Ten years ago a group of friends of mine in ministry decided to collaborate and try to do something different. Getting the green light wasn’t easy though. You see I was on the board of directors at a Christian Camp at the time. Year after year we would debate what could be done to attract new kids to camp. Year after year I would make a suggestion to do something so out of the box that I got laughed off. My suggestion was to start a Video Game Camp. For the board of directors this was borderline sack religious. My persistence and a plateau in camp attendance eventually got me the green light that I was looking for.
The camp was huge success. In year one of Video Game Camp we attracted a much different crowd of campers than had ever attended before. Kids attended that had never even had a “church” experience. As we looked around the room during our chapel times we so a collection of kids that captured our hearts. We felt as if we were not at camp, but rather on the “Island of Misfit Toys.” We were surrounded by kids that didn’t fit in anywhere else. They were all the outcasts of their schools. Many of them even communicated that didn’t even fit in with their own families. It wasn’t uncommon to see more kids in black trench coats than not at times within groups. We celebrated the end of the week with a baptism and we helped several kids get connected with local churches.
What I will never forget were the tearful words of many campers at weeks end. Many communicated that in their entire lives they had never had the feeling of “fitting in” like they did at this week of camp. So many campers cried as they talked about the thought of leaving camp and going back to their lives of being an outcast.
We provided a place of belonging. We were able to communicate their worth in the eyes of God. We were able to help them see that they were not alone in this world.
This experience ten years ago very much helped me in my transition to the world of Disability Ministry. So many of these themes of isolation vs. belonging apply in the world of Disability Ministry. Several years ago I asked the Superintendent of Stark DD what the biggest issue in our Disability Community was. He responded with no hesitation… “Our people are isolated. We need help move people from isolation to a place of community.”
For me a calling card of Disability Ministry must be helping our friends make that transition. No one in God’s Kingdom was created to live in isolation. No one deserves to feel like they are stuck on the “Island of Misfit Toys.” The step beyond helping people move out of isolation and into community is true integration. It’s not good enough to simply get people in the room together. We must get people to a place of belonging. A place were their gifts can be shared with the body of believers. 1 Corinthians 12:22-23 is very clear. The body of believers is not complete without everyone. Everyone has a gift to share. Everyone has a gift that is to be used to build up the body.