help develop publicity materials
- Assist in researching the community to find people who can be served
- Train volunteers to help them better reach people with developmental disabilities
Why should a congregation consider beginning a ministry for the developmentally disabled? Christ died for all and commissioned the church to share the good news with all. These people and their caregivers have spiritual needs that a Jesus Cares program can meet. Congregational members themselves will grow in Christian love by their interaction with these brothers and sisters of Christ.
“Jesus cares and loves me too!
Jesus cares for me and you.
God’s own Book tells me it’s true.
Jesus cares and loves me too!”
Director Mary Born
Jesus Cares Ministries
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church