freddie loves to worship

img_3195This last summer at camp, had by far been one of my favorites.   The Lord had begun a shift in my thinking which had began nearly eight months before.  At the Joni and Friends Retreat Forum, where staff come together to begin brain storming for the next year, someone mentioned what a mother had said at one of their camps, she said, “My daughter was born with Down Syndrome but her spirit was not.”

A few months later while my husband and I were attending a “Disability Summit” which trains people for disability ministries within churches, a couple were leading a group on Autism and they told

us about their son who was non-verbal.  They were given a form to fill out for Sunday School and it asked the question, “Has your child received Jesus as their personal savior?”  There were two boxes to choose from for the answer, “Yes” or “No.”  They drew their own box and wrote the word, “Maybe.”  But then they went on to describe their son watching Sleeping Beauty and as Sleeping Beauty lay asleep on the marble slab, Prince Charming walks in and as he leans over to kiss her awake and the light falls on her face, their little boy whispered one word, “Jesus.”

A few months later, I watched one of Joni’s TV shows entitled, “When Robin Prays”.  It was about a 53 year old woman who helps at the Joni and Friends retreats in Pennsylvania.  Robin has Down Syndrome.  I knew immediately that this was something that we needed to show at during the training of our volunteers.  The show talked about Robin and what her presence adds at camp, her gift of worship and encouragement.  Robin was also interviewed on the show.  She was articulate and quoted scripture, she talked about her feelings and how often, because of her Down Syndrome, people did not recognize that she is able to love and serve the Lord, people didn’t recognize that she had feelings and a heart.  It was a very emotional and touching interview.

Often, when volunteers come to camp, we come as healthy, active volunteers, eager to serve, eager to bless other people’s lives but the surprise comes when we recognize that we have much to learn and the campers become our teachers.  I wanted people to be aware of this and to recognize the spiritual gifts of each and every person at camp.

The next afternoon, campers begun arriving and into our reserved parking spaces, drove a small, blue pick-up-truck.  I ran up to greet them.  In the passenger’s seat was a gentleman, in his forties with Down Syndrome.  I asked him his name, “Freddy!”  He said with a huge grin.  I showed him my name tag.

“Hi there, Freddy!  My name is Kara.  We are so happy to have you here!”

“I’m happy to be here too, Kira!”   He said with his own pronunciation of my name, a huge grin on his face and instantly I knew, God had brought us our Robin.  He got out of the car and walked with me where everyone yelled and hollered to him with our customary wild greeting as he smiled back, a smile that he smiled with his entire face.

Later that evening, Freddy was sitting on a bench and I went over to talk to him.  Dale and Alisha, who are on staff and also the parents of a five year old boy with Down’s Syndrome, came over to talk to Freddy as well.  We asked him about what he liked to do.  He said that he wanted to find out how many people would talk to him at camp, how many people would actually talk to someone with Down’s Syndrome.    We assured him that LOTS of people at our camp will talk with him.  Alisha asked him what kinds of things he was passionate about, what he felt his spiritual gifts were.  He told us that he loved to sing and worship the Lord, and that he wrote songs.  He also likes to be an advocate for those with disabilities and had  done some public speaking.

Dale, Alisha and I just grinned at each other, recognizing what was happening.  I told Freddy that I had an idea, how would he like to announce worship in the morning?  He could sing that it was time to worship the Lord into the microphone.

He nodded his head an enthusiastic yes, “I could sing and say, It’s time to WORSHIP the Lord!”  singing it out for me, raising and lowering his voice, adding some vibrato.

“That’s perfect, Freddy, just perfect!”  I stood, amazed, in wonder of our God.  What a way to start off our camp!

That night, in our STM debriefing time, which is when we come together to discuss our day,  I asked how many had seen Freddy arrive.  Everyone raised their hands, we all were in awe, seeing and recognizing so very clearly who God had brought to us.  I told everyone what Freddy had said about wanting to find out who would talk to someone with Down Syndrome and told them, “So, you better talk to Freddy!  And Heather and Bryce and everyone else at camp too!”  We all chuckled.

ms1303-copyThe next morning, during family worship time, our worship leader, Victoria was playing her keyboard single handed because she had cracked her humorous in a fall, Irene, my sister-in-law who was the sound tech, was trying to figure out which verse Victoria would sing next because Victoria tends to go wherever the Spirit leads, (which may be a bit difficult for some of us humans to figure out at times).  Irene was flipping through the power point slides up on the screen, Freddy was singing away in his best vibrato, the worship center was noisy with the whir of electric wheelchairs and wiggling campers.  I was suddenly filled with joy overflowing and my eyes filled with tears.

When we were finished singing, I got up to make the morning announcements but first, I felt lead to say something, “That was the most beautiful worship that I have ever heard, it was just perfect, from Victoria playing her keyboard, even though she has a broken arm, Irene trying to figure out where we would go next, Freddie’s beautiful singing, it was just amazing.  I have tried to tell people at church about our worship at camp and it is something that you have to experience for yourself.  I can’t tell you what a privilege it is to stand with you families and worship, what an honor it is to worship alongside of people who have disabilities, people who have known true suffering and yet still know how to praise God with all of their hearts.  That was truly amazing, the purest of all worship.”  I had to pause before I could continue with the business of the day.  God’s presence was tangible.  It came through his chosen, imperfect vessels, many who are overlooked by this world, many misunderstood, but in this room, at this place in time, God had chosen to reveal to us for a moment, the kingdom of heaven because those who sang had a heart as pure as a child’s.

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  1. Kara, you are a talented writer. God has blessed you with a sweet heart. I would love to meet Freddy someday – maybe here, maybe heaven!

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