Bible School for Special People celebrates its 50th anniversay

By Lynn R. Parks

In 1964, the Christ Lutheran Church in Seaford started its Bible School for Special Persons at the request of parishioners Sara and Charles Schieferstein, parents of a disabled child. Recently, the program celebrated its 50th anniversary.

That child, Jeannie Schieferstein, now lives in Greenwood and still attends the Saturday-morning program. Two other original participants, Mark Murphy and Dale Perry, are also still regular attendees.

Church member Leona Tull, who coordinates the program with Donna Hassman, isn't surprised that BSSP has lasted this long. "Our students come together every Saturday morning with their peers," she said. "No one judges them. They all love each other. No one is embarrassed. For the two hours that they are here, they shine."

BSSP is for teens and adults with developmental disabilities. Attendance varies, Tull said: The program has had as many as 45 participants. Currently, about 20 people attend every week.

Meetings last two hours and include a short church service, music, crafts and games. Lessons are based on the Lutheran Sunday School curriculum, but are simplified and repeated for ease of understanding.

A corps of about 15 volunteers helps with the students and teaches the lessons. On occasion, members of the Seaford High School Key Club show up to help out. The program is funded through donations, including from the students themselves.

On one Saturday a month, following the church service, the students go bowling. The Seaford Kiwanis Club pays for the outing and Kiwanis members help to chaperone.

BSSP sponsors an annual Christmas program and an annual Easter program. Students go on picnics and to dances.

The Rev. Dr. Andrew Watkins has been minister at the church for 13 years. He said that as far as he knows, the BSSP program is unique in the Lutheran Church. There's certainly nothing like it in Sussex County, he said.

The program doesn't just help students to remember Bible stories, Watkins said. It also helps them to handle everyday problems that they may encounter.

"When we have prayer time, I always ask if there is anything that they would like to pray for," Watkins said. "One of them might say that he's having a problem at work and doesn't know how to deal with it. We talk about it, we come up with solutions, and then the next week, the student comes back and says that our solution worked!"

BSSP is also a benefit to parents and caretakers, Watkins said. "For a couple hours a week, they get a break, to run errands or just to re-energize," he said. "And they know that the students are in a safe place. We always have plenty of people to help out."

Tull said that she feels that the Bible School for Special Persons is the most important outreach program that her church has. And its benefits extend beyond the students, she added.

"I get far more out of BSSP than I put in," Tull said. "This is a wonderful thing to be a part of. If you ever want a place where there are loads of hugs handed out, this is it."

For your information Bible School for Special Persons meets every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Christ Lutheran Church, 315 N. Shipley St., Seaford. Teenagers and adults with developmental disabilities, as well as volunteers to help out, are welcome. Donations can be sent to BSSP at the church. For details, call 629-9755.

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