A Father’s View of World Down Syndrome Day
This article was written by Bobby Howard, Director of Generations at the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
World Down Syndrome Day is 3/21! People around the world have officially celebrated this special day of recognition, awareness, inclusivity, and support since 2006. The numbers in the date 3/21 correlate with Trisomy 21, the genetic description for Down Syndrome.
Our family has been honored to be a part of the Special Needs community since our daughter, McKenzie, was born with Down Syndrome in 1992. She is one of God’s greatest gifts to our family! She brings joy, smiles, and perfect hugs to our family daily. Her constant display of love and concern for others is as close to “Christ-like” as I’ve ever witnessed. Despite various types of limitations, she has developed a keen sense of adapting and overcoming. She is an inspiration to us and everyone who gets to know her.
It’s because of McKenzie and our life circumstances that I focused my Doctor of Education studies on special needs ministry in South Carolina. My goal was to identify facilitators and barriers related to effective ministry, not just for individuals with special needs but also for ministry opportunities with these individuals.
Through research, I discovered that South Carolina wasn’t any different than most other areas of the country, where one of the largest unreached people groups is individuals with special needs and their families. It’s a tremendous blessing for me to support, encourage, and equip our South Carolina Baptist churches to include special needs ministry in their strategies for seeing Every Church and Every Life involved in advancing the Gospel. The Great Commission and our SCBC disciple-making efforts have no exclusions related to individuals with special needs and their families!
It is very fitting that the international theme for this year’s WDSD is “With Us Not For Us.” The theme serves as a great reminder for all of us to consider how we in our local churches can partner together in community and ministry “with” individuals who live with special needs rather than approaching special needs ministry as only something we are doing “for” these individuals.
The international Down Syndrome community chose the theme for this year in support of moving from a charity model that focuses on charity, pity, and reliance on support to a human rights model that focuses on being treated as valuable individuals with many opportunities to work together with others to improve their lives.
McKenzie always has a sense of fulfillment and value through simply serving in local church ministry roles such as a preschool ministry volunteer, a greeter, a participant in local mission projects, and joining together with other believers in Bible study and worship. Imagine churches across South Carolina where individuals like McKenzie and their families hear messages of hope through faith in Jesus Christ, experience community with other believers, and have an opportunity to use their unique gifts to serve the Lord. It’s through reaching the unreached special needs community that we can live out our goal to see Every Life and Each Church advancing the Gospel!