Today's episode is so special and I mean that in a couple of ways. The goal of CCV's Special Needs Ministry is to help children and adults with physical, mental, and developmental differences grow in their understanding of God's great love while welcoming their families to call CCV their church home.
At CCV, we understand the unique challenges of caring for a child with special needs and we desire to support the whole family as we welcome you into our church community. Your family will find a warm, welcoming atmosphere with trained teachers that will give your child caring, personal attention.
The Special Needs Ministry is available during adult service times and features high-quality, interactive teaching through:
Website CCV Special Needs: https://ccv.church/specialneeds
Christ’s Church of the Valley: https://ccv.church/
CCV Missions: www.ccv.church/missions
Pastor Larrie Fraley: linkedin.com/in/larrie-fraley-53445032
Larrie: [00:00:35] Welcome to episode 27 and I'm so happy for this time we're going to spend together. We have today with us two amazing people, both of them on staff for many years, Laura Mohler and Sarah Dalgliesh. And so we are going to talk to them about their ministry that God is using them here at CCV, a special needs ministry. We are so proud of these two people and what God is doing in the ministry and the lives of children here at CCV in all campuses. Laura has been with CCV for many years, probably, I don't know what, 18, 19 years or something like that. And then Sarah's been with us also for 13 years, and we're going to let them talk about their story in just a moment. But before we go get started today, we want to take time to recognize those volunteers who all work within this amazing ministry. Laura, why don't you start? How about telling us a little bit about yourself and about your story?
Laura: [00:01:40] Well, my name is Laura, and I, like Larrie said, I've been on staff for 18 years. I worked in a school and was a behavior therapist for many years. And while working at that school, I used to go and watch a little girl with autism who had severe behaviors while her family went to church. While watching her, I just continued to think that is this what's best for their family? Isn't there a way that their family could go to a church service together with her included? With that in mind, I talked with a CCV and continued to try to come up with a plan that we could have a ministry where all people could be welcome. People like this little girl that I used to go and watch. So a few years after watching this little girl, I was dropping my own children off. And at CCV, we got a new student and the student happened to have autism. So he quickly came into a classroom and honestly he went over and peed into the corner. And when he did that, I knew that it was my time to step in. So that was almost 20 years ago. And with that one student now we have a special needs ministry at all of our campuses and we have more than 300 families that are able to attend church each weekend.
Larrie: [00:03:00] That's amazing. That has to be one of the largest ministry church ministries in the country. Right.
Laura: [00:03:07] I'm not sure. I think so.
Larrie: [00:03:10] Yeah, I mean, you just I meet a lot of different pastors across the country in my role, and very few of them have a special needs ministry.
Laura: [00:03:20] Yeah, this is true. Sometimes special needs ministries can be hard to imagine how a church might be able to do that. They feel like they don't have trained volunteers or staff that could meet the needs of these families. So that's one of the things that Sara and I both love to do, is just reach out and train churches that they can welcome all people and without all people in their church, their body is not complete.
Larrie: [00:03:46] Well. Sara, what about you?
Sara: [00:03:50] Well, I've been on staff almost 13 years this fall, and I came from the teaching world, so I taught for four years before transitioning full time into this role. I've always just had a heart for all people. I started serving actually in special needs in our high school adult room. And then there kind of came a transition in my teaching degree that it looked like a good time and there was a full time staff position that came with Laura, and she kind of wrote me in and I've been along for this ride for about nine years, full time on staff within the special needs ministry.
Larrie: [00:04:24] That's amazing. I can remember when you were in the Star's ministry.
Sara: [00:04:27] Yep. So I kind of started working at CCV through Stars. So for multiple years, I oversaw our Stars basketball program and kind of help Laura with, as we started, some special needs sports programs and just have a heart for all people.
Larrie: [00:04:41] So and you've also been doing something that's very close to my heart, and that is you have been going on mission trips to Kenya with Missions of Hope International for many years now, right?
Sara: [00:04:53] Yeah. So for the last nine years, I've been traveling to Missions of Hope International, so MOHI, as we call it, and just having a passion for those families and just their churches and schools that they're planting, there, just bringing the gospel and also just educating those kiddos within the slums. And it's just a great organization. And we've been able to actually the last few years do a special needs focused mission trip there, and that has been just really encouraging on both sides.
Larrie: [00:05:25] So well, having served as chairman for Missions of Hope now for a number of years, I talk with Mary a lot and the board recognizes what you guys have been doing and has been doing in special needs. And I can tell you, when Mary talks about what CCV is doing in MOHI with their special needs children, it is almost always brings a tear to the eyes of the board to see what's going on. Because that's that's basically unheard of for anyone from the states to come over and help with special needs children in the slums of Nairobi. So thank God for you two, for doing that amazing ministry. Hey, tell us a little bit about special needs. What is it like at CCV when a child with special needs comes into the program?
Sara: [00:06:20] Well, the cool thing about our church as a whole at any campus, it looks really similar. Our families don't have to pre-register or do anything special. They can just come like any anybody else, a part of the church. They can just show up on the weekend and we're ready just to welcome them. So the check in process looks very similar to kids. We'll get a little bit of information from the families that we need to know for the hour. And we want those families to be able to get to church on time. And we're able to welcome those kids or adults in our ministry is available for all ages. And it's not just a place where students can come and be welcome, but also a place that they're students, because we know that the gospel is for all people and so we want to make sure that we're presenting the gospel to each student that comes into our ministry. So as they get there that first day, they're able to come in and sometimes they need some extra guidance with seeing we have a picture schedule or those type of things so those students can calm some of those anxieties coming into a new environment. We often will text the parent a picture during the service of just them smiling and having a good time at worship and just enjoying the other students and volunteers that are in that room. And then we continue just to follow up with those families and assuring that they know that they're welcomed as we get to get to know their families better, just that we can minister to them and really fully welcome them into our church.
Larrie: [00:07:46] What a blessing for a parent to be able to drop off their child in a place like this so that they can go and worship. That that must mean the world to them. So if, let's say a person would like to is interested in volunteering, what are some of the requirements to volunteer in the special needs ministry?
Sara: [00:08:10] Well, to volunteer within our ministry, it looks very similar to any of our coaching roles here at CCV. So with kids or students, it's the same way. So we have a kind of a security process that they would go through. But the cool thing about serving sometimes people that are maybe getting called, often they're like, I don't know what it is, but I keep being drawn back to the special needs ministry and wanting to maybe help there and they're not sure what it is. And we get to remind them gently that it's the Holy Spirit calling them to do this and to remind them that they're just kids first and they don't need to have any special training before coming. They just need to have a heart for people.
Larrie: [00:08:50] Yeah, I know. I talked with a lady who was really nervous about serving and almost afraid that she wouldn't work out or she didn't know enough. And then she actually took the plunge and started serving. And now she loves it. She just feels so fulfilled. And she's smiling all the time. And that's what I notice about you, too. First of all, I noticed that you two are kind of joined at the hip. I very rarely see one without the other.
Laura: [00:09:19] And that's true.
Larrie: [00:09:20] Always, always smiling and just full of joy. So God bless you for what you do.
Laura: Thanks, Larrie.
Larrie: Now, the other thing I'd like to know is in our audience would like to know is. Tell us a story. Is there a maybe a story about a child or someone that got involved with the special needs ministry? And and it's just been a God story. Do you have any of those to share?
Laura: [00:09:48] Oh, I have a sweet one. My oldest son, his name is Austin. He went to a school nearby here, and he was kind of did like a teacher's aide and his last hour of class. And so within that class, he worked with a boy that has Fragile X Syndrome. His name is Justin, and he kept inviting Justin to church. So eventually Justin came to church and with Justin came his uncle, his uncle Rocky. So they both came to church. Rocky also has some disabilities. And so they were attending a class. And each year we teach something that we called Starting Point. It's basically a baptism class. And so we teach a baptism class within our classrooms with teens and adults. And so Justin went through this class starting point, and after attending the class, he went home and told his family, I want to join God's family and be baptized, and continued to tell his family, I want to join God's family. It's a very good idea and you should join God's family, too. So because of Justin, Justin was baptized, but not just Justin. Rocky was baptized, his uncle and also his grandpa. His grandpa was baptized. So just through a simple invitation in a high school, Justin, his uncle and his grandpa were all baptized. And the cool thing about that baptism was, is Justin had never gotten his face wet before. He had never gone underwater in church. And so it was a little bit of a struggle to get him to go under. But once we got him under and he came out of the water, he came out of the water with both hands up, just full of joy. And he continues to talk about that all the time.
Larrie: [00:11:29] Well, as our listeners know, CCV is big on camps. Now you actually have a special needs camp, right? Tell us about.
Laura: [00:11:36] That. Yes, we do. So we have a special needs camp and we host it in a few different areas, not just at one campus. So it's a three day camp. The first two days, kids will come and learn more about Jesus. Some parents drop them off. And so it's really awesome for parents. They get a few hours in the evening to just have a date night or go to the grocery store. And the third night is we have families come all together, and so we do worship. And then we have kind of a family day with a water day included. So we feed them dinner and we allow these families to be together in community and to just look around and see that there are other people that have children with disabilities. And our hope is that that just gives them joy and encouragement to know that they're not alone, that there is community and they have community here at CCV.
Larrie: [00:12:27] And another thing that's close to your heart, Sara, and that is the sports program. There's actually a sports program for special needs children, correct?
Sara: [00:12:37] Yes, we call it exceptional stars. And it's we have a few different locations around the valley that we put that on, but it really looks more like a camp or a clinic would look. We have we have players sign up. Families can sign their kiddos up ages four and older. And then we actually partner with local high schools or colleges. They come in and help us run the stations. And that's kind of twofold. Number one, our players love to have some mentors teaching and coaching them, but also it gives us the opportunity to really pour into those high schoolers or college students and tell them what the Bible says about those with disabilities.
Larrie: [00:13:17] And another thing that that I find amazing about this ministry is it's not just about helping the kids or adults with special needs. You actually ministered to the parents, correct, through something called parent groups?
Laura: [00:13:30] Yes, we do. So we offer child care for families so the parents could be in a group together. They usually do a Bible study or maybe they go through a weekend recap of our services. And so they're able to sit in a circle with a community of people that also have children with special needs and just, you know, grow closer to God and hopefully encourage each other. So it's just one way that we're able to support families.
Larrie: [00:13:58] And if if there's one message you would like to leave our audience today, what would that message be?
Sara: [00:14:07] I think just that the gospel is for all people and if the gospel is for all people, that includes people with disabilities. And so we need to be, as the church, inclusive and finding a way to be able to welcome all people in. And we just feel really passionate about recently a couple of years ago, we had that More Than Us campaign that we did and this is kind of Laura's More Than Us for us as we just feel to continue just to communicate that message, not just here at CCV, but all churches can have a program to be able to welcome families in here, near and far.
Larrie: [00:14:40] So awesome. Awesome. Now, tell us about any prayer needs that you have.
Laura: [00:14:47] Oh, gosh, I would say just our families in general. Our families go through stages of, let's say, grief or suffering, that they need constant prayer just to be lifted up, that that they feel God is close to them. You know, as families go through different milestones throughout children's lives, like maybe, you know, they maybe are not able to communicate or maybe not able to walk or, you know, when it gets time for, you know, entering kindergarten, they may not enter kindergarten like another child would. Or if it's time for prom, their child might not go to prom. So they're really in a in in life. They're there's different levels of suffering or grief that they're going to go through. So just being in constant prayer for them that we can be a community, a body of believers that can walk alongside them and direct them and point them to who Jesus is, probably is just one of our biggest prayer requests.
Larrie: [00:15:47] Well, Laura and Sara, thank you for joining us today. And we'll certainly keep those prayers in front of us. And we look forward to having you back in the near future when we can see more of what God is doing through the ministry at with special needs here at CCV. Thanks for joining us.
Laura: [00:16:05] Thank you, Larrie.
Sara: Thanks, Larrie.