By: Mertice Fehringer
In the stillness of the early morn it seemed all of nature waited in silence to hear the answer to my prayer. The birds were silent, the dampness of dew hung to the leaves of the huge oak tree limbs sheltered me in my secret place. I began to wonder: Me, Lord? Surely you could not have me in mind! Try as I might, I could not shake the feeling. It seemed a big finger pointed right at me. Pondering the facts, I realized I had found no one brave enough to take a stand for these children. I had not found anyone with the courage to be identified with their pain. “I” sure didn’t have what it would take to break down the walls of fear, prejudice and misconstrued ideas. Besides I’d never seen it written in the Word that God cared about the retarded, I thought angrily.
For weeks I’d searched for the right person, one with a degree in “Special Education”; one who’d be brave enough to stand against prejudice and injustice; one with a heart of compassion who would know how to teach our “special kids”. Now that we finally had a room, we needed a leader and I couldn’t find one. With no plan, no program, no materials, no money, just two special little girls and a big room, I began to wonder: “ME, Lord?”
Connie and her friend, Jennifer, were the first members of the Circle of Friends Sunday School class that later grew to be a ministry for “Special Needs Families”.
I finally relented on one condition. “Do you really care, Jesus? Can you show me from your Word that YOU care? Care for these special children that have been branded with the awful word retarded? If you’ll show me in your word that YOU care, then I’ll do it.”
I had never seen that word (retarded) in the Bible, so I felt quite safe. But I knew He would answer me. He always came to talk with me in my quiet place. So, I’d just sit still in my redwood swing until He spoke. It didn’t take long and the birds began to sing, the sun peeked over the horizon, the dewdrops fell, and a soft breeze blew to dry my falling tears. The Father spoke and His answer to me was a question, “The question is not, do I care, but do YOU care enough?”
Weeping, I realized I’d been foolish to doubt God’s love for these little girls who were considered the “least among us”. His care and compassion were new every morning and the pages of His Word were filled with caring. “Ok, Lord, I surrender. Show me what to do, for I surely don’t know. I need your strength, and courage too, for this task is just too big for me.” Drying my tears, I closed my Bible and stood. HE would be my leader. I would follow. I’d lift high the banner that “God Cares” for my Connie, her little friend, Jennifer, and all the other boys and girls living with a disability.
Now, with more than 100 friends with various disabilities and of varying ages on our mailing list, He’s still my leader. Though I’ve floundered and made many mistakes He’s always there to cheer me on, to show the way, to guide my footsteps. With Sharon, Lynne, Lovean and other volunteers, we march forward into the communities carrying the message that God cares and that His love is fresh and new every morning. Now you know the beginning of the Circle of Friends story.