May God bless you this Christmas with an awareness and confidence that He is constantly with you, even to the end of the age.

This Christmas, I have reflected a great deal on the meaning of the name “Immanuel” that Isaiah prophesied for Jesus, meaning, “God with us.” More than 700 years later, Jesus sends His disciples to all nations, and ascends to heaven as He proclaims He is always with them to the end of the age. This promise that Jesus is continually present with his disciples, and now with us, gives me great comfort and peace as I continue my journey in ministry with people with intellectual disabilities.

Even when I am not attentive to His dynamic presence, He is still with me and actively guiding me! He teaches me through friends, mostly Linda, my wife and partner in ministry. But he also teaches me through friends with disabilities. Over the years, I have listened to inspiring messages by powerful Christian speakers. At times, I have taken copious notes and made pledges to God that I would change because of what I heard, but with minimal success. But, God has a way of teaching lessons that have transformed me through people that the world overlooks; people with intellectual disabilities.

Cindy will seldom be seen without her Bible and she always demonstrates a profound passion for God’s Word. I was with her as she met John, the football coach from a Christian University, and showed him where he could find his name in her Bible, and read him some of her favorite passages. She is always prepared to give a testament to anyone who asks her the reason for her hope (1 Peter 3:15).

Richard taught me to pray immediately when someone has a need. I could not begin to count the number of times I would be talking with him and he would take my hands and say, “let’s pray.” If you knew Richard, I am certain you would experience this as well. I am learning to followed Richard’s example. If you have a burden and share it with Nikki, it becomes her burden, and she will continuously offer her prayers for that burden. I hope to be better at bearing other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

These are just a few friends God has used to actively “be with me.” I pray that God surrounds you this Christmas, and in the coming year, with friends that will continually bring you back to an awareness that He is with you. This is authentic Christian community. If you want this kind of friend, or to experience Christian community, I can introduce you to a few of my friends. They have been God’s blessing for me.

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