There is an awesome opportunity for anyone involved in or having a heart for or needing special needs ministry - Inclusion Fusion 2012! The theme is “Why?” Why is it so important for churches to be intentional about serving families impacted by disability?
Today I was reading a blog I really enjoy that always makes me think:
Jeff McNair is a leader in the field of Disability and Ministry. He was writing curriculum and thinking about disability ministry long before it was on most people's radar. He has the first in the US - as far as I know - Master's degree program in Disability Ministry at California Baptist University. He directs the program.
His blog post is about special needs people in independent living and personal care homes. He makes a persuasive argument that these individuals need their religious rights and freedoms protected. They need to be enabled to exercise their religious freedom by offering them the opportunity to attend church.
Reading Jeff's post started me thinking! This issue is part of the Inclusion Fusion question Why?'s challenge. The church and individual Christians need to step up with heart and hand to help make this happen. We in the church should advocate for special needs individuals living independently. Christians individually and in the corporate church should reach out to assist care providers with religious freedom options. I know this is no easy issue. Just the transportation piece alone is challenging!
The whole issue of transition for young adults and other adults with special needs as well as those who live in group homes for other reasons is huge in the special needs world! This issue of religious liberty and protecting this right for those who cannot advocate for themselves seems a no-brainer. It is also a huge black hole! Where is the church? Where are individual believers to step up to bat?
Frankly, I never thought of this issue in quite this way until I read Jeff's blog today. And, it is sticky and difficult but very needed. That being said, I personally head out every Sunday morning and drive to a friend's home, park my car and drive her to church in her accessible van. No one made this choice for me. I make it gladly because she's my friend! I'm blessed by the time we spend together!
Just this morning as I was dressing I was contemplating who would step up to bat for her if I couldn't pick her up on a Sunday. I knew who in this case. In August I was gone for a Sunday when my dad died. One of our members drove a considerable distance to bring our friend to church. But, what of those no one comes for? What of those who sit and wait?
Who knows and who cares if we (the Church) don't? Who will give voice to those who have none? I think I hear Matthew 25:31-40 ringing in my ears and heart:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, ... He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, ... Then the King will say ... , Come, you who are blessed by My Father ... For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited Me in. ... Then the righteous will answer Him, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in? ... Then the King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me. It's certainly something to contemplate!