Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Luke 14 - A Valentine's Day Tradition

Luke 14:7-14

New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
 7 Jesus noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table. So he told them a story. 8 He said, "Suppose someone invites you to a wedding feast. Do not take the place of honor. A person more important than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come to you. He will say, 'Give this person your seat.' Then you will be filled with shame. You will have to take the least important place.
 10 "But when you are invited, take the lowest place. Then your host will come over to you. He will say, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. 11 Anyone who lifts himself up will be brought down. And anyone who is brought down will be lifted up."
 12 Then Jesus spoke to his host. "Suppose you give a lunch or a dinner," he said. "Do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, or your relatives, or your rich neighbors. If you do, they may invite you to eat with them. So you will be paid back.
 13 "But when you give a big dinner, invite those who are poor. Also invite those who can't walk, the disabled and the blind. 14 Then you will be blessed. Your guests can't pay you back. But you will be paid back when those who are right with God rise from the dead."

For the past few years, our family has taken part in a different kind of Valentine's Day tradition.
Our church has partnered with a place called Healing Farms to put on a banquet for "the least of these".
Special needs individuals and their caregivers from all over the community are invited to take part in this banquet.  This is the third year they've done it - and our third year going!

The banquet is based on the scripture above from Luke 14.  All who are invited are welcomed with open arms.  They are literally given the red carpet treatment.  Everything from the time you pull up in your vehicle to the time you leave is done for you.  You are waited on and served from start to finish.  Not just the person with special needs, but whoever they were accompanied by as well, which, in our case, was the four of us plus Peyton's nurse.

Every table had a volunteer sitting at it, so they have a friend for the evening!
Volunteers were constantly making sure the glasses are filled with water, tea or lemonade.
More volunteers were taking orders for the table - there was a set menu but you could choose from chicken or pulled pork.  Even more volunteers went around later to offer desserts.
There was live music playing and there were volunteers out on the dance floor with anyone who chose to dance {it was mostly kids, including Moira}.

But wait...I'm not giving this year's event enough emphasis.
It was huge compared to past years.
Our church has multiple venues in the building.
There's the main worship center.  Another venue is called "The Warehouse" which is a smaller, more casual venue for services.  In year one, the banquet was held in The Warehouse.  Last year it was bigger, so they held it in the worship center.  This year it was so big that it was held in both venues simultaneously.
There were over 500 guests and "more than 250 volunteers, donors, sponsors, churches and ministries represented" at this event {per the information sheet that was in the gift bag we received when we left}!!

Can you even imagine??

Let's not worry about the size of the event for a moment.

Can you even begin to imagine how much this event means
 for a special needs family like ours?
Perhaps not.

For us, it represents a night out.
A night out as a family.
A night out where we don't have to worry about accessibility.
Awkward moments.
Noise levels.
Suctioning Peyton in a public space.
What other people are thinking.
and so on...

For us, it represents a time when an entire church family reached out to bless us.
To bless a community of special needs people and  their caregivers.
To make sure that they were treated with respect, with dignity, with honor, and with love.
To make sure that, for one night, we didn't have to have any worries.
To make sure that, for one night, we knew that there were scores of people
just waiting to love on us.
To embrace us and make us all feel like a part of the body of Christ.
Don't get me wrong...Seacoast Church does an incredible job of including "the least of these".

But a lot of the people who were there were not children...but adults coming from group homes.
Their caregivers are paid caregivers - not family members.
They may not even have a church to call home.
Can you imagine how many times in these peoples' lives they've had an opportunity to go out in public to a "fancy" event such as this??  How often do they get to put on their best clothes and be treated like royalty??
For our family, this event is huge, but for these people - I can't even imagine what they must be feeling!!

We are all worthy members of the body of Christ.
All of us.
Able bodied or not.
Young or old.
Family or no family.
We are part of the same body.

Source: google.com via Sarah on Pinterest

A huge thank you to Seacoast Church,
to Healing Farms,
and to all the countless people who were involved in making this event so spectacular.
I cannot express enough how much we look forward to this event 
and how much it means to our family.

Pictures from this year's Luke 14 Dinner:

Peyton was having a little difficulty tonight - we got home and she wound up having a fever.
She just wasn't herself today.

There she is!  Kind of.  Bottom lip sticking out.  Yeah, she's not feeling well.  Poor kid.

Moira is the whirling dervish in red with the flower in her hair.  It was not easy to get her picture!

Still not sure about this thing...

Yeah...definitely not feeling up to a party tonight.

Moira doesn't have to be dancing for it to be difficult to get her picture!

Ron and Moira.  So serious.

Head's up.  But still not smiling.

Grilled chicken, pulled pork, mac and cheese, and green beans.
SO good!!

Moira wanted to dance with her Daddy.
Note: it may not look like there are that many people here, but we were in the overflow room which WAS packed.

The volunteer who sat with us at our table just happened to be Ms. Darcel, who just happened to be Peyton's special ed homebound teacher last year, and who just happens to be in the worship choir with me!

Moira calmed down enough for me to get a nice picture of her.

Front entrance of our church.
I LOVE my church and church family!!
Our table had all kinds of Valentine's cards from kids on it when we arrived.

We received a tote bag with a prayer blanket and a candle.
They had a "photo booth" set up so we could get a family picture.

This is our first family picture since Peyton was ONE!
Among the things "normal" families take for granted - the ability to go out and have family photos done.
It's not easy...hence the nearly 5 year gap between our family photos!
My church.

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