Psalm 100 implores the people of God to “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” That is the express goal of a remarkable singing group made up of special needs adults in Oklahoma.
The “Joyful Sound Choir,” now 70 voices strong, may even have performed in your church recently, as the choir has been featured in churches and venues throughout the state.
“The choir actually began by singing in a Sunday School class about 20 years ago,” said volunteer choir director Shouna Olson. “The students enjoyed it so much, they began having a special time to sing on Wednesday evenings. From there, they learned so much music, they needed a venue to perform. So, the choir became official and began performing about 12 years ago.
Olson and her husband, Gary, have a special needs child of their own. Preston, now an adult, is their inspiration and is a member of the choir.
“All of our performances are worship and praise oriented, no matter where we perform,” she said.
“People are always inspired when they see the joyful way that these individuals praise God with abandon. Though they face many difficulties every day of their lives, the joy of the Lord is their strength. Seeing them perform through sign language, bells, signing, instruments and movement causes people to ask themselves, ‘What am I complaining about?’, and helps them realize their many blessings they are taking for granted. People leave refreshed and renewed in their commitment to serve God with the gifts He has given them, whether great or small,” said Olson, referring to 1 Cor. 12:4.
The Olsons also volunteer with WINGS, a non-profit organization created in 2002 that aims to provide “a Christ-centered community where adults with special needs can live and thrive within an environment guided by the principles of the Bible.”
As a board member and volunteer, she said, “I know that when I invest my time, talent and finances in WINGS, I am doing something that pleases God and fulfills a mandate from Him. When He created these individuals in his image, he did so with the plan that we would care for them.”
“All families need a place to worship, and families with disabilities are no different,” said Olson. “When you are planning something special at your church, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind and you will be blessed because these folks do not have the means to repay you. You will be repaid, but not yet, you’ll be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
She added, “You will need to go looking for this population, but you will find them if you search for them. When you do, compel them to come to your church that it may be filled.”
The Olsons attend Edmond, Henderson Hills, which serves approximately 150 individuals weekly who have various disabilities.
Brian Hobbs is director of communications for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.