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Mission Possible is a Vancouver, Washington, employment agency for people with disabilities. My wife, Patricia, is the director. During the past 10 years she and her staff have placed hundreds of people with disabilities into paying jobs in the surrounding communities. They have served people who face every type of disability you could imagine. These include people with head injuries and amputations, the mobility- challenged and developmentally delayed, and those afflicted with every sort of dread disease and syndrome common today.

Recently the staff members hosted their monthly activity for disabled clients. This activity has grown in interest each month, and the attendance averages 60 with the interested parents who come along. The activities are designed to develop friendships and social skills. We often go for miniature golf, pizza and games, or bowling. The overwhelming favorite activity for this group is, believe it or not, karaoke! However, this time it was bowling.

The teens and young adults really enjoy bowling, and some are getting pretty good at it. They all understand that they're a bit different from "normal people," but they build a camaraderie as they spend time together.

Sometimes winning is everything

As it happened, Patty and a few others were bowling on the same alley as Jake (not his real name). Jake is blind, has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. To bowl, others help him line up his wheelchair and tell him to throw the bowling ball forward down the lane. They use the alley with special inflatable bumpers in the gutters so that there are no gutter balls. The ball often bounces from side to side as it goes down the alley. Everyone cheers, and it's great fun.

As they were playing, Jake was doing quite well. After seven frames his score was over 60 and he was leading the other four bowlers on his lane. Everyone was cheering for him and he was smiling. Patty bowled after Jake and rolled a strike (not normal for her, but with bumpers anything is possible!).

She kiddingly remarked to Jake that her score was higher than his now, hoping to challenge him a little. Instead he just dropped his head down towards the floor and said quietly, "That's the way it always is. I never win at anything." Patty felt terrible that she had inadvertently dashed his hopes. After all, it's only a game and we were just playing for fun. She could see how much winning at something might mean to him.

Everyone was hoping that Jake would win. But it didn't look good because Patty was now nine pins ahead and there were only three frames left. Patty tried her best bowling skills at missing pins so that Jake could win. Normally this comes easy, but with bumpers in the alleys it was not so simple because she had to aim for the corners.

Jake gained a few pins in the frames, but Patty bowled last and was only four behind in the 10th frame. She prayed and tried hard to miss, but knocked down three pins on the first throw. Now Jake was ahead by only one. On the next throw she was able to hit the same spot and missed the pins. Jake won by one pin, 95-94!

The other bowlers were in the low 90s also, but Jake still won. Everyone cheered for him and Jake spent the rest of the evening with a big smile on his face, shaking hands with people he couldn't see using a hand that doesn't work normally.

It was a big day in Jake's life.

"I just want to be normal!"

When I hear healthy, normal, blessed people complaining about how difficult their lives are, I often think of people like Jake. We have known so many of them as a result of Patty's work. In most cases their disabilities are theirs to bear through no fault of their own. They were simply born that way or were in the wrong place at the wrong time and were injured. They would trade places with a healthy person suffering from "stress" or a few financial problems in a heartbeat!

Two years ago Patty asked me to make a device to hold plastic mailing bags so that a teenage girl with severe cerebral palsy could insert three or four magazines into it and then seal the bag. Since her arms and hands don't work well, this was a challenge.

I devised a folding spring-loaded device on a cradle, sort of like a miniature seesaw, that she could push down with her elbow, move one part of the open bag under, and release so it would hold the bag open. Then with her one or two good fingers on her other hand she could push the magazines into the mailing bag. I spent about two evenings working in my garage to make it.

As she was trying it out in the office and having difficulty, she stopped and looked at the office workers gathered around her. Tears began to flow from her eyes and she said very loudly, "I just want to be normal; I just want to be normal!"

It was more than most of us could take and not cry with her. After a couple of revisions the device worked for her, and she was able to work at her job for a few hours each day stuffing magazines into mailers.

Remember the little ones

The percentage of people afflicted with disabilities is rapidly rising in the developing nations. For reasons that the medical profession doesn't yet understand, mental disabilities such as autism and delayed development are escalating much faster than the general population growth. Services to assist these people in need are strained to the limit.

At Mission Possible Patty regularly talks with adults and children with disabilities who have had to wait several years before receiving assistance or help from state or county agencies. Needless to say, there are limitless opportunities for volunteers to give of their time and energy to help others.

Jesus Christ foretold a time in the future when we will have to give an accounting for how we have helped those in need. "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'

"Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'

"And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me'" (Matthew 25:34-40). Why not look around for a way to help those in need? Many foundations and non-profit organizations that serve people with disabilities would be happy to hear from you. Special Olympics is a wonderful organization that is always appreciative to have volunteers for activities and track meets.

Remember Jake and the thousands of others like him. They are indeed some of the "little ones" Jesus instructed us to help. GN