“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Amazing! Life changing! Spectacular! Beautiful!
These are just some of the comments I have heard describing the recent Joy Prom hosted by our church family, Western Avenue Baptist. What is a Joy Prom you ask? The easy answer is that it is a prom for those individuals with special needs. However, it is so much more!
First of all, it is a night where the body of Christ comes together to share the love of Christ to some incredibly special people within our community. And we do it ALL for the glory of Christ.
Our special guest range in age from 14 to 70, and many of them have never attended a prom. So this is their big night to shine and have the spotlight directed on them. People with special needs like my son Drew are treated like kings and queens as they receive the royal treatment. They are the star of the show as we bend over backwards to show that we both love and care for them.
The Joy Prom is also a ministry to the families of our special friends. Many of these families face daily challenges that you and I cannot imagine. The daily tasks may involve assistance with feeding, bathing, dressing, etc. These tasks can be exhausting for these families. Therefore, we want the Joy Prom to be a night for these families to sit back and relax as they experience the joy of watching their loved one have the time of their life!
Finally, the Joy Prom is a ministry to our wonderful volunteers. This past weekend we had almost 400 volunteers pour in many hours of sweat and tears into making the event a huge success. They came with hearts prepared to serve and bless others. Jesus tells us to “let your light shine before others,” and that is exactly what all of our volunteers did.
While Jesus was on this earth, he said “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). But now that he has ascended to the right hand of the Father, we are to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:16). While Jesus walked on this earth, he was like the sun pouring out light. But when the sun goes down, the moon rises putting forth light as well. We the church are like the moon. Sometimes the light from the moon is bright, other times it is dim. But the light we see from the moon does not originate from itself, but rather is reflecting the light from the sun back to earth. And that is exactly what we as Christians are to be doing: reflecting the light of Christ back upon this world. And though the world can appear to be very dark at times, remember that the darker it is, the brighter the light.
At Joy Prom this past weekend, the bright light of Christ was on full display, bursting forth in the dimly lit ballroom. You saw high school students throwing their pride in the trash as they danced the night away with our special guest. You saw people parking cars, preparing and serving food, investing long hours in decorating, fixing hair, shining shoes, taking photos, and cheering our guest as they walked the red carpet. Oh, the light of Christ was shining bright!
And the bonus is that not only did our volunteers have a chance to bless others, they in turn were able to receive a blessing. Lives were changed as our volunteers got to witness firsthand the works of God on display within our guest.
You see, I think the Joy Prom is an opportunity for our volunteers to see people in a whole new light. After spending several hours in fellowship with our special guest, the visible disabilities that were at first apparent faded away as our eyes were opened to see our special needs friends as people like you and I, created in the image of God. No longer did we see the wheelchair, the walker, or the disability. Rather we saw the man and woman who is loved and cherished by God.
The challenge for each of us is to do this on a daily basis. Serving and loving others in need at a big event is wonderful, but my prayer is that it would be a lifestyle that affects how we treat ALL people daily, not just those with special needs. Russell Moore, the president of the ERLC, makes the point that the gospel is what allows us to see others in a whole new light, as individuals born in the image of God.
Jesus said that “to the least of these my brothers you did unto me” (Matt 24:40). That means we need to think seriously how we treat the single mom struggling with an addiction who poured our coffee at the restaurant, or the individual of a different nationality who makes you uncomfortable, or the person in front of you at the grocery store buying their beer and cigarettes with food stamps. Do we look the other way and walk to the other side, or do we treat them with compassion? Do we hide behind our theology and promise to ourselves to pray for them, or do we see in them the face of Jesus and remember that they are the “least of these” and seek to truly help them?
The Joy Prom was a wonderful experience for so many in our community. It touched the lives of our special friends and their families. It also impacted many of our volunteers. My prayer is that the long-lasting impact of the Joy Prom would be that it serve as a reminder that the Lord providentially places individuals in our path every single day. If we truly understand the gospel as the power of God that leads to salvation, we will be compelled to see those that cross our path with new eyes as we “let our light shine” before others by showing the love and compassion of Christ.