An acquaintance walked up, punched me on the shoulder and jovially called out, “How’s it going, big guy?” In that moment I was reminded again that I am exceptional. I am six feet eight inches tall and weigh 325 pounds, so I am mostly known for my exceptional size.
Mom hasn’t been able to initiate conversation for several years, but only a few months ago yet, mom and I could have two sentence conversations. I would say a brief sentence, and she would usually give some appropriate response. Those appropriate responses are gone too. Except one.
Some may fear that this law will "dumb down" competition, but that's not the point. As with employment provisions of the ADA, kids must be able to play the sport well to make the team. However, certain conventions exclude kids with disabilities.
Through the frustration I wondered, "Can God understand me in this situation? Even more, can he understand Nicole in her severe limitation?" Can almighty God truly understand human limitations, even long-term limitations we call disabilities?
Just as psychologists have established criteria for diagnosing mental illness, we need criteria to identify when someone has slid so far down the path of moral unhealth that he would be called morally ill and in need of treatment. This approach would look for insights from various disciplines including theology.
The most common symbol for accessibility features an image of someone in a wheelchair—lifeless, helpless, passive. Temporarily able-bodied people tend to look at people who have disabilities that way, seeing need without recognizing capability and giftedness. A new icon pushes that stereotype aside.
It is important that persons with mental illness feel welcomed and supported within the faith community. As people of faith, we do this by loving unconditionally.
Churches can and should support men and women who sacrificed themselves for our countries. Frequently mental health issues are one component in the lives of veterans with disabilities, but pastors and church leaders don't always know how best to minister to these men and women.
We are a community where people with special needs—along with those whose needs are not so obvious—work together in leading worship and Bible studies, providing pastoral care, etc. We never “dumb down,” but instead find concrete ways to bring the words of Christ alive and apply them to our various life situations.
The language of creation replaces, and transcends, the language of loss, just as it does in life. The pastoral care-giver's question is not, “What have you lost? But “What’s it like?” and “What’s happening?”
Thirty-three percent of families changed their place of worship because their child with a disability was not included or welcomed into the life of the congregation. Of these families who left, some of them not only left their congregation, but left their faith tradition!
In 1985, I received a spinal cord injury. Now I can control my body only from the neck up. At the time of the injury, computers were mainly used in large offices. Few homes had them, and they were not linked together outside of an organization. Technology has greatly changed since that time, especially in what is now common, the Internet.
After finishing his Ph.D. cum laude, Herb Greenberg applied for 600 jobs, was offered 85 interviews, but when prospective employers found out he was blind, that number was reduced to three.
Deacons who serve well work hard at connecting with members of the congregation, organizing ministry, and finding appropriate resources. This final installment on deacons and people with disabilities suggests ideas for ministry and provides some resources to implement those ideas.