Ministry for people with disabilities coming to the Carolinas

Wheelchair by the lake. Photo courtesy of Special Touch Ministries.

Andy Lee

By Blogger Andy Lee
Walk the Talk

According to Special Touch Ministries, the statistics are staggering: 58 million handicapped people in our country are unreached by the church.

One out of five families in America have a handicapped family member, and the divorce rate of marriages with handicapped children is 98 percent. There is a tremendous need to help these families.

Marshall and Gilda Wise know this need first hand. They know the

Marshall and Gilda Wise with their son, Chad. Photo courtesy of the Wise family.

physical, mental and emotional challenges of families with handicapped children because their son, Chad, has cerebral palsy. Perhaps this is why after retiring from pastoral ministry in January 2011, they decided to expand the national Special Touch Ministries, Inc. to North Carolina and South Carolina.

Special Touch Ministries, Inc. was founded by Debbie and Charles Chivers in 1982 when they held a summer camp in Wisconsin for children and adults with disabilities. Only 32 people attended the Summer Get A Way that first year, but the camp attendance continued to double each summer, and the ministry has expanded nationwide. The camps and chapters can now be found in Oklahoma, Arizona, New England, Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kentucky.

A Summer Get-A-Way for our area is in the making. Wise hopes to have a camp developed for the Carolinas by 2013. These “get-a-ways” include recreational and worship experiences tailored for the handicapped ages 10 and older.

A Get-A-Way camper. Photo courtesy of Special Touch Ministries.

But Special Touch Ministries is not just about a summer camp,. It’s about reaching out to people with disabilities and their caregivers and supporting them with local chapters all year long. The chapters are interdenominational groups who meet once a month for support, fun activities and fellowship. They are love in action.

They are also the source for funding the Summer Get-A-Way camps. Each chapter reaches out to the businesses and churches in the community for financial support.

Finally, Special Touch desires to raise awareness of the lack of involvement of handicapped people within our churches. Many disabled in our community are bored and isolated. They need to be given a purpose, which is the difference between existing and living.

Questions Marshal Wise wants churches to ask are:

  • Besides providing handicapped parking and ramps, how is the church ministering to this special group?
  • Does the church provide classes for special needs?
  • Do we have a place of ministry for them?
  • Are we providing respite for the caregivers?

Interviewing Marshall and Gilda Wise made me realize how few handicapped people I remembered in the many churches I’ve attended throughout my life. Why is that? Where have they been?

As Gilda so beautifully put it, “People with disabled bodies don’t have disabled spirits.”

Let’s walk the talk.

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