I recently had the privilege of attending the Coastal Disability Ministry Summit in Charleston, SC on September 23rd – 24th. It was sponsored by Joni and Friends Charlotte and the Lowcountry Special Needs Network. The event was held on the beautiful campus of Charleston Southern University.
I was invited to attend this summit as a guest presenter with Mrs. Gale Dollar. Our break-out session, “Inclusive Disability Ministry,” explained how the special needs ministry got started at Bethesda Church of God and how persons can start one at their own ministry. If you are unfamiliar with our story, click here to catch up.
The break-out session went very well. I spoke during the first part of the session about why special needs ministries are important from a parent’s perspective. Mrs. Gale finished the session, explaining how to start a special needs ministry. She even had some giveaways for the persons that came to our session!
The conference organizers booked wonderful speakers for the summit. Dr. Mike Beates was the keynote speaker for Friday night. He spoke about why churches need to include people with disabilities. He has an adult daughter with profound disabilities and it was enlightening to hear his perspective on disability. Lori Sealy, a gifted musician who also has autism, led the conference in praise and worship on Friday night and on Saturday morning. Her testimony is amazing and I was inspired to hear about all that she has overcome.
The keynote speaker for Saturday was Emily Colson. She is the award-winning author of the book, Dancing with Max and travels all over the nation speaking at churches about inclusion and advocating for persons with autism. She also is the daughter of Chuck Colson. Her presentation caught my attention right away because she is the mother of an adult son with autism. I could relate to a lot of what she was saying. It’s always great to hear from someone that is a little bit further down the road that you are traveling on.
Break-out sessions were held all throughout the day on Saturday. There were many that I wanted to attend, but you know how it goes. You can only choose 1 out of 4 great options. So the first one I went to was Buddy Ministry Basics taught by Jen McNally. That was a pretty cool session and something that almost any church can implement. Another session that I went to was Sensory Processing Disorder: Tips for the Church by Cara Koscinski. Cara is an occupational therapist and is known as the Pocket OT. She has great practical tips for dealing with sensory issues. And last but certainly not least, I went to Emily Colson’s breakout session: Survival Skills for Parents on the Journey. After the week I had, I knew that I needed to be in that session. Cause guess what? Being the parent of a special needs child can be hard sometimes! But I received some good practical tips that I can use for my family.
After Emily’s break-out session, I had the pleasure of talking with her! She was very sweet and genuine. She even let me take a selfie of us together!
But you know what? The best part of the weekend for me wasn’t the opportunity to speak at a session. What I enjoyed most was having the chance to meet other special needs parents that are dealing with some of the same things that I’m dealing with. We were able to encourage each other, share resources and lift each other up in prayer. How awesome is that?
Overall, the Coastal Disability Ministry Summit was a blessing ! I enjoyed it so much that I plan on looking for other opportunities like it to connect with and learn from other special needs families.