NOTE from Susanna: The following was written by Grace Kauk, the young woman who generously offered to come and live with our family as a helper without pay last spring, when we were in the thick of it with Tommy’s needs. We joke now, somewhat ruefully, “we said ‘no’ to grace…”
When I received the following email, we were on our way to the airport, and I wasn’t able to read it aloud to Joe without choking up.
Last spring, we considered my coming to live with your family, but God had other plans for us both. I’m writing now because I want to share something with you. You have been part of my story, and I want you to know how God is writing its next chapter. I hope that God will encourage you. You have been an encouragement to me.
Eleven years ago, a couple named Steve and Tanja Pankratz answered the call of God to be missionaries in Sofia, Bulgaria. Since only 1.9% of the Bulgarian population is evangelically Christian, the presence of missionaries may be the only way most Bulgarians will ever hear the gospel. The Pankratzes became involved in church planting, theological teaching, and creative outreach.
In 2009, their third child, Jaden, was born with Down Syndrome. Although there are extra challenges to raising a special needs child in Bulgaria because of societal stigma and lack of resources, Steve and Tanja did not leave the field. They stayed. In fact, they soon realized that not only was Jaden a profound blessing to their family, but God was using Jaden to open for them doors for ministry that they had never imagined, to the special needs families in Bulgaria who have chosen to keep their children instead of putting them in an orphanage. They are also beginning to open up doors for ministry inside some of the orphanages in Sofia.
Steve and Tanja want to keep walking this road alongside the Bulgarian special needs community. But as Jaden grows older, the lack of educational resources for special needs has left them with an acute need. Tanja writes, “We have felt a big vacuum and have found it difficult to juggle ministry, family, and homeschooling our older children when Jaden does not have someone to work with him. We have been praying that if God wills, he would send us … a teacher for Jaden to implement his neurodevelopmental program.”
When I heard this story, it resonated with me because I am a pastor’s kid and my younger sister, Mary, has Down syndrome. I remember what it was like for my parents to do ministry while homeschooling and while implementing Mary’s 3-4 hr/day neurodevelopmental program. Galatians 6:10 tells me to serve everyone, but “especially those who are of the household of faith.” God has been gracious to be very clear in his leading to me. It is my joy and privilege to come alongside Steve and Tanja in the work they’re doing by meeting their need for Jaden, and to participate in their ministry to the special needs community in Bulgaria. I hope to leave in September (in order to arrive for the beginning of the school year) and serve Jaden and his parents for at least one year, after which we will see how God leads.
May I invite you to join me in this, if God stirs your heart to do so? By the end of August, I need to raise monthly support of about $1500/month. That is not a lot of time to raise support! I am asking my Christian community to consider supporting me in three ways.
Would you be willing to receive my newsletter and pray for me? Pray that I will navigate this process of raising support without doing damage to any relationships. Pray that God who has called me to this work will supply my needs. Pray for me as I take time to seek God and prepare my heart before I leave.
Would you pray about supporting me financially on a monthly basis? Here is my online page at SEND International: Grace Kauk
Please give only as you purpose in your own heart, only if God is prompting you to do so. There is no burden or compulsion here. Since God has called me to this work, it is up to Him to call those He would have to support me.
Would you pray about sharing my need with others you know?
I almost did not write these final paragraphs. You are dear to me, and I truly am happy for you to just know how God has continued our story. I don’t want to burden you in any way. You are ALREADY a part of this ministry, since you are part of my story and part of Bulgaria’s story. But I felt it was right to give you the same invitation I am giving others, and let the Holy Spirit decide whether he would lead you to say yes or no at this time. Please know that I am content just to share with you what God is doing, and I expect nothing from you.
Love, your sister,