From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  As Jesus was walking beside the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.  They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:17-20 (NIV)

On June 13, 1998 Jeff and I were expecting the birth of our 4th child. However, our celebration was quite different than what we had expected. Joshua suffered a brain injury because of lack of oxygen during his birth. Our lives were never the same. We asked, “Why us?” and “Why Joshua?” One answer God gave us was: he loved Joshua, valued him, and had a purpose for him as a child with disabilities.

In the last 20 years, while I was intensely involved in Joshua’s day to day care, I often wished I could be involved in ministry to kids, perhaps teaching Sunday School, VBS, or tutoring at Whiz Kids. But I needed to spend most of my time preparing Joshua’s food, feeding him, giving him medications, changing his diapers, repositioning him, taking him to appointments, assisting with therapy, helping him to breathe, and keeping him safe at school and at home. I could not commit to church ministries, as Joshua’s needs were unpredictable and demanding.

Over time, I learned, sometimes our unexpected ministry is in being loving and faithful while doing ordinary tasks. From June 1998 until September 2018 God called me to be mama to my son with disabilities. My job and ministry were to love him and care for him. Often acquaintances or strangers observed us loving and caring for Joshua, while we were at church, in our community, or on vacation. Some of them would tell us they saw our unconditional love for Joshua and it would impact their hearts. Our love for Joshua gave them a tangible picture of God’s love for everyone, regardless of our needs – visible or invisible. This was one of Joshua’s ministry to others.

Jesus’ unexpected kingdom, that he declared was near, called his disciples to love, serve, and heal people who were sinners, outcasts, disabled, and poor. Jesus’ ministry to ordinary people with devastating needs was not the kingdom the disciples (nor most Israelites) were anticipating. But God loves everyone, he invites the whole world to repent, be reconciled to him, and receive his healing and love. Reach out to someone this week who needs to experience God’s unconditional love; ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in sharing God’s love with him or her in a tangible way.

By Grace Hunter

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