“Caroline is fully confident in who and how God made her, and she accepts us and others with no judgements or preconceptions. Oftentimes, when I see her, she greets me with overwhelming joy and excitement. It is the purest form of love and reminds me every time of the Father’s love for me.” – Shannon Copeland
NAME: Shannon Copeland
FAMILY: Husband, Darren, and children Ava, Chloe, and Jack
AREA OF SERVICE AT WATERMARK: Kaleidoscope, Watermark’s ministry for individuals (2 – 22 years) with special needs.
Why did you get involved in Kaleidoscope?
“Ever since our kids were little, I wanted to be sure they were comfortable around people with special needs, not just view them as different. I’ll never forget being in the pediatrician’s office with my kids and seeing a father caring for his son who had special needs and was non-verbal. The son would groan, and the father would know exactly what he needed. It was a beautiful picture of how the Lord knows us and hears us, no matter where we come from or what our story is. That situation was an opportunity to teach my children that we are all deeply loved and valued, even in our differences.”
“We got involved in Kaleidoscope through Watermark’s Recess Ministry, which offers a night of fun and fellowship for kids with special needs and their siblings, so that parents can have a night off. We made a connection with a wonderful young lady named Caroline Roosevelt, who has Down syndrome. We had an immediate connection with her (it’s hard not to) and eventually, I became her buddy in Kaleidoscope.”
How has God used the relationship with Caroline to encourage your family?
“Caroline has been such a gift to our family, especially now that our girls are in the teenage phase, which can be full of insecurity. Caroline is fully confident in who and how God made her, and she accepts us and others with no judgements or preconceptions. Oftentimes, when I see her, she greets me with overwhelming joy and excitement. It is the purest form of love and reminds me every time of the Father’s love for me and how He receives me when I show up to spend time with Him. Caroline’s love for others is a tangible illustration of God’s limitless love for His children.”
How are kids in Kaleidoscope learning about God’s grace and mercy?
“Caroline may not read through God’s Word on her own, but she is learning about the Bible through simple discussions, music, and repetition. I see her love for the Lord when she sings worship songs and responds to God’s love in such a pure and sincere way.”
“Kids at Kaleidoscope are learning God’s Word at a basic level, and I am often reminded that these simple messages about the gospel are really what all believers need. It’s God’s Word in its simplest form, like learning that we must, ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself’ (Luke 10:27). Caroline goes to Wake (grades 6th – 8th) at 9 AM on Sundays, and I go with her as her Kaleidoscope buddy. About 90 percent of our children and students with special needs on the Watermark Dallas campus are served in an ‘inclusion’ setting with a buddy on Sundays.”
How did your early life with Christ influence your decision to serve kids with special needs?
“I trusted Christ at six years old, and over the years, God was gracious to provide people who invested in and discipled me. My spiritual growth and pursuit of a personal relationship with Christ began in junior high after a friend of mine chose to take her own life. I had been told, wrongly, that suicide might separate us from God, so I looked at what God’s Word had to say. I learned that ‘neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39). Even as I faced adversity and personal struggles in my young adult life, I turned to that verse to remind me that performance and perfection do not justify me with the Lord; His free gift of grace does. It’s a privilege to share that love with Caroline each week, as others discipled me when I was young in my walk with Christ.”
What’s unique about Watermark’s ministry for special needs kids?
“There aren’t a lot of churches that have this kind of ministry for kids with special needs and their families. Often, parents of these children get really tired, so there is a great need for a ministry like Recess, which offers a respite for parents while their kids have fun at Watermark. Honestly, I get tired caring for my own kids, and I look at the physical and emotional effort it requires to care for a child with special needs, and I’m humbled and amazed. On Sunday morning, Kaleidoscope is an opportunity for us to partner with families to help kids with special needs learn about Jesus and connect with their peer group. Now the Kaleidoscope team is looking at how we can care for our kids with special needs as they become adults, and that is an exciting opportunity.”
KALEIDOSCOPE Interested in serving with special needs ministry? We would love to have you join our team. See the “Serve with Us” tab on watermark.org/specialneeds for more info.