Luke 14 2011

Luke 14 was a huge success this year!  This was the first year we did two nights – one night for children with disabilities and their families, one night for adults with disabilities and their families or caregivers.  It was a blessing to be able to honor almost 300 friends with disabilities this year!!
If you’re not sure what Luke 14 is, see more about it here.   
You can see photos and stories of other Luke 14 years there too!
Hope was our speaker for this year. She was born after a failed abortion and was subsequently adopted by Christian parents. Hope loves to laugh and is a joy to be around!  Her story of life, victory and hope is simply amazing!
 Our worship pastor was playing dinner music and happened to start Amazing Grace.  This sweet guest walked right up, confidently took the microphone and started singing for us! 
The petting zoo is a huge hit every year, and this was no exception!  (My Jacob got to get in on the snakes before he was put to work!)
This sweet little man wasn’t even performing with this group, but just came right on up to join in!  (We have a photo of him doing this a year or two ago too!)

It was nice to see some familiar faces at the popcorn booth!  My 5yo, Mattie helped my mom keep everyone stocked up on the popcorn.  This was truly a labor of love for that little girl.. She loves popcorn, but is allergic to dairy, so she served this all night without being able to have even one bite.  🙂
We tried to have more take home booths this year.  We had barrettes for the girls and women to make, bird houses to be painted, cookies to decorate and flowers to plant.  This little guy was pretty psyched about his flower!
Bubbles and donkey pulled wagon rides were only a small part of the outside fun!
I can’t close without telling you about this major story of the first night.  We had tornado warnings in our county and all of those surrounding us.  We welcomed people amidst rolls of thunder.   About 2 hours in, we were told there were tornadoes spotted in a neighboring county.  We called the National Weather Service in our area, and they assured us we were still okay to keep partying!  The skies were certainly foreboding, and we had no idea how much the Lord was protecting us.  In every county north, south, east and west of ours, there were severe thunderstorms.  Some of us watched on the radar while a very severe storm with golf ball sized hail headed our direction, took a turn north and came back south again after it passed over our location… less than one mile away there were severe downpours and hail damage!  Yet we partied in sunshine through the entire event.  If that’s not God smiling on this big party of His, I don’t know what is.

Luke 14 County Fair 2010!

I know I say this every year, but it was a huge success yet again!  It is clear how the Lord is working behind the scenes in ways we couldn’t even begin to know.  Here’s a small window into the night: 
The calm before the storm… 
The army of volunteers committing the evening to the Lord before the party begins!
A quick frame check for the take home photo spot.  This is my friend, Darlene, and I.  She and I do the disability ministry together at our church.  She tends to focus on Luke 14 while I focus more on the day to day ministry at church.  The Lord sticks us together to make a complete pair; I’m the left brain, she’s the right!
The hayride is always a favorite!
And you can’t have a County Fair without animals!
In my experience, most people with disabilities love to dance!  The nice part is that they’re uninhibited by the pride that overtakes people like me and keeps me from dancing.  In all honestly, their general lack of inhibition is a true gift.   What I could learn from that!
 This guy in the black shirt needs to just be an honorary member of this group of children and young adults with Down Syndrome, The Sonshine Ambassadors.  While they are sharing their little bit of sonshine with us, he goes up and joins them in the middle of their performance… and they just keep right on going as if he belongs.
They sing this song every year called, “I am a Child of God.”  I’ve seen it 3 or 4 times and I cry every time.  It’s amazing.

Mattie’s trying out the fishing before she gets carted off to childcare.  My kids sacrifice a lot of their mama’s attention and a lot of their own time while I’m in meetings in the months leading up to Luke 14.  I include them as much as I can and try and let them join in the fun for at least a few minutes each year!  It won’t be too long before they’ll be able to work a booth or be a buddy.  They both have tender hearts toward those with disabilities, and Luke 14 and our other involvement with disability ministry are the reasons for that.
The Chick Fil A cow came this year!  This picture is pretty remarkable, actually.  We had a guy dress up as Peter during VBS and Morgan (in the middle) totally flipped out.  I think I should be offended that she’ll pose with the cow and can’t be in the same room as “Peter.”  I guess she likes his costume better.  🙂
I told you about Robert last year.  He walks in and asks for a “pretty buddy” to host him for the night.  🙂  At this moment he was grabbing girls to take a picture with him.  My sister in law happened to step too close and got caught!
We take a photo of each guest with their buddy and get it printed for them to take home each night.  The fun part about this one is that the buddy (the guy on the right) is a Carson-Newman football player.  If I understand it right, the first time he came, he came under suggestion from his coach.  He wasn’t quite sure what to do, but ended up having a good time.  Three years later, he’s one of our most confident and fun buddies!
I don’t have a photo of the sweetest story of the night, but I have to tell you.  
We collect things for a Country Store and let each guest go in and choose several things to take home.  We collect books, toys, accessories, tshirts, trinkets, etc.  
In the meantime, an older man had just moved in to a new group home.  He wasn’t wanting to get up and get out of bed to come to Luke 14 with his cohorts, and the staff couldn’t figure out why.  They finally got out of him that his shoes were hurting his feet.  He said he needed new shoes and couldn’t go to Luke 14 in shoes that hurt his feet.  They told him they’d work on new shoes for him the next day, but they encouraged him to get up and finally got him in the van, albeit begrudgingly from what I heard.  
He took his trip to the Country Store and ended up finding a pair of shoes.  Some local business man had donated some shoes that we honestly weren’t sure what to do with!  We decided to stick them in the store and see what happened. Now we know exactly why we had these.  They were the exact size for his hurting feet.  God knew just the size of those two needy feet that would shop in our Country Store, and He made sure we had just what we needed.

Some more favorites from Luke 14

Here are some more of my favorite pictures from the Luke 14 event we had in April. I uploaded these in May and forgot to finish the post!
Amelia checking out the animals.


Just hangin’ on the grass having ice cream.

Tyler feeding the calf.

Makin’ friends with our guests.

Some hokey pokeying.

A younger, courageous volunteer.

A courageous guest!


How can you not grin at that?

Luke 14 County Fair!

Here we are, ready to go! For those of you who don’t know what Luke 14 is, it’s an annual event we hold at our church. It’s an evening to honor those in our community affected by disability. Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12-14 That’s what it’s all about. It is one big PARTY, let me tell you! My heart is full all over again just looking at the pictures. Speaking of pictures, there are a LOT on here (and I ony looked through 1/3 of what I have!), but I just couldn’t stop. We had about 325 guests of honor this year. 😀 There’s so much to say, so I’m just going to jump right in and let the pictures tell the story…

Here’s the army of volunteers getting directions from yours truly before being hooked up as buddies for the evening. We have a lot of unstructured fun first, then we settle down for a program after an hour and a half or so.
Mattie got to enjoy the calf a bit before going home with Grandmama for her first sleepover! (Thank you, Grandmama!)

This is J.T. He’s in my Sunday School class. He brightens up the room with that big old smile of his coupled with his cranky-old-man personality!

One of our guests enjoying the petting zoo which was huge this year! We had more than 15 different kinds of animals, I’m pretty sure!

Tyler wanted to “feed” the pig for a long time. He said it made the pig happy!

This big ole smiling face is Gabriel. Gabe’s parents go to our church and Gabe comes to VBS. He is the happiest guy you’ll ever meet!

Here’s Tyler. He came to VBS last year and I hope he comes again!

This young lady got off her group home bus with a cut on her head! Noone was quite sure how it got there, but it didn’t stop her from enjoying the party!

Here we are in full swing.

Everybody gettin’ down Hokey Pokey style. All the yellow shirts are the Sunshine Ambassadors. They are a group of youngsters who all have Down Syndrome and take dancing and singing lessons at a local studio. Then they take their show on the road!

This guy gave me a laugh. He is a basketball player at a local college and I’m pretty sure he only came because someone made him! But look at him gettin’ down to the Hokey Pokey after just a few short minutes! I’m sure the cute blonde caregiver of his buddy helped just a bit…

Ah, my sweet Jordan. Jordan’s dad was my principal at my second teaching job, and she is just 2 months younger than Jacob. Now she’s in my Sunday School class. I didn’t think she was going to be able to make it because she had some family coming in from out of town. But while I was up on the track taking some hokey pokey pictures I looked down and saw the cutest little elbow stickin’ out and shakin’ all about and saw it was Jordan! That was the highlight of my night. Jordan LOVES for us to read her the Max Lucado book You are Special. And one of our freebies was a copy of two other Max Lucado’s books. She recognized the illustrations right away and knew exactly that was a special gift for her!

Sweet victory at the Ring Toss!
  This car belonged to a young man who came last year, but passed away recently. His parent’s antique car club brought several cars in Brian’s memory.

Each of the guests gets to choose a cowboy hat if they’d like.

Loving some bull-riding!
Is this just not the sweetest picture?

The hayride was one of the new things we did this year, and it was a huge hit! (Especially once they got gas in the tractor!) Robert was a hayride loader.

This is Valerie and her buddy, Jessie. Jessie’s in my Sunday School class too! She ALWAYS has a smile on her face and loves to help her other Special Friends when we need it!

Amelia loving on the calf.

 One story I forgot that I’ll add here… One lady who came was 87 years old (or 78, not sure). Anyway, she is blind and has been set aside her entire life. She was beside herself to come to Luke 14! While she was at Luke 14, she got to go on her first hayride of her entire life. And had her first cotton candy. Her FIRST cotton candy. Can you imagine such a life in 2009?

Chad had to resort to holding hands… he had two buddies who were runners; But every time I looked they were all smiling!

One short story that just blessed my socks off… On the left is Patrice. She and I have boys the same age and they played soccer together last year. She has recently been asking the Lord to show her where He wants to use her, and she’s feeling led toward helping us in the disability ministry. So she comes up to me as I’m pairing guests up with volunteers and says, “Just so you know, Melissa, I’m terrified to do this! I’ve never done this before.” But she came anyway! She put herself out there to serve the Lord even though she was terrified, and she gave glory to God’s name in doing so. I’m so proud of her!!

A funny story here about Robert…

Me, at registration time:
“Robert, this is Mr John and he’s going to be your buddy tonight! And we’re going to grab one of your friends to hang out with you and Mr John too.”
Robert: “Aww man! I want a female! And I don’t want one of my friends with me.”
Me: “Sorry, Buddy! You’re stuck with Mr. John.”
Robert: “Awww, SHUCKS!”
 Later… Me: “Robert, I’d like to take your picture!”
Robert: “But I got brownie in my teeth… hold on. I gotta rinse my mouth out. There. Now you can take it.” 😀

Dan has played for us two years in a row now. This time he had a bit of help! But look at the grin on Dan’s face. He’s having as much fun as the other guy!

And Matthew (yellow name tag) couldn’t resist!

Our emcees for the evening… Bradley Bean and Marty Vesser. And a special guest chicken.

Randy Kington, Vietnam Veteran, author and speaker gave the address.

The hardworking clean up crew. It’s amazing the what can get done in two hours when you have cheerful helpers!

My partner in crime (read: Sunday School teaching partner, kindred spirit and dear friend), Darlene, and me after 10:30 that night… I’m pretty impressed we were still standing!
The supervisors (not to mention mine and Darlene’s husbands). What would we have done without them? (Just bustin’ them, btw. They worked hard all day and have sacrificed many hours this spring so Darlene and I could do this thing! MANY other spouses have as well as this is NOT a 2 man show!!! We couldn’t do it without all the hundreds of volunteers we had pitching in!)) So does this not just look like the MOST fun you could ever have?! There are sooooo many hours of planning that go into this 3 hour event, but every SECOND is worth it! A guest speaker used this quote of Frederick Buechner’s today in his sermon and it perfectly sums up my heart about disability ministry.

  Your greatest calling“is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Disability minstry is that place for me.

Luke 14 County Fair – A Success!

We did it! The Luke 14 dinner was quite a success. Our plan went a little haywire about 10 minutes before it started, but not one guest noticed. (Thankfully, they didn’t know our plan!) And I think we recovered about 45 minutes into it all…

We had about 300 guests and 150 volunteers Friday night. We had dinner, dancing (don’t tell… we’re a Baptist church!) and tons of other fun! Every guest I spoke with had a great time. Many, many guests left with obviously lighter hearts than when they arrived. Many volunteers left with lighter hearts than they arrived too! (More than half the volunteers, I’d say, were scared out of their wits to be paired 1:1 with a person with disabilities. But they all did great!!)

Our speakers were a couple who work at Joni & Friends in Charlotte. The woman was in her first marriage when she received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Soon after, her husband brought her a book he wanted her to read, The Open Marriage. He said she needed to find someone to fulfill her needs so he wouldn’t feel so guilty. Her present husband loved her knowing her health would deteriorate. Wow! We got to go to lunch with them and our friends today and got to know them better. They have a great story and are great people!

This is the calm before the storm.

Each guest got a decorated hat and a hug as they arrived.

This guy was telling me one legged waitress jokes before he ever went inside! He had sooooooo much fun!

This handsome little guy is in my Sunday School class. He loves, loves, loves Robert! He is a twin and his twin has no disability at all. A month or so ago, his mom was getting him out of the bath and he said in his very slow, extremely slurred speech, “Mom, when J was born, everything came out okay. When I was born, there were some problems. Why can’t I walk?”

Ugh. Doesn’t that make you feel like you just got punched in the gut? Me too.

And then today in Sunday School he prayed, “Thank you Jesus that you love me so much.”

And this handsome little guy we get to see often as well. He is the brother of a teenage girl with whom I do Algebra II. And he obviously enjoyed that chocolate chip cookie he just finished!

This is our pastor.

The man in the striped shirt in the next picture is Vlad. Read this story first: He moved here from Russia. He was an incredibly intelligent scientist there when he was sought out for a local high profile laboratory. When he arrived here, we made him take all of our vaccines, though he was completely healthy. He was ruined immediately. Now he lives in a group home and has to have others care for him. He wanders aimlessly and behaves as if he’s mentally retarded at this point, though I don’t know for certain. We have a young lady coming to our bible study who is from the Ukraine. When we knew Vlad was coming to the dinner, we asked Svitlana to come and hopefully meet him. We found him and I said, “You are Vlad, right?” I got a blank stare. Svitlana spoke one sentence in Russian and his eyes lit up! He’s smiling here telling his family something like, “Did you hear that???”

Svitlana was really encouraged to be able to be the hands and feet of Jesus for this man.

And this crazy kiddo is in my Sunday School class as well. He danced forever!!
Today we had another Sunday School class with us, and as soon as we sat down for our story, he said, “Welcome to our class, new friends!!”

We took pictures of each guest, had them developed and handed them out to each guest before they went home. This guy was so excited to get his picture! He said, “Is that me??”

This young lady was our guest too! She is considered the poster child for the partial birth abortion ban. Her mother was encouraged to abort her at 7 months gestation when some test results came back significantly abnormal. You’ve got to read her story!

And here is the gym full of life!

Robert and I were talking this afternoon about being out of our comfort zone. Even with all my experience, I’m often out of my comfort zone with people with disabilities! I just decide to fake it well when I need to, I think! He said it’s kind of like the good Samaritan. Lots of times we pass hurting people by because we feel awkward, don’t know what to say, don’t want our kids to stare, don’t know if they understand us, “just don’t feel called,” are way too busy, etc. But you know, how in the world can’t we all be called to love people God created… in His image… with a hurting heart just like us?

Luke 14 Dinner

This Friday is the big event! Our church hosts an outreach dinner each year where the guests of honor are those in and around our community with disabilities. This year’s theme is a County Fair. It is a major event to plan and has been a lot of work! But it is sure to be a major blessing for all involved. Here is an excerpt that my friend, Darlene, included in her letter to churches who are considering hosting a Luke 14 dinner.

  First of all, according to Luke 14, this apparently is just the kind of party Jesus himself would throw! His “Guest List” would include: the lame, the blind, the poor, the disabled, and the outcast – just the crowd He loved to hang out with! 

Some of the activities we have this year: professional square dancers (for entertainment and participation!), face painting, puppetry (provided by a 32 year old with autism!), a full petting zoo, The Sunshine Singers (a choir whose members all have down syndrome), county fair booths, antique tractors, hamburgers and hot dogs hot off the grill, clowns and more! We’ve invited people from all around our community, and so far have more than 240 guests coming! Be praying for this event: the volunteers, the guests, the details! This is also a kick-off of sorts for our disability ministry at our church. This Sunday will be our first Sunday School class for adults with disabilities, and we already have three members! And we’re starting to provide Special Care for children with disabilities while their families attend church/small group. Most of the people attending are unchurched, and we’re hoping to provide a place where all can come. Please pray with us for this.

Luke 14:12-14 “Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”