You’re pleased the Carters have joined your congregation, and you want things to go well for Matthew, who has autism, but you’re feeling intimidated because you don’t know how to make things work for him.

August 22, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Presentation

Nearly 1 in 4 pastors have struggled with mental illness. This Guide for a Clergy Leave of Absence for Mental Health Reasons provides guidelines and suggestions for pastors and for church councils.  

August 22, 2016 0 2 comments
CRC and RCA Logos with the words "Disability Concerns"
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

Disability Week (October 10 - 16) encourages congregations to grow in becoming places of belonging for everyone and places to engage their gifts in ministry—with a particular focus on people with disabilities. 

August 18, 2016 1 3 comments
Resource, Workshop or Training, Facilitated by Others

Join other disability ministry leaders and volunteers in the Chicago area to explore TOGETHER, an inclusive Bible Study created by Friendship Ministries. 

August 18, 2016 0 1 comments

Knowing the correct way to act or speak in unique situations will be a great help in your ministry. Here are tips for coming alongside someone who is "differently-abled", uses a wheelchair, is blind, or is deaf. 

August 17, 2016 0 0 comments
RCA and CRC logos with the words "Disability Concerns"

Disability Awareness Sunday encourages congregations to grow in becoming places of belonging for everyone and to discover ways to engage their gifts in ministry.

August 17, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

As a family, we learned to put something back in its original place so he could find it again, and not to move the furniture without telling him. Yes, we learned the hard way to make those issues priorities.

August 1, 2016 0 3 comments

Although about 19 percent of people live with disabilities in the U.S., a third of people killed by law enforcement have disabilities. This blog explores some reasons why. 

July 29, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Newsletter or Periodical

간질과 함께 살기. 성인의 약 2 %가 그들 일생에 간질을 갖이며, 이들 중 1/3이 한번 이상을 경험한다. 여기의 이야기들은 (온라인에는 더 많이) 개인이나 혹 경험 발작이 그들이 사랑하는 사람들이 경험한 간질을 적은것이다.

July 28, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Newsletter or Periodical

Viviendo con convulsiones. Alrededor del 2 por ciento de los adultos tienen una convulsión en su vida, una tercera parte experimentan convulsiones más de una vez. Estos relatos (y más en la página de internet) están escritos por aquellos que han experimentado convulsiones o por sus seres queridos.

July 27, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Newsletter or Periodical

The barriers people with disabilities face begin with people’s attitudes—attitudes often rooted in misinformation and misunderstandings about what it’s like to live with a disability.

July 25, 2016 1 1 comments
Resource, Story or Testimony

It's a challenge dealing with assumptions people make about his stammering speech and with his own frustrations, but Christ’s peace keeps him from bitterness.

July 25, 2016 0 2 comments

I recently talked to Bekki about her relentless joy in spite of ongoing health and personal challenges. She candidly told me her story and encouraged all of us to avoid the temptation to throw ourselves a pity party.

July 19, 2016 5 3 comments
Resource, Newsletter or Periodical

About 2 percent of adults have a seizure in their lifetime, and one-third of them experience more than one. The stories are written by individuals or their loved ones who have experienced seizures.

July 13, 2016 0 0 comments

Here’s a thought to ponder: if the 50 million people with disabilities in the U.S. voted as a block, they would decide every single election for president.

July 8, 2016 2 8 comments
Photo of a small backyard garden

But just what is “independence”? How much would I eat if I only ate the food I produce myself? Probably very little. Would I drive a car if I had to build it from scratch? 

July 4, 2016 0 4 comments

Live in Ontario? The Partners for Planning Network is designed to help relatives or caregivers of persons with a disability connect with other families, provide practical information, lessen isolation, and find solutions.  

June 28, 2016 0 0 comments

What is a worship “disruption”? If someone is really excited about worship and cries out during the service, is he or she disrupting the service or participating in the service?

June 28, 2016 2 5 comments
Resource, Article

A recent article published in USA Today looks at how Pixar's latest film "Finding Dory" is making some pretty big waves in the world of disability awareness. Have you seen it?  

June 21, 2016 0 2 comments

Frequently I’ve heard people evaluate the benefit of ramps and hearing loops based on how many people with disabilities would use them. Now I understand why that kind of analysis misses the point. 


June 14, 2016 0 2 comments
REV Up graphic

This year’s election cycle provides an excellent opportunity to influence local, state, and federal elected officials for the good of citizens who live with various disabilities. 

June 7, 2016 0 3 comments
Resource, Type Not Listed

Ministry is primarily about relationships, but programs can provide the space for relationships to develop and flourish. This information sheet was distributed to people at Orland Park CRC by their Disability Concerns Team.

May 27, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Story or Testimony

My main reason for writing about schizophrenia specifically, and mental illness in general, is to help those who may be suffering from it or who know someone who does, but don’t know how to help because of stigma.

May 23, 2016 0 0 comments

With the stage set for a great weekend, I felt my heart drop when I got my last phone call of the night from Josh – they had arrived, but Jarett was having an anxiety attack. 

May 11, 2016 3 3 comments
Resource, Poem

Here's a poem sent to Disability Concerns to remind us that we need to bring what is hidden out in the open so that love can abound. 

May 6, 2016 0 2 comments



Thanks Larry. I hope that our work is a step toward addressing the concerns you raised in your insightful blog posted last year: Why Denominational Leaders Need to Address Clergy Mental Health Issues

Kudos to Mark Stephenson and the entire team who assembled the guidelines for requesting a leave of absence for pastors with mental health issues.

This document/toolkit will serve Pastors, councils, and churches well.

Thank you immensely,

Larry Van Essen


 I forward to Council members everything I get from DC that I feel they ought to know about.

Jack, I hope so too. We're using multiple ways to get the word out, but it can be challenging to be heard above the roar of communications to churches. I'll attach to this post a communication we are sending this week to CRC deacons. Feel free to share these materials with anyone you wish. Thanks for your work in ministry with people with disabilities!

Thanks so much for these resources and information about this year's Disability Week. Hopefully, pastors, worship planning teams, church educational leaders and others will use and share this so that our churches and ministries will become more accessible and inclusive . . . as we should be. 

 Sorry, I can't make that.

Just heard about this webinar that may be of interest too: Autism in Our Youth Group. Janeen Bertsche Johnson, campus pastor at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and parent to a young adult daughter who is on the autism spectrum, names common characteristics of autism, addresses how these factors might affect a youth group, and suggests ways leaders can try to address them.

 Thank you, but my mom doesn't consider herself unhappy.  She often tells me that she thanks the Lord for her good fortune several times a day.  Compensating for a loss of taste is relatively easy to do, and at 89, she still drives her own car and does pretty much anything she wants without depending on others for help.  Of course, because of her medications's side effects there are days when she feels more dizzy, but even that depends on the days.  Some days it's worse than others, and if I'm with her she lends me her credit card, and I do the grocery shopping for her.  There is a joke going around that with advanced old age, if you wake up and nothing hurts or is missing it's because you're dead.  But thank you for your prayers on behalf of my mom's friend.  She really needs it.  My mom suspects that the poor woman wouldn't mind dying to get a relief from everything's that's wrong in her life.

posted in: I Cannot See

I'm so sorry about your mom's losses, but also about her friend's difficult situation. Praying for them.

posted in: I Cannot See

 At 89, my mom says she's pretty much lost the senses or smell and taste, so I have to make food more spicy for her to notice.  Not a big problem since we're used to eating our food spicier than average.  But on the whole she doesn't complain because a friend of hers since university is blind, has Diabetes type 2, Parkinson's Disease and almost constant pain.  Unfortunately for my mom's friend her daughter and granddaughters who live with her constantly move stuff around without telling her, so she can't find what she needs, and it has happened that the poor woman ACTUALLY brushed her teeth with Preparation H! They don't mean to but I have seldom met more thoughtless people in my 57 years of life.  Now the eldest son of this lady has told his sister that she needs to find herself a place to live, and she's panicking because she and her daughters have lived in her mother's house for 20-odd years without contributing a penny to pay the Hydro bills, the phone, or other utilities except a bit of groceries once in a while.  In short they've been freeloading on her, and now they're upset because the eldest man in the family called a halt to the free lunches.  The husband oof my mom's friend could see, and so could she before she developed macular degeneration, but he passed away in 2005, and she was already too blind to live alone, so her daughter moved in with her daughters who were little kids at the time, and who are now young women, the youngest at 21 is studying Pharmacology at the University of Montreal. This woman is well off financially, but my mom often says that despite their difference in material wealth she would not trade places with her friend for all the gold in the world.  Can you imagine being so handicapped and having two of your kids PLUS THEIR kids mooching off you for that long? They're not even helpful! The daughter does cooking on the weekend but she puts it in containers without identifying the contents in any way, so when my mom's friend opened the fridge door all she could see--if we can call that seeing--were lids, so she'd give up, close the refrigerator and eat a banana.  So this man is fortunate that at least his family isn't being a nuisance on top of having to live with restrictions caused by his blindness.  My mom's friend is a practicing Catholic, but not the rest of her family.  Not that there are any guarantees of finding consideration or thoughtfulness in all Christian families, but that's another story.

posted in: I Cannot See

  I watch a service by the People's Church in Toronto when I can't make it to church, and when I see this service on TV, the congregation is NEVER SINGING but only members of the praise team.  If we use the approach that worship is only what's going on up front, then that is borrowed from another tradition, which I hate, by the way, because those singers put on a performance with tremolos in their voices as if they were giving a paying concert or something.  It turns me off no end.  The sermons are good, but the rest must make ordinary congregation members or even people with more limitations so inadequate.  I would not feel welcome in such a church that doesn't consider its people's input good enough to be broadcast on the air.

Tom, thanks for your comment. The way most services are structured, and the way most sanctuaries are constructed, we send the message that "worship" is what happens up front, even though that's not a Reformed perspective of worship as a dialog between God and his people. As a result, any "inappropriate" sounds by people in the "audience" are "disruptions". I hope that we who are connected to disability in various ways can help all of God's people recognize and celebrate that worship is EVERYONE participating, not just the people up front. 

The Lighthouse in Rock Valley, Iowa, is a second campus of Faith Reformed Church where often around 20% of the worshippers are people with various abilities/disabilities.  Several years ago, as I was leading worship, a person got up and walked out to the restroom, coming within three feet of me.  Not a problem, I was totally okay with that.  But then a few weeks later, as another person was leading worship, a young man who could not speak but would "yip" uncontrollably from time to time, was seated very close to the speaker and was vocalizing quite often.  My thoughts were, "Oh, I wish his caregiver would move him to the back... or take him out..."  And then God spoke to me in as nearly an audible voice as I've ever experienced, "What if that were Nathan? (our son) Wouldn't you want a place for him to come and worship??"   I was convicted.  And the folks at the Lighthouse have always been welcoming to every person coming to worship, no matter "disruptive" they might appear to be.  

 About 10 years ago I was on a certain anti-psychotic, and my psychiatrist at the time felt we should switch to another one from the latest generation because the side effects would be less severe.  However, because I still had psychotic symptoms at the time he recommended we start me taking the new one before phasing out the old, so for about three weeks I was taking the full dose of the old PLUS 100 mg of the new the first week then 200 mg the second week etc.... That made me feel very sluggish, and I imagine it slurred my speech a fair bit too because at about the same time I had joined a writing workshop where the assignment was to write a novel, and one of the ladies in the group assumed I was drunk.  Until the following week when I read the chapter I'd written in which my main character was going through exactly the same experience I was going through, and then she learned that it was not drunkenness that affected my speech but the medication I was taking to treat my mental illness, schizophrenia.  At it happened, this woman has a daughter who suffers from Bipolar disorder, so she readily understood that I needed to take my medication and we became friends.  I write you this to tell you that although people may make assumptions at first, when you explain the problem most people will understand.  And don't be discouraged.  Recovery may be slow, but with persistence your condition should improve.  A man in our congregation also had a stroke, and now whatever remains of it is barely noticeable to outsiders.  I asked about it some months ago, and his wife said he was back to normal.  I won't promise you that though.  I'm not a doctor, and I don't know you. 

 A psychiatrist who studied neurology extensively and who lectures about the brain and how various conditions affect it said in one of those lectures that patients who have a stroke in the left hemisphere, which controls the right side of their body, have a better chance of recovery than the other way around even if speech is affected.  I won't go into details here, but if you look up on Youtube lectures by Dr. Iain McGilchrist, you can probably come across the one in which he spoke those words.      

 At a time when, especially south of the border, some people put feelings and myths ahead of facts, this text is an important reminder that feelings and impressions ARE NOT facts ans should not be put on the same footing.  Feelings are transient : sometimes they're up, sometimes down, and you can't rely on them to direct your path in life.  As Reformed Christians we believe and have been taught that it is better to rely on what we know about God's character and what He did for us than on how we feel at any given moment.  We should extend that to dispelling myths about people with disabilities.

Bekki you don't know me but you DO know well some of my family members Doug, Leslie, Kiel, Liz and Jack. Jeri is my husband Bill's oldest sister. You, my dear sister in Christ, are a blessing to so very many. I forwarded this write-up to Doug and family, as I'm not sure they get the weekly CRC Network. THANK YOU for your beautiful testimony, your sunshine nature, and for being such a blessing to the Hoek family, in particular over the past six months through their loss of Jeri. You have indeed been "baptized in sunshine"!! :) 

Love this article!!  Thank you Bekki for sharing with us.

This is an amazing testimony! I am truly left without words.

Thank you, Bekki and Staci, for sharing this very special and purposeful story! 

  Apparently, it already has.  According to John Oliver, not only do black people have to contend with bureaucratic obfuscation but with logistics as well.  Some of those offices are not opened every day of a business week but only a few hours in a given month, so if you don't have the right papers at the right time, you can miss several opportunities to vote in primary elections thereby being effectively denied your right to vote.  In the mean time some of the politicians who supported this sort of legislation have been seen on TV voting in someone else's place for or against a bill in the state's congress.  We're supposed to support justice, so if there is such a law in the books of your state, then you should work to have it repealed.  If you don't know, find out. It might not help black voters this time around since governments are NOT known to turn on a dime, especially if they adopted such a racist policy in the first place, but at least they may be able to vote without hindrance next time.

Michele, I too have heard similar reports. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision three years ago to invalidate several parts of the voting rights act may make matters worse for African American voters this time they vote for president. 

 Some time ago I watched an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in which he talked about voting and how some states make it extremely difficult for black people to vote with the Voter I.D. laws they have passed in which those poor people NEVER have the proper documents to be eligible to vote, so I'd suggest that in some states being black is a disability that the state government makes no attempt to help.  If anything they deliberately complicate the voting process for coloured people. You might want to watch this episode just to see the hypocrisy of the politicians who pass this sort of legislation.  You can find it on Youtube.

Cindy, thanks for your comment and for your plan of action. Please post another comment with the results! One other way to encourage citizens with physical disabilities to vote is to make absentee voting not only easier to do but also intentionally promoted by election officials. If citizens knew that absentee voting was available to them, and if they had an easy path to receive a ballot and send it in, that would go a long ways toward giving more people the vote. 

Goodness, reading this and thinking about my polling place has me rather horrified, as well as a little embarrassed that I hadn't thought about it before.  I live out in the country and we vote at a small community center with a dirt parking lot, narrow door with concrete steps to the threshold, and a porta-potty bathroom.  I am planning to call our county government and ask what accommodations are available for someone who can't handle that situation--I'm guessing that they would have to make special arrangements to go to the courthouse, but it's probably safe to say mine isn't the only rural county with similar problems and many rural citizens with disabilities are probably effectively discouraged from voting. 

 I've worked as poll secretary in some provincial elections, and in cases like that the person who is blind can be accompanied by a friend or relative who will tell them the names of the candidates and what party they stand for.  Usually, the candidates are listed in alphabetical order since that is neutral.

Michele, thanks for your mother's story. You are right that most accessibility thought is put into accessibility for people who use wheelchairs, but other challenges must be considered too, such as the struggle your mother has walking long distances. I also wonder how well people with visual impairments are able to place their vote. 

 Not me personally, but my mom did at one municipal election.  She has angina, which is a form of heart disease, and she went to vote at an advance polling station that required a lot of walking one year, and when she got to the desk to vote she complained about having to walk all that distance, and the person in charge said she was taking note of the complaint.  You see, a lot of the accommodations when they are made, are almost always only in terms of wheelchair-bound people, who are assumed to be able to wheel themselves around to any distance as long as they don't have to overcome the hurdle of steps or stairs, but people who have heart problems often find walking long distances very hard because they get out of breath easily.  And that day, when my mom got back to the car after voting, she told my dad not to bother because it was too far, and he had even more difficulty walking than my mom. I can't think of the proper term right now but it has to do with the heart not pumping hard enough and fluid accumulating on the lungs.  In Canada, we don't vote for everything at once.  Federal, provincial and municipal elections are held separately, and municipal elections are governed by provincial laws, so they vary from one province to another.  Then we also have to vote for school-board officials. However, we don't vote for judges or sheriffs or any law-enforcing officials.  Judges are appointed by governments; police officers have to do a three-year professional junior college program (in Québec) after which they go to a police academy and are picked by municipal or provincial police corps upon graduation from said academy.

 But what I want to emphasize here is that not all disabilities require the same accommodations, and what works for people in wheelchairs is not necessarily good for people with heart or respiratory problems.  It's NOT a one size fits all. 

Thank you for this, Mark. This past Sunday I commented on our dependence on God, playing off Independence Day as you said in the comment above. I appreciate how you also write of our dependence on others, too! ~Stanley

Independence, like freedom and happiness, are complex subjects which seem to confuse many people. The Declaration Of Independence, for example: under which economic or political system can't a person chase after happiness? When some people complain, "We are losing our freedom," I respond, "If you had more freedom then what would you do differently?" The response usually is something about taxes, guns, or smoking pot.

Reformed Protestant Christianity is the only system that guarantees catching happiness with the only proviso being that one is "elect" before he is born. How can this be? Because Freedom and happiness are mental states. I think therefore I am free and happy. <G>

Hi Michele, yes, independence for nations is much different than independence for individuals. I was playing off the U.S. celebration of Independence Day to make a point about how much each of us needs each other and God. 

 True.  But when people talk about independence, I don't think that's what they mean.  What the founders of your country meant by independence was that as a country the U.S.A. could make its own decisions without needing permission from the King of England, nor would it have to pay taxes to another country for its goods.  Of course, we are all interdependent, and that is good and healthy, but the independence of nations from colonial regimes is another story.

Yes, it's another taste of the Kingdom. For people who live or are vacationing near Holland Michigan, I encourage you to visit. Worship happens every Sunday at 6 PM at 15468 Riley St, Holland, MI 49424. Worship is outdoors under a big tent all summer, or inside in case of inclement weather. AND . . . first Sunday of each summer month includes a hot dog roast starting at 5:30. 

Thanks for sharing this Mark! I love the idea of a "no-shush" church; what a great picture of being the body of Christ together in worship. 

I haven't seen the movie yet. Or maybe I have, I can't remember. Yep, my partner says we have seen it. But he has Alzheimer's, so........

I haven't seen it yet, nor have I seen Me Before You, but Finding Dori looks like a MUCH better film.

I try not to be a one-issue voter, but an issue like justice for people with disabilities makes it really tempting to do so. The statistics are startling.

I am grateful for the leadership of IDAC (among others) on this. Thank you for taking the time to post this so it can be shared.

This is also true for children. My church makes few concessions for the children, arguing that if they attend for long enough they'll turn into real people, ie adults. We miss so much when we marginalise or ignore the little, weak, or elderly.

 When our congregation decided to build an elevator--ramps would have been even more costly because we would have needed one for outside, which was the easy part, and one for inside--we already had people in our congregation who were suffering from arthritis for whom climbing stairs was painful.  It has proved to be a long-lasting investment even though we got the cheapest model available, or almost, and many men from the congregation did as much of the work as possible that did not require technical expertise.  That is one way churches can cut down on expenses.

Michele, yes. When I was in Canada last week, I heard as much about the US presidential elections from people as I do hear - and recommendations who NOT to vote for! 

 It's difficult for Canadians NOT to be aware of Presidential election campaigns south of the border.  When you're a mouse in bed with an elephant, as PM Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the late father of our present prime minister, used to say; you have to always be aware of what the elephant is going to do next.  But since I can't vote in that election there isn't much point in sending that letter.

Del, Thanks for offering these reflections. We had some discussion about this on the Network a few years ago, and the discussion was even more extensive on Think Christian. I encourage you to check out the comments on both pages. 

This has been an illuminating read in understanding some of the dynamics of anxiety and suggestions for how anxiety can be addressed and accommodated. Thank you Jarett, Josh, and Annika for sharing this and for your commitment to one another.

Thank you Josh and Jarett for bravely sharing your story. It really highlights the need for all of us to become more educated and more sympathetic to those with mental health issues. I think as a church we have a long way to go to removing the stigma we place on others. I pray your story is another step forward. 

Yes! Yes! Yes! Beautifully said, Michele. 

 Mental illness is less stigmatized than it used to be, but in some areas they are still the lepers of our age.  And yet, mental illnesses are NOT contagious.  You can't catch one by touching someone who suffers from a mental illness, regardless of which illness it happens to be.


Did you include me in the list of speakers?

Hats off to Jarrett, Josh, Annika, and the whole group for making this work for Jarrett! I wonder how this experience will linger with everyone in the days, weeks, and years to come. I have a guess about one thing: Jarrett's openness about the challenges he was facing may have helped everyone to become a bit more open and vulnerable about their own struggles. 

Patricia, thanks so much for sharing this part of your story!

For those eagerly waiting, part 2 is now live

Looking forward to part 2!




this section to get email notifications of new posts
Linda Roorda
Kelly Vander Pol
Heather DeBoer
Michael Sheriff
Sue Edison-Swift
Michele Gyselinck