It’s not every day I get to speak about disability ministry and perhaps my nerves kept me from saying a few things I thought I could have.
I firmly believe ALL people belong in the Church, the community of believers, the fellowship, the Body of Christ. However without going out and inviting such persons and their families, going above and beyond in order to ensure their attendance and being absolutely fine when they don’t show up-even when we have made arrangements for volunteers to help, we are an incomplete Body and our functioning is slowed down, our effectiveness diminished.
The Church is missing parts of its Body due to a lack of understanding, seeking out, and making a way for people with cognitive and physical disabilities to be in it’s sanctuary and part of it’s community. Even those with profound intellectual impairments, who seemingly don’t need the Church at all, have something to give and need to be in fellowship with the believers-not just to be served but to serve. Presence alone is a gift.
Something else I wanted to express was with regards to the time when our family was asked to leave a church service because Annie & Audrey were a disturbance to the other churchgoers. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. My heart hurt a hurt I had never known. Rejection is a sharp pain to the soul. Maybe you can identify on another level? A parent leaves, a spouse gives up or a church simply says, “sorry, we can’t help. Try somewhere else”. I cried a lot that night and the following day. But the reassurance from the Holy Spirit was immediate and undeniable. “You took one for the team. I needed you to feel what so many have felt”. The words were clear and I knew His comfort once again. My humanity wanted to run away, to protect my babies and to deny anyone the pleasure of having them in their presence. They don’t deserve to know my kids anyway. But that’s not grace and also, I had asked for a sign. “Am I on the right track? Do people really need to be educated about the need for disability ministry and that there are missing people from the Body?”
The Lord showed me this is where the rubber meets the road. My passion for ministering to people with disabilities was and is growing and I can’t help but share it, advocate “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8), and keep loving even the ones who just don’t understand, the ones who were annoyed in the church service that night. Gulp, love them, pray for them and believe that they will be part of changing the fabric of our churches.
There are some incredibly practical things we can do. Are you willing to learn? Are you believing that God wants this? Can you imagine being led by, “those parts of the body that SEEM to be weaker”(1 Cor:12:22)? How can we not? After all, the rest of the verse tells us that such people are “indispensable”!
Indispensable means: Absolutely necessary, essential, all important, of utmost importance, of the essence, vital, must-have, crucial, key, needed, required, imperative, invaluable. How can the Body of Christ possibly function properly without such parts?
All belong. Let’s be part of making it so.