This past week my husband and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Tough Ministries Conference in The Woodlands, Texas (just north of Houston). TMC is intended to equip and nurture those who are starting or involved in the “tough” ministries of the church such as special needs of all kinds, foster care, orphan and prison ministry, divorce care, etc.
I can’t say enough for the speakers we were privileged to hear. Each had an amazing testimony of overcoming and rising to amazing levels of positive influence and change in the world around them. One of my favorite speakers, David Ring, was born with cerebral palsy and then orphaned at age 14. Though he has trouble forming his words, it has not deterred his joy and excitement of getting on stage and sharing his story with the world. He is actually one of the best speakers I have ever heard, too, in spite of his handicaps and the voices of negativity in his youth.
As a young man of 17, he told his pastor that God had put a call on his life to preach. Three times he told this to his pastor and three times his pastor told him to forget about it—”God could never use” a handicapped person like him to be a preacher. Today, David preaches or shares his story over 200 times a year—all over the US. His family was recently filmed by FOX News in a special documentary! One beautiful part of his story is that he begged God not to let his mom die when he was 14, but God took her anyway. He realizes today that he would not be doing what he is doing to change the world had his mom still been living. David is simply amazing and his DVD’s can be ordered on his website. For now, here’s a little teaser.
Another favorite was Bishop W.C. Martin, author of Small Town, Big Miracle. Bishop Martin is the pastor of a church in east Texas. In the past several years, his church of a mere 200 members has adopted 72 U.S. orphans. What a story! I grabbed a copy of his book and I look forward to reading it. The guy sounds like he has a heart as big as Texas for all the newer family members of his church!
And yet another favorite was the testimony by Mark Tennant, President and CEO of Arrow Child and Family Ministries. Mark endured a horrific childhood with unstable divorced parents and abuse from his mom’s live-in boyfriend. He eventually found himself being bounced around in the foster care system, living a nightmare. Finally a wonderful Christian family took him in and Mark described the first 1.5 years with his new family as a “honeymoon” compared to his life before.
But one day, unable to believe that the love and acceptance could continue, Mark began to rebel against his new family, and for a long time put them through unimaginable grief. Finally they told him they would have to let him go because he was unmanageable. As he went to pack his things downstairs in his bedroom, his family prayed one last time upstairs that God would get a hold of his heart. While he packed, God did just that, and Mark prayed that God would forgive him and help him change. This began a series of events in his life that led him to opening a ministry to help kids just like himself. Today Arrow Child and Family Ministries operates in numerous states as well as Honduras.
We actually heard testimonies from several once orphans, adoptees, and foster kids, and all were more than inspiring stories of overcoming immense opposition to positions of leadership and change. I had no idea that there are 500,000 orphans in the United States alone! Given the chance, these children could become great ambassadors of change and leadership in the Church as well as society.
One of my favorite things about many of the speakers was their reminder that if the Church was doing what God sent it to do, there would be no need of the government programs. The Church is the solution to the social needs of society. It was all very convicting as well as inspirational! I hope you can all make it next year.