From ANN, April 27, 2016:    The Seventh-day Adventist denomination designated Saturday, April 23, as Special Needs Day. It was an opportunity for the church’s 19.1 million members to remember that more than 1 billion people live with disabilities, coping daily with difficulties often created by a society that prioritizes perfection.

The General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world denomination, is placing a renewed emphasis in reaching out to people with special needs with the establishment of a new Special Needs Ministries department.

“At the heart of the Adventist initiative for Special Needs Ministries is the desire to assure those with special needs that all are gifted, needed, treasured, and loved,” said Larry Evans, director of Special Needs Ministries as an assistant to the General Conference president.

Special Needs Ministries looks to share the love of Jesus with those with physical and mental limitations as well as with orphans.

Evans said Special Needs Day seeks to remind the world church about the value and dignity of these people.

Corrado Cozzi, deaf liaison for the Adventist Church’s Inter-European Division, said people with special needs especially needed to be accepted, encouraged, and engaged in everyday life.

“We want them to enjoy the beauty of life,” he said.

Steps are being taken in that direction through the efforts of church-affiliated organizations such as Rise and Walk. Fifty-three disabled people, nearly half of them deaf and mute, showed up for a first meeting of a recently opened branch of Rise and Walk in Romania, said George Uba, the organization’s president.

“We had a great surprise,” Uba said.

Rise and Walk — whose motto is “To be the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, and the legs of the lame” — had not expected such a high turnout. Uba said the large numbers provided an indication of the great desire of disabled people connect with others and to live better lives.

Church leaders expressed hope that Special Needs Day would encourage all Adventists to find new ways to reach out to those with special needs and to say to them every day in one voice, “We love you!”

Adventist News Network (ANN) is the official news service of the denomination’s world headquarters in Washington, DC. Featured image: People with special needs attending an Adventist-organized meeting in Europe. Featured photo credit: ANN/Inter-European Division.