By Charles Hammond I

n September 2017, we began a new ministry at Unity ARP Church in Lancaster, SC for those with special needs. Our goal was to provide a worship service once a month for those with special needs. The gospel is for everyone and we wanted to proclaim it in a context where those with special needs can relate and be themselves. It began

with a dance and was followed by times of worship where we would meet, sing songs, pray, have a bible lesson and then have refreshments. We called it Joy Ministries (named after Camp Joy and Just Joy in Rock Hill). This past October, one of our volunteers saw something about Night to Shine sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation

and wondered if we could do it. Our Joy team decided we should give it a shot and see what would happen. (I think most of us figured we would be paired with a larger church.) We were all a bit shocked to see that we were selected to be a host church. We downloaded the packet and read all the guidelines and realized we needed to get busy. This came up after we had already prepared the church budget for 2019, so we weren’t sure how we would be able to pull this off. The Lord blessed our efforts. We had an overwhelming response of people willing to volunteer from the community

and area churches. Local businesses sponsored us. The Tim Tebow Foundation was there to support us and encourage us along the way. We capped off the number of guests at 75 but ended up with 81 registered for the event. Two weeks before the event, we were having to put guests on a waiting list. We also had more than 200 volunteers sign up to help. Financially, individuals and local businesses donated more than $19,000 for the event. We had limos, a red carpet entrance, Hollywood searchlights, paparazzi photos, hair and makeup stations, shoe sta-

tions, boutonnieres and corsages, karaoke, formal dinner, and of course, dancing. Each guest was paired with a “buddy” who stayed by their side the entire evening. Ms. South Carolina was there along with the Clemson Tiger and Cocky, the two university mascots. Carolina Selfies donated a photobooth for the evening. Caregivers were treated to the Oasis room where they had a meal, and could get manicures and back massages. During the evening we welcomed everyone, had a brief devotion based on the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24), and danced the night away. At the end of the evening, we crowned each guest as king and queen of the prom followed by a balloon drop.?

Rev. Charles Hammond is the pastor of Unity ARP Church, Lancaster, SC.

May/June 2019


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