Adventists Focus on
Special Needs Ministries
More than 200 Seventh-day Adventists concerned with ministry to those having special needs met January 25-27, 2013, in São Paulo, Brazil, to formulate ways to reach those with physical and emotional disabilities.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church,” said Jonathan Kuntaraf, Sabbath school and personal ministries director for the General Conference, “has made an intentional decision to train, challenge, and encourage each division, union, conference, and church in this ministry, whose time has come.”
SINGING PRAISES: A musical item is performed by a blind choir at a joint event for Seventh-day Adventist Special Needs Ministries in Sáo Paulo, Brazil. The conference took place at Universidade Adventista de São Paulo (the São Paulo campus of Brazil Adventist University), and centered on a Special Needs Emphasis Sabbath at the UNASP campus. The event included presentations by Christian Record and Adventist Deaf Ministries, as well as performances by a choir for the blind and signing by several individuals and groups who are deaf.
Kuntaraf presented the keynote address for the Special Needs Emphasis Sabbath: “Ministry of Compassion.” In his message he quoted Ellen G. White, a cofounder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who sensed the need for such a ministry. InTestimonies to the Church, volume 3, she wrote, on page 511, “that persons afflicted in a variety of ways have been placed in close Christian relationship to His church; it is to prove His people and develop their true character. Angels of God are watching to see how we treat these persons who need our sympathy, love, and disinterested benevolence.”
Though the church has historically addressed some special needs through specific ministries in some areas for those who are blind or deaf, until now there has been no comprehensive inclusion of the wider needs in this field. This new ministry seeks to address the needs of seven categories of disability: cognitive, hearing, mobility, psychiatric, speech, visual, and “hidden,” which covers disabilities not easily observed.
“The ministries of compassion and mission cannot be separated,” said Larry Evans, associate director of the General Conference Stewardship Ministries Department. “Those with special needs, while deserving of compassion, also see themselves as God’s ambassadors to reach out to others like themselves with the message of hope. They can play a vital role in the mission of the church.”
While participating in an international advisory meeting of the newly established Special Needs Ministries Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Rajmund Dabrowski, Christian Record marketing director, met with approximately 25 members of Real Vision, a São Paulo, Brazil, organization of church members who are blind. Real Vision members shared their experiences and expressed interest in future cooperation with Christian Record in providing materials for the blind and visually impaired in Portuguese.
“This is a timely entity, a blend of services responding to individuals and groups with special needs, who are a part of our faith community. Christian Record is eager to share what it has learned in its 113 years of experience in serving people who are blind. Special needs ministries is a much-welcomed approach the church now recognizes,” Dabrowski said.
—reported by Gary Swanson, with Mark A. Kellner, news editor