People with disabilities and special needs were showered with abundant love and special honor at the first “Luke 14” Banquet in the South Central Conference territory. The concept of the Luke 14 Banquet originated with Joni and Friends. The purpose of it is intentional outreach to people excluded from the full Gospel of Jesus Christ, and those who are marginalized. The South Central Conference sponsored the banquet on Thursday, April 13, 2017, at the Goodwill Easter Seal-Mitchell Auditorium in Mobile, Ala. The use of the auditorium was donated to disabilities ministries for three and a half hours by Jean Gardner, vice president of operations.
The Luke 14 Banquet is based on the parable found in Luke 14:21-23, which admonishes Christians to “… go quickly out into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord it is done, and yet there is room. And the Lord said, Go, out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
Under the direction of Harold Goodloe, pastor of Emmanuel Church in Mobile, Ala., and Emmanuel’s disabilities ministries coordinators, Lubertha McKinney, Patricia Davis, and Brian Johnson, members took to the streets of Mobile to do compassion ministry, extending a heartfelt invitation to those who qualified to attend the Luke 14 Banquet. Many with special needs and disabilities were registered to participate. Close to 100 people were in attendance at the banquet. They were welcomed by Nettie Henderson, South Central director of disabilities/special needs ministries, and Goodloe, who addressed them with inspirational remarks.
Henderson was the mistress of ceremonies. She gave a warm welcome and explained the name and purpose of the banquet. “The Bible tells us to love people with special needs and disabilities because we are all of the same body of Christ. We have made a commitment to be intentional about loving you, embracing you, and making you our friends. We want to develop a relationship with you. We want to call you on the phone, pray a short prayer with you, talk about Jesus with you, invite you to church events, and invite you to outings in the park such as health fairs and community events. We want to be your friend and would like you to want us as one of your friends,” said Henderson. Several people volunteered immediately to be a friend, and signed up to be called on the phone with subsequent home visits. Gifts were given to all attendees, and an additional gift was given to those who voluntarily signed a disabilities survey form for weekly contacts. The guests were eager to share their spiritual gifts with solos, congregational songs, and poems. They pulled names from a container for gifts, and they were kind and Christ-like. The food was delicious and fellowship was awesome. Some individuals were members of other churches, but were all on one accord during the event. The celebrated event was followed with Disabilities Awareness Sabbath, which included health and mental health awareness, and a concert. The theme for the weekend was “The Church Outreaching in Love and Unity.” The Sabbath message, presented by Henderson, educated and sensitized members to disabilities-related issues from a church perspective.
The Luke 14 Banquet was a big success, and will be an annual event at Emmanuel Church for inclusion of people with disabilities in all things.
South Central | December 2017