Global Impact: Special Needs MinistryHello November 17th, 2023
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It is estimated that 16 percent of the world’s population lives with a disability—and is one of the largest, under-reached people groups in the world for the Gospel. In many countries around the globe, people with special needs are viewed as a burden or cursed within their community, making them some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Often, people living with disabilities are denied the same opportunities as their peers to feel included, celebrated, and valued. Our hope and prayer are that all those living with disabilities will come to know the transforming power of Christ’s love for them and experience belonging not only in their communities but also in the Church.
In 2014, what started as a unique way to celebrate the foundation’s 5-year anniversary sparked what is now a worldwide movement. Night to Shine is an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs, ages 14 and older that has reached 56 different countries. Each year on the Friday before Valentine’s Day, tens of thousands of people with special needs all over the world are celebrated as royalty – the way God sees them every day.
This year, Night to Shine reached the most countries ever in a single year with 622 churches hosting in 46 different countries and 48 states. More than 75,000 honored guests attended and were celebrated by more than 120,000 volunteers. We look forward to celebrating the 10-Year Anniversary of Night to Shine on February 9, 2024.
After the success and growth of Night to Shine, families and church leaders expressed the deep need for community and celebration beyond one amazing night a year. Following prayerful consideration of how we could help meet this need, Shine On was created in 2018 to encourage churches to offer belonging to families living with disabilities year-round.
We believe when the local church is equipped, no one is better suited to be a catalyst in helping to end the social, physical, and spiritual isolation that often impacts the over 1.3 billion people worldwide who live with a disability. Through relationships with Shine On Contributors from the disability ministry field, we seek to provide faith-based resources to support Church Ministry and families living with a disability.
Rising Light Ridge, a ministry of the Tim Tebow Foundation, will be a barrier-free ministry campus where all are celebrated as God’s children and His image-bearers. When fully built, Rising Light Ridge will be a year-round campus serving all abilities and backgrounds while delivering programs, including summer residential camping experiences, spring and fall weekend retreats, outdoor education, adaptive adventures with ziplines, high and low ropes courses, and nature hikes, respite care for parents, siblings, and caregivers of those with disabilities, equine and canine therapy programs, and community outreach programs.
This year, Rising Light Ridge directly impacted more than 180 individuals and delivered significant growth in program offerings and total number of lives touched. Rising Light Ridge operated a six-week summer day camp in 2023 with a total of 39 individual campers attending. In addition to the campers, RLR welcomed 13 volunteers and 10 staff members.
Rising Light Ridge also launched its Equine Center and began riding lessons and group events this year. The equine program served 38 participants and 69 guests/family members and welcomed 29 volunteers.
A great deal of effort and energy was focused on the ongoing construction process, with the completion of all design work and civil engineering for the main campus and phase one structures which will include a therapeutic riding center, camper cabins, adaptive adventure courses, worship center, welcome center and clinic, respite village, staff housing, and lower lake. The therapeutic riding center and adaptive adventure courses are currently scheduled to be open in summer of 2024, with the rest of the first phase being completed by spring of 2025.
At TTF, we believe that every child of God is uniquely created and inherently worthy of love. By partnering with international ministry partners, we can spread this message and the love of God within communities worldwide. Through our official ministry partnerships, we provide resources to families living with disabilities.
- Through our partnership with Back2Back Ministries, we are able to share the hope of the Gospel while meeting the physical, educational, emotional, and social needs of orphaned and vulnerable children with special needs through Rancho de los Niños in Mazatlan, Mexico. This year, we have served 10 children through this residential program.
- The Tim Tebow Foundation is working with Haiti Deaf Academy to pioneer an Early Identification Program. This program will help identify hearing loss at a much earlier age, improving the chances of a child’s ability to learn language. Through proper identification, children with hearing loss can then be encouraged to reach their God-given potential. Ultimately, our hope for these precious children is that they will know that they are cherished, valued, and loved by God. Due to the ongoing challenges in Haiti, this program was put on hold much of this year; however, recently, 7 children between the ages of 3-12 were identified as having severe to profound hearing loss. Once a child has been identified with hearing loss, the team provides the resources specific to each child’s needs to thrive in his or her community.
- We work with the Jonathan Center in Albania to help provide development, care, and advocacy for individuals with Down syndrome, as well as their families. Together, we believe that every child with special needs deserves love, care, and a welcoming community. Through Jonathan Center’s special needs programs, we help empower people with disabilities by providing physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, music therapy, life skill courses, training and support for parents, employment preparation, support, and food packages for families in need. This year, 220 families have been served.
- Alongside Ekisa Ministries, we have been able to help change the narrative of children with disabilities in Uganda. Through Ekisa Tebow Community Care Center, children to physical and occupational therapy, and a community to lean on for times of encouragement, learning, and discipleship. Our hope and prayer is for every child to grow up in a loving, healthy family equipped to provide them with the support they need to thrive. In the past year, 82 children and families have been served at the center. Currently, 54 children and families are being served on a regular basis.
- Tebow Down Guatemala, a ministry of the Tim Tebow Foundation, provides holistic education and resources to children with developmental disabilities in Guatemala and their families. By strengthening our impact through partnership, Tebow Down Guatemala has been able to expand to four locations across the country. More than 450 children and families currently receive education and therapy.