As a special education teacher by profession, Susan Kubel was adamant that she would take a break from her day job every Sunday morning. When a special needs class began at Salem with two children, she stayed out at first. Susan says, “I didn’t see hairdressers cutting hair in the church hallways or mechanics working on cars in the parking lot. All I wanted was Sunday morning off. I knew I shouldn’t deny God but I was determined to have my day.” Then God changed her circumstances to reverse that conviction. “I was offered a contract job making more money doing half the job I was doing in the trenches of public school. It just fell into my lap. Then the conviction hit me, and I couldn’t run fast enough to tell them that I’ll help set up this program.”
This program is now known as the Precious Jewels ministry at Salem and has grown to over a dozen kids. With Susan as their leader and an army of dedicated staff supporting her, Salem now offers many activities for the special needs community including a Bible Fellowship Group (BFG) on Sunday mornings, a music worship class on Sunday evenings, a special Vacation Bible School, and a three-day summer camp called Happiness Retreat. “I feel strongly that it’s our calling to open up our church, these walls, our hearts, to provide a place where ALL of God’s children can come and hear the Word of the Lord,” says Susan. “We’re not babysitting; we’re instructing their hearts in the Lord. They are safe, cared for, and loved.”
“We were blown away when Jamie was saved at Happiness Retreat. She was recently baptized here at Salem and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
At the first Happiness Retreat, the Precious Jewels chaperones blocked off an end of the hallway, opened doors and let the kids roam free. For most, this was an experience they’ve never had before. Susan says, “Non-verbal children were hanging out, high-fiving and playing games together. It was stunning. Parents told me their kids had never been this social before.” In addition to a true camp experience (music, dancing, swimming, etc.), there was also a pastor who preached the story of salvation in a way that really reached this audience. “We were blown away when Jamie was saved at Happiness Retreat. She was recently baptized here at Salem and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” says Susan. “Camp is so fun yet so critical. They are reaching souls for Christ, along with providing the most unique and amazing place for people with special needs I have ever seen in my life. It’s beautiful.”
You can help make this year’s Happiness Retreat an unforgettable experience for the Precious Jewels by covering the cost of camp (the total cost is $360 for a Precious Jewel student and their chaperone to attend) and by praying for the children, their families and the chaperones. Donations of all sizes are welcome and can be provided via check in the offering plate or dropped off in the Salem office. Please be sure to include “Precious Jewels Happiness Retreat” on the check. For more information and to provide ongoing support, please visit the Precious Jewels ministry page.
This story first appeared in Salem’s April 2019 Update. Tap here to get the April Update!