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Previous Message From Virtual Church

MIKE’S GIFTS TO YOU

In my hometown in Waldron, Indiana, there lived a boy a year or two younger than me. His name was Mike Wagoner. Mike was the son of Floyd and Mildred Wagoner and Mike was born with Down’s Syndrome. He was profoundly retarded and had no capability of speech or communication except by pointing and making unintelligible sounds. Mike died suddenly about 40 years ago at about the age of 14. Mike lived around the corner from me and I saw him often. Mike was a silent mentor and the giver of many gifts. The gifts Mike gave were not wrapped in wrapping paper nor tied with bright ribbons. Mike gave gifts that are impossible to wrap. Mike gave the gifts of God. I am telling you this story about Mike so you can receive these gifts and then give them away this Christmas.

Did God turn a potentially healthy, normal baby into a person with Down’s Syndrome? My answer to that question is "NO!". The power of darkness thought a victory had been won when the darkness turned Mike into a person with a disability. What God did was something greater. God turned Mike to a beaming light that glowed and beamed brightly to hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. Although Mike had a profound disability, Mike accomplished more in his short life than hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, could ever accomplish no matter how hard they tried.

God gave Mike gifts after the darkness thought the darkness had won. Mike then gave God’s gifts to everyone around him. This is not to say that Mike’s parents were not distraught over Mike’s difficulties, because they were devastated for awhile. However, as Mike grew out of infancy, Mike’s gifts began to show through. Mike’s parents began to receive his gifts and soon they were giving his gifts to others. Then those people passed on these gifts to others. Then those people passed on those gifts to still others. In fact, Mike is still giving. You are reading this article today because Mike gave gifts to me. I am giving them to you, and you (I hope) give them to others.

Even after Mike died at such a young age he kept on giving. Mike’s parents had the viewing and funeral in a nearby town (St. Paul, IN) and everyone that went to the viewing was stunned and awed. People were stunned because even as Mike was in the casket he appeared to be an angel. Even when the power of darkness tried to do the worst thing in the world to Mike and his family, God was still giving gifts to Mike and Mike was still giving to the rest of us.

Because Mike was born with a disability, a school for developmentally disabled children was started in the early fifties. A school of this nature was rare in the 1950’s. At that time, persons with disabilities were kept at home, out of site and out of mind to the rest of the world.

Because Mike was born with a disability, a sheltered industry was formed. That non-profit corporation is still in existence and has served the needs of thousands of individuals since its inception.

These two examples are the visible and tangible results of Mike’s life, but as dramatic an impact as these two examples are, they cannot begin to measure up to the intangible gifts Mike gave to the people around him…gifts which are still being passed on today.

I was born with a facial deformity and as I approached adulthood, I began to be plagued with a severe disability. However, Mike had a dramatic impact upon my life when I was a young boy and he is still influencing my life. Here are some of the gifts Mike gave to me, which I am giving to you, and which you can give to others. These gifts always fit and they never have to be returned.

GIFT NO. 1…STRIVE TO BE HUMBLE: Humility has died in so many places in our world. Everyone wants to assert their rights; everyone wants what they want when they want it. Arrogance and pride are accepted as normal traits. Humility is the ability of each of us to accept the good things God has given us without wanting more. As difficult as life is for many people, learning to accept the blessings of God enables us to conquer the psychological and spiritual barriers that separate us from God and from others.

GIFT NO. 2…STRIVE TO BE ORDINARY: Every day we can see people who want to stand out and be extraordinary in some way. We can also see people whose emotional and spiritual lives are ripped apart by feelings of inferiority because they are NOT "normal." Other people’s lives are ripped apart because they ARE "normal." There is, even for those people who will never be "normal," a beauty in striving to be just an ordinary person. The beautiful truth is we are all common folk. We are all different but we are all bonded to each other because we are alike...what a wonderful paradox. We are all human beings and no matter how good, how bad, how high, how low, or how anything in between we might be, we are all common people. When we accept that all of us are common folk, that we are all ordinary, that we are all more alike than we are different, that acceptance brings a beautiful truth and light into our souls. We must all remember that every human being that has ever lived on earth or that will ever live on earth, except Christ, is just a bag of dust except for the soul.

GIFT NO. 3…STRIVE TO TREAT PEOPLE KINDLY: Mike had a special kindness and gentleness about him. Mike’s kindness and gentleness brought out the greatness in others. To treat people with kindness and gentleness is not easy. Today, some people believe that being rude and crude is admirable. However, when we are kind and gentle with other people, we pass along the substance of God.

GIFT NO. 4…STRIVE TO NOT EVALUATE OR MAKE JUDGMENTS: Many times, we make judgments about people without knowing them. Outward appearances can be deceiving. One of our jobs as a human being is to bring out the very best in others. The best way to do this job is not to make snap judgments or decisions about others. People made judgments about Mike without knowing about what he would accomplish in his life. Persons with disabilities know the truth about having others make judgments about them that are not accurate. When we stop making evaluations and judgments we stop being critical of others. When we stop being critical or criticizing others, we begin to build a strong bond between them and us.

GIFT NO. 5…STRIVE TO BE PATIENT: Some of us are not patient people. We cannot wait. We must see results "NOW!" or we go crazy. The virtue of patience can be learned. Some people have to learn patience the hard way (through a lot of pain); however, some people never learn patience and spend their whole lives in terrible frustration and turmoil.

We must learn to be patient with ourselves. We must also learn to be patient with others, We must all realize that everyone in the world has a burden or disability of some kind. Some of these burdens or disabilities are visible, and some are not. Just as each of us needs others to be patient with us, we need to be patient with them.

GIFT NO. 6…. STRIVE TO GIVE LOVE THAT IS NEEDED DESPERATELY  If there was any one gift Mike Wagner brought to the world, it was love. How God did it is known only to Him. Each of us must accept that God may have put us on the Earth in a special situation or may have put on us a special circumstance to make sure others around us got the message that love, kindness, caring, compassion, and mercy are vital ingredients in life. Although you might not like the idea, God may have chosen you to be a messenger to carry and show others the qualities of love, kindness, caring, compassion, and mercy in action.

Some people wonder or think to themselves, "Since I have to carry an extra burden in life, shouldn’t I be getting these gifts from others instead of having to give them." You are partially correct. The problem with life is that we get no credit for answers that are partially correct. We get no partial credit. All of us need these six gifts from Mike, but what is most important is not whether we get the gifts. What is most important is whether we give them.

This holiday season you have the greatest opportunity in the world to give away some of Mike’s gifts. When you give these gifts, what you give away comes back to you, many times over. May the love of our Savior bless you and keep you.

 

  

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018