April 19th and 20th once again brought us the premier conference in disability ministry, McLean Bible Church’s Accessibility Summit. In Part I of our summary of this year’s Summit, we looked at the experience, events and speakers of Day 1 (April 19th). Here in Part II, we will look at all of the excitement that continued on Day 2 of this remarkable event.
Much of the day’s anticipation was centered around keynote speaker, Emily Colson, daughter of Chuck Colson, and author of the book Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free. Jackie Mills-Fernald set a high expectation by introducing Emily as “a masterful story-teller”, and she did not disappoint.
Pictured above is Emily Colson in her keynote speech at the 2013 Accessibility Summit
With poignant stories of her son’s life, Emily wove vivid mental pictures of the value of her son and people like him with statements like, “People are attracted to Max because they want his joy. He appreciates the little things, like refrigerators.”; “Max changed people not in spite of autism, but because of autism.”; “I thought it was all about Max needing a church. It’s the CHURCH that needs Max!”. Hers was a life-changing keynote speech that awakened the psyche of those new to special needs ministry and rekindled the passion of those who have been working at church inclusion for decades.
The day’s workshops began after the conclusion of Emily’s speech and a brief intermission for some welcomed refreshments. I had the privilege on sitting in on a terrific presentation by Dr. Steve Grcevich on child and teen anxiety. This was a well-attended workshop as many of us recognize that anxiety can often be an unwelcomed companion to numerous other diagnoses.
Pictured above Christian psychiatrist Dr. Steve Grcevich, Chairman of Key Ministry
While my personal purpose in attending his workshop was to glean more information for my son who suffers from PTSD and generalized anxiety, Dr. Grcevich’s clear description of symptoms to watch for had me leaving with a focus on my youngest daughter who has myriad diagnoses including ASD. Needless to say, his presentation was extremely informative, equipping attendees not only with thorough insights, but also solid resources.
After another brief break, the next set of workshops was up. There were so many outstanding sessions to choose from throughout the Summit, and this time slot was no exception! Larry Jamieson of Walk Right In Ministries presented on “The Importance of Special Dads.” Back by popular demand, Jolene Philo once again presented on “Managing Time Without Losing Your Mind.” There were also opportunities to learn from experts like Linda Starnes, Tracy Terrill, Harmony Hensley, and David Glover. Exhibits continued and lunch was offered after this second morning session.
One last afternoon workshop session was offered before the conference concluded for the year. With more excellent presentations by friends and colleagues Jackie Mills-Fernald, Rebecca Hamilton, Amy Kendall, Barbara Newman, and Cindi and Joe Ferrini, attendees ended this year’s conference on a solid note. I attended the workshop “Connecting With Community” by Karen Jackson of Faith Inclusion Network. Karen is, as I describe her, a bridge-builder between church inclusion and secular resources. Her presentation was an outstanding, detailed explanation of how to connect the two in your own church setting.
Exhausted and joyful after the Summit, those of us there lavished our love and appreciation on event coordinator extraordinaire, Rosie Oakley, without whom this conference would be possible. Packing up our booths and our wares, we returned to the Crown Plaza hoping to recover a bit before dinner. Several of us later reconvened to enjoy a meal together at The Cheesecake Factory in the mall across the highway from the hotel.
Pictured above ministry friends from across America reunite one last time to share their work with one another
The evening extended the Summit as we learned more about one another’s ministries, filled ourselves with decadent cheesecake, and laughed ourselves to tears, especially over one attendee’s special “hat”. As always seems the case, the night ended too soon, and bittersweet promises of “See you next year,” were exchanged. Sleep came quite easily after two days of so much excitement.
When I awoke in the morning and I sent my dear roommate Jolene on her way to the airport, it felt much like the day you un-deck the halls after Christmas. It was hard to see such a fulfilling weekend come to an end. Yet, much to my delight, this certainly wasn’t the end! I had the great pleasure of both riding the airport shuttle and taking the same flight as Deb and Mitch Bankes of New Hope Church’s Disability Ministry. It was a treasure to continue conversation about the conference and our ministry stories as we fostered a new friendship. Just one state and five hours away from one another, we discussed the notion of connecting again during the upcoming year.
The energy and encouragement of the Accessibility Summit now also continues online. Many of us have been discussing how we ministry leaders can have non-working time together either before the Summit or another conference in the year ahead. We are such a unique bunch with far fewer opportunities to connect than other pastors or ministry leaders, so being intentional about creating them is essential.
Please do yourself a favor and be certain to save the date for the 2014 Accessibility Summit to be held at McLean on April 4th and 5th. As you can see, it is a “must attend” gathering. Meanwhile, feel free to connect with so many of us on the Facebook Group “Special Needs and Disabilities Ministry Leaders Forum”. We would love to include you in this exciting work that God is advancing to His glory!