Our daughter Kim was twenty-three, but because of her multiple disabilities she hadn’t been taught the Bible consistently at her level. We had tried inclusion in regular Sunday school but that didn’t meet her needs. So my wife, Jill, and I gathered a couple of Kim’s friends and found a room in the back of the church basement where I began to teach Kim and her friends the Bible. We were immediately struck by how “dumbed down” the available curriculum was for adults with intellectual disabilities. It touched lightly on Scripture and had little depth.
This is what led to the development of the Bethesda Series. Michele Bennett Walton, publisher at seeJesus Press, writes:
After several years of teaching Kim and her friends, Jill-who is also a special education teacher-began to plan a special needs curriculum series. We saw the need for a robust Bible curriculum, and Jill firmly believed we could create a complete Bible curriculum that involved real Bible study. She wanted it to use interactive questions and to be engaging for the students. Jill loved the interactive style and the story focus of seeJesus’ Person of Jesus study-which looks closely at how Jesus related to people in the gospels-and she thought the material would be ideal to adapt for young adults with disabilities. So that’s what she did. Jill didn’t just write the curriculum, she also taught every lesson to make sure it “worked.” Today, we have five Bethesda series studies covering over a year’s worth of material. We expect to release our sixth study in 2018.
Why do we call it Bethesda? Jesus healed a lame man who had gathered with other adults with disabilities at the Pool of Bethesda. Joni Eareckson Tada described how overwhelming it was to visit the pool with her husband Ken. Jill had a similar experience when we visited the Pool of Bethesda in 2011.
Bethesda in Hebrew means “house of covenant love.” Covenant love doesn’t
break. It binds itself to the object of its love and determines to love no matter what. That is God’s love for us, and it is to be our love for one another. The lame man at the Pool of Bethesda was frustrated that he couldn’t get into the water in time. Our Bethesda series logo, with its image of a splash of water, captures the healing hope of Jesus. Because of Jesus, we make it into the pool, the river of grace. If you look closely at the “splash” in the logo, you can see several figures going into the water.