Communication Department, ATCU
Under the caption "Special Needs: A Ministry Whose Time Has Come," the Inter-American Division (IAD) held its first Special Needs Summit at the IAD headquarters in Miami, Florida during January 13 -16, 2014. The purpose of the Special Needs Ministry is “to bring all members into the work of Christ and to encourage church leaders worldwide to give special attention to individuals with special needs…"
During the summit, personal ministries directors from the various unions and persons involved in special needs ministry received vital information on how to implement or improve special needs ministry in their respective territories.
In addressing the summit participants, Pastor Israel Leito, president of IAD, declared, "Our meeting here is not for us to learn how to assist those who are disabled but to assist us how to live, accepting those who perhaps cannot do the things like we can."
One of the keynote speakers for the event was Senator Floyd Morris, president of the Jamaican senate. During the Wednesday morning devotion, Senator Morris shared with the participants his journey of becoming blind at the age of 20 to presently being the president of the Jamaican senate. Using Philippians 4:6 as his inspiration, he said that "we can do anything in this life irrespective of the challenges or the situation we find ourselves."
The sessions highlighted the seven major special needs grouping: cognitive, hearing, hidden, mobility, psychiatric, speech, and visual disabilities. Participants also were told about some of the words or phrases that should be avoided: handicapped, afflicted or less fortunate, retarded, sick and shut-in, stroke victim etc. Better choice of words or phrase would be disabled, has a special need, congenital disease, in the hospital or at home, or has a stroke.
As this was the first special needs summit for IAD, it is anticipated that all the unions, fields, and churches in the IAD will appoint or assign persons to oversee the development of a special needs ministry in each entity.