This is part II of an interview with Mr. Justin Reimer about a ministry he and his wife launched called The Elisha Foundation. Part I of the interview can be found here.
Describe your ministry a bit. What is your vision? Scope? Mission?
Our overriding mission is to encourage families of people with special needs (kids and adults) to a more intimate faith in Christ, lived out with passion and love. In our experience we have seen that relational intimacy, faith, passion and real love all commonly suffer in the lives of those affected by a disability or other complication. As the focus shifts from a mate or child to a disability, so goes the intimacy of those relationships. Focus goes from Christ for strength, to self. Focus goes from love to duty and passion for life can be lost altogether. We want to encourage that those focuses be redirected so that much is made of Christ in all things.
Our primary vehicle for this, at this point, is through hosting Family Retreats for these special families. We are also working on developing more of a community presence as it relates to providing child care once a month for families so they can go out, plug families in with churches in their area, provide counseling resources,etc. Working with the local churches to help meet the needs of these families is our immediate concern and is beginning to take shape.
Our vision is to provide resources for the local churches to build awareness of the special needs community and to be a supporting organization to that. Never far from our hearts is providing some international outreach opportunities as well, be that through orphan ministries or family ministries but all orchestrated through indigenous churches.
Our Board and counsel ultimately want to keep the brevity of life in mind (Eccles. 12), making much of Christ through all things (John 9) while being faithful to and purposed for and by the Gospel (1 Cor 9).
What forms does The Elisha Foundation’s partnership with local churches take? Do you partner with ministries like Joni and Friends, or do you see your venture as somewhat different?
Our goal is to simply have a point of contact at the local churches so that we can reference them specifically if we have a family that is seeking a fellowship or is in the area of that church. We want to know that a person will be enfolded when they walk in the door of the church; whatever we can do to facilitate a church in doing that, we will.
Prior to our first couple of Retreats the director of our region for JAF stayed in touch with me about what we are doing and was very helpful in providing resources and encouragement. The small and intimate environment is different than the conferences they hold and JAF appreciated and encouraged the differences. Joni and Friends is an excellent ministry and Joni has impacted our lives greatly – we would love to partner with them!
What suggestions might you have for how Christians could assist your ministry and/or people in their midst who have special needs, particularly children? What mistakes do Christians commonly make in this regard?
The most common mistake Christians make is that since they don’t know what to say or are uncomfortable upon seeing someone with special needs they chose to do nothing at all. These days we do this with “normal” people and pass on opportunities to share the gospel even. I would challenge Christians, even urge them, to simply approach that child or adult or their parents and ask what they can do to help. That’s it, just ask! They may or may not tell you but it means a lot to them to even be asked.
As for how Christians can assist us, the best and most affective assistance for our ministry is prayer. We are in the midst of some very important steps for the ministry and could use some prayers concentrated on our behalf.
Describe for us a typical Family Retreat. Where do these retreats occur?
A typical Family Retreat consists of a balanced schedule of teaching/worship, resources and free time for the families running over three days and three nights. We aim for a small intimate environment where we serve 6-8 families at a time with around 20+ full time volunteers tending to their needs – each family has at least one volunteer completely designated to them.
Each evening and morning we have a time of teaching and worship along with a program for the kids. The teaching at our last Retreat was on the book of Job and was excellent. The kids had an international missions theme.
Some of the resources we have had are educational consultants, music therapy and round table discussions for parents. We also arrange for a tea for the moms, we have the kids and dads do flower arrangements for the moms, a candle light dinner for the parents, a treasure hunt for the kids and other enjoyable activities. In an effort to keep the family focus going we allow for a lot of free time with nothing on the “schedule” to encourage the families to interact with each other or grow in that regard.
We utilize a corporate guest ranch here in Central Oregon for our Retreats. The ranch has private cabins for each family and sits on 40 acres of beautiful country with the Cascade mountains as a backdrop. A full complement of chef prepared meals each day and snacks in between is a favorite of the kids – and adults. On the grounds of the ranch you can fish, hike, play tennis, volleyball, basketball, ping-pong, etc.
Does your ministry currently serve primarily Christian families? Is there an explicit evangelistic component to your ministry, and if so, what does it look like?
Christian families are definitely more drawn to what we provide but we do not want to be exclusively Christian in our servicing these families. This is a major challenge to achieve balance on. At each of our Retreats we have had at least one family of non-Christians. We put up flyers in varying locations in our area and we are clear that we are “faith-based” but that we encourage anyone to come and be a part of what we are doing.
The teaching times are an obvious evangelistic component but we feel that our staff of volunteers are a very strong “component” as well. Our volunteers that are assigned to specific families are in a unique position to really bond with these families and it has been very rewarding to hear of the conversations that have taken place or to hear non-Christian families comment on the unity of our team. Or even hear things like “I don’t know about all this Jesus stuff?” I love to hear that as they are encountered with the Gospel.
Looking at the broader culture for a moment, many of us are concerned at indications that unborn children diagnosed with Down Syndrome are more likely to be aborted. What do you think is happening here, and is this a specific concern for your ministry?
Al Mohler covered this topic well as did Joni Erickson Tada last year. I don’t fully have the capacity to restrain emotive discussion on these developments but will try.
It is a concern of ours to understand what we can do to be used to counter this type of “medicine” and be used more directly. We have had discussions about how we could help the local Crisis Pregnancy Centers or even on how we could be an influence in the local/state medical community. Our local health care professionals have very little experience with pediatric or neonatal disabilities, as experienced by our friends recently. Could that be because the latest tests are being utilized more frequently in our state to prevent these births? I don’t know but it does concern me deeply.
Spend just 5 minutes with Elisha and you will wonder why they don’t have children like him part of their genetic counseling teams in the medical community. He lights up the room and is full of love for most anyone he meets, especially an uncanny and deep love for Jesus. A love that now, unfortunately, many parents will never experience from their own child with special needs because of the advice of these professionals.
This is part II of an interview with Mr. Justin Reimer about a ministry he and his wife launched called The Elisha Foundation. Part I of the interview can be found here.
The Elisha Foundation is an outstanding ministry that I am honored to serve as a current sponsor. To help readers get a better understanding of this ministry, I’m re-posting an interview with Justin Reimer, who together with his wife Tamara established The Elisha Foundation in December 2005. Here is part I of our interview:
Can you please tell us how the Lord called you to Himself?
I grew up in a Christian home with two parents who love the Lord and raised us in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We were immersed in Christianity. I remember kneeling next to my bed at the age of 4 full of fear that hell was real and asking Jesus to save me. At the age of 16 I found myself really challenged to evaluate what exactly I believed and why. My oldest brother, Matt, would have me visit him while he attended The Master’s College and inevitably I would end up cornered by 4 or 5 youth ministry majors “encouraging” me to read the Word and know Jesus more intimately. By the age of 18, through much time in the Word, there was a turning point in my life of going from some form of uninformed yet convicted obedience to a joyful, Christ-enamored intimate obedience as an act of worship and delight.
To answer your question, I don’t have a specific event/experience to look back to but a present and supremely sweet reality of Christ in my life moved by the Holy Spirit.
How did you come to meet your wife?
Here is the short version…
Although I never officially attended The Master’s College I spent enough time there to apparently warrant being afforded the opportunity to be part of a summer missions trip to Provideniya, Russia. My bride to be attended Master’s and was on that trip but I hadn’t met her prior to the trip. We met in Alaska on the way to Russia and 14 months and one more trip to Russia later we were married and moved to Alaska.
Before your son Elisha was born, did you ever think you would work with a ministry for special needs children?
I didn’t but Tamara had an “inkling” we would as she was a special education major in college and worked in the special needs Sunday school program at Grace Community Church in California. I grew up as a missionary kid in Africa and always thought I would end up back on the mission field. Tamara and I had our sights set on going back to Russia as missionaries in some capacity.
What work were you pursuing when Elisha was born? Talk to us a bit about any redirecting God did in your lives.
We were living in a remote Alaskan village where I was working as an apprentice aircraft mechanic and we helped with the ministry that took us to Russia as opportunities presented themselves.
About 45 minutes after Elisha was born he was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and a couple hours later he was admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit due to medical complications. During the early hours of this new and blessed addition to our family we were overcome with the moment. God saw fit to make us stewards of such a wondrous and enigmatic blessing of a special needs child. The enormity of this responsibility was only made more sweet by the grace of God. The only tears we shed that morning were brief and were solely tears of experiencing the rich blessing of this stewardship all through His Grace.
This was a defining moment in our young lives with profound impact on our faith, goals and dreams. He redirected us in such a tangible way – a child. We knew in a very short period of time that this blessing was purposeful and that our calling was to a new field, that of the special needs community. It has not been without challenge and real lessons of patience but it has been a merciful bounty of spiritual lessons.
What has God taught you personally through having a special needs child in your family?
That is an excellent question that is hard to succinctly answer. It has brought more reality to those attributes of God we hold so dear, sovereignty being the key to our comfort. The most immediate affect on me personally has been patience. I have always tended to be a really on-time and ready-to-go kind of person but with Elisha things happen more slowly. He learns at a different rate. He moves at a different pace. His body, early on, was very fragile and travel was difficult. It slowed me down and caused me to see some sin in my life and to invest that nervous energy in Eli’s growth and development or to just simply sit still and listen. There have been many other things the Lord has taught us as well that are deep and treasured.
How would you comfort and/or counsel someone who has just learned their child has a severe disability?
It depends on the situation, sometimes you simply listen while other times you speak to the specifics of the disability. But at some point it should always come back to the Word and prayer and usually a combination of all these things. A foundational principle to understanding the scope of any disability/need is to understand that that person is no less created in the image of God than you or I. It is a difficult concept but is essential to a God-honoring perspective. Equally important is that whatever the situation, circumstance, challenge, need, etc. much is to be made of Christ in and through them. John 9 is particularly helpful with this as a quick reference.
Let me share this brief story. Just a couple of months ago I received a call late at night from a friend whose wife just gave birth to a baby girl with Down Syndrome that morning and the familiar voice on the other end said, ”I don’t understand what is going on and why God would do this to us? I would run away if I could right now. I am angry at God, why would he do this?!”
I will tell you that no matter how close you are to understanding the plight of a person with special needs you are never prepared for how it affects people so deeply and how suffering can so spiritually distract and reek havoc on a soul that is under attack. I was taken aback for a second but the Lord gave me the words to say as I talked with this Brother while driving to the hospital to be with he and his wife. Our home Bible study had just started going through 2 Corinthians and Chapter 1:3-7 came alive and I was able to share the God of ALL comfort and purposeful comfort with this Brother. Three hours and a lot of Psalms and prayer later this Brother embraced me and had been encouraged and strengthened to what extent he could be in his exhausted state – all by the Word and soul searching/baring prayer.
The book Dr. Carson spends the first few minutes discussing, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson, is absolutely outstanding.
HT: Andy Naselli via JT via Thabiti
Union University is offering a very interesting conference on morality and public life. The conference title, Making Men Moral: The Public Square and the Role of Moral Judgment, appears to be taken from the highly regarded book Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality by Professor Robert P. George, member of the President’s Council on Bioethics and former presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, who is also one of the speakers at the conference.
The full speaker list includes Robert P. George (Princeton University), Jean Bethke Elshtain (University of Chicago), Richard John Neuhaus (Editor-in-Chief, First Things), Russell D. Moore (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), Harry L. Poe (Union University), Gregory A. Thornbury (Union University), David Novak (University of Toronto), James Stoner (Louisiana State University), Christopher Tollefsen (University of South Carolina), Paul Kerry (Brigham Young University).
The Conference runs from February 25-27, 2009 and the cost is $75.
* Wednesday, February 25, 2009
o 5:30, Reception and dinner, with an address by Paul Kerry.
o 7:30, Address by Russell D. Moore.
* Thursday, February 26, 2009
o 8:00-8:45, Continental breakfast
o 9:00-10:30, Session 1: James Stoner
o 10:45-12:15, Session 2: David Novak
o 12:15, Lunch
o 1:30-3:00, Session 3: Jean Bethke Elshtain
o 3:15-4:45, Session 4: Christopher Tollefsen
o 6:00, Dinner
o 7:30, Evening conversation with Robert P. George and Harry L. Poe
* Friday, February 27, 2009
o 8:00, Continental breakfast
o 8:30-9:45, Session 5: Gregory A. Thornbury
o 10:00-11:00, Robert P. George in chapel
o 12:00, Closing Luncheon with remarks by Richard John Neuhaus
On-line registration is available.
John Piper has written a short new book called John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God. From the publisher’s description:
God rests lightly on the church’s mind in our time. We are obsessed with ourselves and God takes second place, if that. The experience of his majesty sometimes seems to have disappeared from the modern evangelical world.
John Calvin saw a similar thing in his day. His aim was to “set before [man], as the prime motive of his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God”—a fitting banner over all of his life and work.
Pastor Tim Keller explains why Jesus is the reason for self-forgetfulness:
There are two basic narrative identities at work among professing Christians. The first is what I will call the moral-performance narrative identity. These are people who in their heart of hearts say, I obey; therefore I am accepted by God. The second is what I will call the grace narrative identity. This basic operating principle is, I am accepted by God through Christ; therefore I obey.
People living their lives on the basis of these two different principles may superficially look alike. They may sit right beside one another in the church pew, both striving to obey the law of God, to pray, to give money generously, to be good family members. But they are doing so out of radically different motives, in radically different spirits, resulting in radically different personal characters.
Dr. Albert Mohler gives an outstanding answer to this important question, and traces the history of significant liberal theologians who have chipped away at the biblical position. Excerpt:
Can a true Christian deny the virgin birth? The answer to that question must be a decisive No. Those who deny the virgin birth reject the authority of Scripture, deny the supernatural birth of the Savior, undermine the very foundations of the Gospel, and have no way of explaining the deity of Christ.
Anyone who claims that the virgin birth can be discarded even as the deity of Christ is affirmed is either intellectually dishonest or theological incompetent.
Read the whole thing.
This conference at Southern Seminary looks very interesting.
Southern Seminary and the History of American Christianity
February 18th – 19th, 2009
Dr. Mark Dever
Dr. Gary Dorrien
Dr. Timothy George
Dr. Darryl Hart
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Dr. Russell D. Moore
Dr. Thomas Nettles
Dr. Stephen Nichols
Dr. Grant Wacker
Dr. Greg Wills
Session One: Legacy and Meaning
* The Meaning of Theological Education – Dr. Timothy George
* The Meaning of Southern Seminary – Dr. Mark Dever
Session Two: Evangelicalism and Confessionalism
* American Religion (in Search of Itself) in the Age of D.L. Moody – Dr. Stephen Nichols
* James P. Boyce’s Vision for Southern Seminary – Dr. Thomas Nettles
Session Three: Southern Seminary and Progressive Religion
* Liberal Theology, the Social Gospel, and the Invention of Social Ethics – Dr. Gary Dorrien
* Liberalism and Orthodoxy at Southern Seminary 1870-1910 – Dr. Greg Wills
Session Four: Modernism, Fundamentalism, and Progressive Conservatives
* J. Gresham Machen, E.Y. Mullins, and the American Religion – Dr. Darryl Hart
* E.Y. Mullins, Pragmatism, and Experiential Religion – Dr. Albert Mohler
Session Five: Religion and American Culture in the Twentieth Century
* Billy Graham’s America – Dr. Grant Wacker
* American Culture and the Reshaping of Southern Seminary – Dr. Russell Moore
I’m jamming to this great musical and narrative blend of the redemption story (creation, fall, redemption) as I get ready to finish grading my final exams (might be a late night). The album weaves together nineteen Christmas songs and short Scripture reading from Dr. R.C. Sproul highlighting how The Word Became Flesh so that the Second Adam could undo the work of sin. The recording is exceptionally professional, and the songs include classic Christmas tunes (Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, Angels We Have Heard On High, Hark The Herald Angels Sing) as well as lesser-known numbers (Good News of Great Joy, We Have Seen His Glory).
Narrated by R.C. Sproul, the album is created by Dan & Heidi Goeller. Goeller’s numerous arrangements, compositions and orchestrations have been published by Word Music, LifeWay Music Group, Brentwood-Benson Music, Augsburg Fortress, Lillenas, and others. Heidi Goeller is a vocalist and violinist.
Listen to audio samples or order the album.