Special Needs Conference 2016

Include Like Jesus: Christ’s Call to Serve Families with Special Needs


February 8, 2017

Notes from the 2017 conference for church leaders, parents and volunteers who seek to reach families affected by disabilities.

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed (Luke 14:13-14).

People with disabilities remain culturally hidden and the least evangelized population in the United States. Did you know 62 million Americans have a disabling condition, yet less than 2% of American churches have any kind of disability outreach?

And yet, Jesus had much to say specifically about ministering to people with disabilities in the Gospels. Jesus is calling you to preach the good news to them.


Joni Eareckson Tada of Joni and Friends sends a greeting to participants of the “Include Like Jesus” conference, held March 1 at South Columbia Baptist Church in Columbia, Md., on March 1. Joni and Friends co-sponsored the special needs conference.

Shauna Amick, director of Joni and Friends New England, shares her heart for disability ministry, born out of the miracle birth of her daughter Sarah.

Inspired by their son, Jimmy, who has autism, Tom and Shelley Stolle seek to help churches welcome and minister to all families touched by special needs. This large unreached people group needs access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, too!

Chuck Brooks, pastor of Grace Way Church in Baltimore, Md., and his wife Deborah, share an encouraging word to parents of children with special needs. Their beautiful daughter, Precious, contracted cerebral palsy at one month old, and ever since, has been entirely dependent on others to care for her.


Include Like Jesus, Part 1 (featuring Christopher and Christine Duffley, Shauna Amick and Tom Stolle)

Include Like Jesus, Part 2 (featuring Sib Charles)

Include Like Jesus, Part 3 (featuring panel discussion)

2016 Presenters

Shauna Amick, M.Ed., Director, Joni and Friends New England
Shauna has been a featured speaker across the country in a number of settings, delivering a powerful and practical message through first-hand testimonies and humor. Her approach is enthusiastic and her teaching biblically solid; ministering truth, hope and encouragement as a passionate pursuer of Christ. As the mother of a child with Down syndrome and the author of several articles, Shauna has become a strong advocate for people with disabilities – upholding the sanctity and dignity of all human life.

Shauna’s personal walk has tested and refined her trust in God, producing in her a faith that is contagious. As a result, God has deepened Shauna’s desire to encourage and inspire others to find comfort and significance in Christ – especially those in the disability community. Shauna serves as the Director of Joni and Friends New England, a regional outreach of Joni Eareckson Tada’s international ministry. She is dedicated to communicating the Gospel and equipping Christ-honoring churches worldwide in evangelizing and discipling people affected by disability.

Shauna and her husband Steve have been married for 23 years. They have three precious children – miracles, every one!

Tom Stolle, Chief Financial Officer, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware
Tom has served the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware for 11 years. He has a passion for financial ministry. He directs, supervises, and coordinates the finance, accounting, and budgeting operations of the Network. He also serves the staff as Human Resource Director, and manages corporate insurance coverage. He also leads the Baptist Foundation of Maryland/Delaware as Director, also serving as Treasurer, managing the Network’s church loan program.

He has a passion for the church and routinely provides various types of training to local churches including ministers’ taxes, budgeting, establishing effective internal financial controls, and financial stewardship.

Tom and his wife, Shelley, have been married for 25 years and have three sons. Their youngest, Jimmy, is a child with autism. This journey has sparked a passion to assist our churches in the area of effective special needs ministry. He also enjoys participating in events that raise awareness for special needs causes, such as walks for autism.

Christopher Duffley, Singer and Multi-Instrumentalist, who is blind and autistic, Know Greater Love Ministries
Christopher Duffley is a 14-year-old singing sensation, who is blind and has autism. He entered the world prematurely at 26 weeks, weighing just 1 lb. 12 oz., testing positive for cocaine. Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), an eye disease that affects many premature babies, rendered him totally blind by the time he was 6 months old. Adopted by his biological aunt, Christine, and her husband, Stephen, he was diagnosed with autism at the age of 5.

Defying the odds, Christopher demonstrated surprising musical ability at an early age. With the love and support of his family, his singing career began 4 years ago when a YouTube video of him singing “Open the Eyes of My Heart” went viral. Since then he has traveled far and wide, sharing his talent, his story, and his faith in God through his incredible gift of singing. His first CD, Eyes of My Heart, is a compilation of inspirational, patriotic, and sacred songs, and his second CD Believer, was released this past August. Know Greater Love Ministries, a non-profit organization, was founded in September of 2014. For more information, visit KGLM.org.

Charlie Arnold, Pastor,Seaside Church, Lewes, Del.

Sib Charles, Community Church Relations Manager, Joni and Friends Eastern Pennsylvania