The following is adapted from devotions that I led for Christian Reformed Classis Central Plains on February 27, 2016. I am the Regional Disability Advocate for that classis.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent Disability Concerns, as Regional Advocate.
Denominational Agencies are started to fill a ministry need. Disability Concerns has been communicating with churches for over 30 years, with a message to encourage congregations to provide accommodations for people with various disabilities including hearing and visual impairments, social anxiety and those with physical access limitations.
We all face limitations in every area of our lives. Some people live with limitations to the degree that we call them ‘disabilities,’ but limitations are part of what is means to be human.
A lot of people think of disability as a deviation from the human condition, when in fact disability is part of what it means to be human. Instead of hiding or stigmatizing disability, we should recognize and celebrate this aspect of what makes us human.
ARE YOU ON BOARD … when it comes to dealing with people who have particular disabilities? Every congregation has them!
The stereotype is that to be a successful disabled person you have to overcome your disability rather than live through it. An important distinction can be made between “healing” and “cure.” Don’t let “cure” be the stumbling block between you and the person with a disability or between you and God.
Many people think that anyone with a disability wants to be cured of their disability. While true for some, searching for a cure is a low priority, particularly for those with a long-term disability. I live with a first-hand example: My wife acquired severe respiratory and mobility limitations 42 years ago, the result of a rare disease, and lives with chronic back pain.
We no longer expect God to cure her, but she has experienced healing. “Healing” means “being made whole” — a matter of contentment based on a relationship with Jesus Christ — not the absence of any deficiencies in our bodies or lives. Her “healing” did not come through “cure,” but from a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, and a sense of value. Belonging, purpose, and value cannot be accomplished on one’s own, but must come through involvement in a community.
What better community for this to happen in, than among the people of God? It’s part of our calling as the people of God!
There are currently 12 congregations in this Classis who have a Church Advocate ... Synod encourages all congregations to adopt a church policy on disability and to appoint one person in the congregation to serve as Church Disability Advocate. Churches that have a policy and an advocate, are more likely to take the necessary steps to take their congregation beyond the minimum requirements of caring for, but also developing friendships with, learning from, and working with people in their midst who have disabilities.
As was mentioned earlier, belonging, purpose and value cannot be accomplished on one’s own, but must come through involvement in a community. What better community for this to happen in, than the people of God? It’s part of our calling as the people of God!
Disability Concerns wants to help you! Remember: Everybody belongs, Everybody serves!