Thanks to the example of Joni Eareckson Tada I knew that God could do great things through people with disabilities, but for the first 20 years of my life I wanted little to do with disability. Despite my need for a power wheelchair, limited fine motor skills and significant visual impairment, I wanted to lead a “normal” life as far away from disability as possible. …
We can look forward to Jesus returning and the glory of the Lord being revealed when the playing field is leveled for the oppressed. Then all people will have equal opportunity to serve God and enjoy the abundant life that He offers. Removing a barrier is not just about helping someone else to enjoy full participation: it is about demonstrating how God loves all people and wants everyone to live life to the fullest. …
On the Road to Emmaus, Jesus’ strategy is to walk alongside the followers for a long while, allowing them to tell their whole story. Similarly, matching the pace of someone else and demonstrating that we are truly listening, even though it may be hard to relate is a way to show that they are valued. …
This is the fourth in a series of posts written by a mother of a son with autism, reflecting on her experience with her church community. Some of her observations serve as challenges to the way we do church, while others should be encouraging to the people who have made a difference in the lives of her and her family. The names in this story are fictional, but their experiences are not.
On the Joni and Friends Web Site I listened to an MP3 by Will and Arlyn Kantz and they really understand our needs. Our family can relate to almost every behavioral situation they spoke about, the challenges families face and even the fears of future challenges like puberty, programming, the workers, the sensory issues, congregational reactions, etc.
I would love to have a local church like the ones the Kantz’s help with inclusion programming.
Even one church like this in the area would be great.
I realize this particular couple (Will and Arlyn) not only have an autistic son but have great qualifications. They have done the work required and have put immense energy into the transformation. Their staged strategies for inclusion are thought through in a professional way.
Would a church body ever rise to this challenge on their own?
Most parents of children with disabilities do not have the qualifications, experience, energy, time or resources to instigate or even help implement something like this. Even as I write this, feelings of guilt resurface about not trying harder and doing more to figure something out for Michael. To be honest, though, we have so many things in his daily life that we have not figured out. It’s overwhelming to think of the energy and time required to figure out programming for Church as well.
There have always been people who have invested the energy and time to work out the programming for Nursery School, ABA and school. If a church really wants to work for inclusion or foster belonging for people with disabilities and their families a great first step would be listening to the Kantz’s MP3. Really, they have it right. Everyone in the congregation needs to be educated and not just immediate workers or teachers.
To the rest of the congregation this may look like an immense undertaking and adjustment, but think of how many more members would be able to join in fellowship and be ministered to!