On April 9 Billy, Mary and I spent a delightful afternoon with a group called The Pure in Heart, at Longs Chapel United Methodist Church in Lake Junaluska N.C. This long standing church/community group is led by Jackie Spencer, a former student and dear friend of mine.
Jackie describes Pure in Heart as “a group of adults who share Acts 2:42 dinner together, followed by a variety of activities with emphasis on fun, fellowship, and service. We work around and from our challenges, knowing that God’s strength is evident in how He enables us and calls us to help one another.”
The Pure in Heart includes persons with disabilities, their parents, teachers, and friends. They welcomed us with open arms (literally), listened to our stories, and shared their concerns and victories. We had revised our presentation to reflect changes in Billy’s life and my awareness of what I have learned from him. We called it Lessons From Billy.
A surprise feature was the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Chris, one of the younger members of the group. Following the presentation, we enjoyed delicious refreshments and energetic conversation.
The philosophy of The Pure in Heart was evident: “Every person on earth has special needs. Some needs are more evident than others. Within our church, we all find love, acceptance, and a little extra help when needed. Every person also has special gifts and our friends’ gifts are well worth discovering.”
A few days later we returned to North Carolina to speak with students and educators at Western Carolina University. Dr. David Westling has invited us to join his students for several years and we always enjoy being there. This time Dr. Valerie Mazzotti welcomed us into her class (SPED 413) for our presentation. Afterwards we were treated with a lovely meal and a conversation full of ideas for the future of education! It is such a privilege for Billy and me to return to a place we worked and loved, to see our old friends and to meet new ones.
Both of these events, with unique audiences, illustrated the positive contributions that many people are making to ensure that persons with disabilities have opportunities to develop into happy and productive adults. Thank you, Jackie and David, for your dedication and passion for what you do and for whom you serve, and for your gracious hospitality.