Our Son is on Holy Ground!

22 Aug

Our Son is on Holy Ground!

The day we had anticipated, August 3, 2013, arrived just like any other day. It was strange that it didn’t seem to be totally different from the other days of our lives thus far. It was undeniably normal.

Yet, at 5:00 that afternoon, Wisconsin time, we would be departing the campus of Shepherds College, leaving our 21-year-old disabled son in the midst of strangers who were becoming fast friends.

Joey would be going to college at Shepherds. In a three-year program. Learning horticulture, and life skills, and Bible, and other academics. The four things we wanted for him in a college experience were all there, in a small-town setting. Yet close to the big city. Half an hour south of Milwaukee; an hour north of Chicago.

What a wonderful setting!

And what a history the Shepherds campus had! Begun in the 1950’s as a group home for disabled children (back in the day when parents did not keep their disabled children at home), the enthusiastic staff there had honed their skills set in working with the disabled for over fifty years.

Yet, in the early years of the new millennium, Shepherds Ministries had had to face the inevitability of death (and acute care facilities) slowly claiming the original population of the group home, as they aged into their 60’s and 70’s. Among the staff of Shepherds, so gifted in loving the disabled population, each death or departure was grieved deeply.

The leadership remained in prayer about what the mission of Shepherds could become, in an age when parents keep their disabled children at home until they reach adulthood.

Lo, the idea loomed to begin a college for people with disabilities. Not an add-on program for a state university system, with aides to shadow the disabled students, but a whole college experience geared to disabilities. And centered on Christ.

We heard the story of Shepherds College that first week of August as we parents gathered together with our offspring in the college gym, preparing to say goodbye.

We heard how it was begun in 2008, with six students. How the population has nearly doubled every subsequent year to reach the current total of 60 students. How the growth of Shepherds is off-the-scale astronomical because it is a unique ministry uniquely resonating with a population of families who come through the door and immediately become part of the Shepherds family!

It is holy ground. Holy ground inhabited by real people. People with disabilities, wanting to learn and grow and serve God with the best of their abilities. People who are called to minister to people with disabilities. Called from every corner of this nation. In fact, when the 35 or so staff fanned out across the front of the gym to dedicate themselves to God and to our children for this schoolyear, I can honestly say I have never seen such a loving, talented, dedicated group of young people all together anywhere in my life!

We fight back the tears of joy!

In fact, I shared during our time together how, when I faced breast cancer in 2008, my chemotherapy began in June, just as they were gearing up for their first schoolyear in August.

Only . . . I did not know about Shepherds then. I had heard of the group home back in the 1950’s, when my church in Michigan supported it. But I knew nothing about how the ministry had evolved since then.

And, in one of those wonderful displays of God’s sovereignty, my desperate prayer that summer of 2008 when I was afraid I might die and when I pleaded with God to help me find a place where our disabled son might belong–that prayer was answered. It was answered across the country in the small town of Union Grove, Wisconsin, in the very moment I was praying it . . .

It was answered on the holy ground of the Shepherds campus.

As my husband and I drove away that day in August, we became aware, for the first time since we found out our only child has autism, that if we had an auto accident or something else happened to us (because no one lives forever), our son would be just fine. He belongs to us, but he belongs to others now as well. He belongs to the Shepherds family. And that is a wonderful development in his life!!!


2 Responses to “Our Son is on Holy Ground!”

  1. erline August 23, 2013 at 3:09 PM #

    what a blessing mary your story touched my heart i am so glad your prayers were answered.

  2. Suzan August 23, 2013 at 6:19 PM #

    Shepherds College really is unique. I remember falling in love with the staff and the setting when my sister-in-law and I dropped off my nephew last August. Like you, I was excited at knowing he was going to be able to reach his own appropriate level of independence. Your Joey and our Ryan are going to be just fine. šŸ™‚ Thank you for sharing your story.

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