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Special needs inspires greater vision

Children with disabilities advocate Jody Mlynek discovers families with special-needs children are eager to become child sponsors.

June 2008

Jody Mlynek, a World Vision Child Ambassador, is pictured here with her family. Jody's son Logan, 9 (pictured beside her), who has severe autism, has given Jody a heart for children with special needs and those living in difficult circumstances.
Jody Mlynek, a World Vision Child Ambassador, is pictured here with her family. Jody's son Logan, 9, pictured beside her, has severe autism and has given Jody a heart for children with special needs and those living in difficult circumstances. Photo courtesy of Jody Mlynek.
Leave a message on Jody Mlynek's answering machine, and you will hear Jody's recorded voice saying a disability is not a tragedy — but a lack of compassion and understanding are.

As the mother of Logan, 9, a child with severe autism, Jody knows a lot about the rejection and indifference frequently experienced by such children and their families.

What disturbs her more is to find such indifference frequently extends to the church. She says the one place families might hope to be encouraged and revitalized often has no facilities to cope with children with physical or mental difficulties.

That insight led Jody to found Logan's Friends — an organization dedicated to supporting families with special-needs children and helping churches become more welcoming places for them.

Sharing an opportunity to change a life

But Jody, who lives in Oceanside, Calif., did not stop there. Having sponsored children through World Vision for several years, and currently sponsoring five children, Jody was acutely aware that children in the developing world often face even greater disadvantages — lacking clean water, little food, and limited access to schools and health care.

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

—Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

As Jody worked with churches and special-needs families, she discovered she had an ideal opportunity to extend people's vision to include some of the desperate needs of children around the world.

To facilitate her efforts, Jody decided to become a World Vision Child Ambassador. She carries picture folders of children when fulfilling speaking or consulting engagements and invites people she meets to consider sponsoring them.

A heart for special needs

Not surprisingly, Jody takes a particular interest in getting special-needs children sponsored. She says it is devastating enough for a child to grow up in dire poverty, but children with physical and mental handicaps are at a double disadvantage.

She notes that in contrast, Logan has access to a good school, therapy, and a pediatrician who understands autism.

"We are just so blessed to live in the United States where we can find those resources so easily," she says.

'I try to help them imagine'

Jody hopes to see about 100 children sponsored through her efforts this year. She says parents with special-needs children often identify with and are eager to reach out to a child in the developing world who also faces huge struggles.

"I try to help them imagine what it would be like to live in conditions where you could not provide your child with the most basic of needs," she says. "Then I take it one step further and say, what if that child had, for example, Down syndrome? Once people begin to consider that, the compassion just flows out of them."

Learn more

>> Read more about World Vision's Child Ambassador program.
>> Read an article about a mother in California who works to share the joy of child sponsorship with others.
>> Read an eNews article about a couple who have taken their message of World Vision Child Sponsorship nationwide as Child Ambassadors.

Three ways you can help

>> In prayer, thank God for Jody Mlynek's heart for special-needs children and children living in poverty around the world. Pray that her ministry would inspire others to act on behalf of young ones in need, and pray that her son Logan's therapy will be successful.
>> Apply to become a World Vision Child Ambassador. Help spread the joy of sponsoring a child in need.
>> Sponsor a child today. Your support will directly change his or her life and bring hope to an entire community.

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