Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Prologue to the next few steps...

Faith is very important to me, and the next few steps of this "Thirty Steps in our Shoes" journey will be centered on how we have come to find a disability ministry in church so that we could once again be a part of our faith community, as a family, with our son who has autism.

After that is a poignant writing from the woman who created that JOY Ministry, Denise Briley, who most in this area know best as "The JOY Lady".  She will share how our son has touched her in serving him.  I know that you will be moved, I read it a dozen times so far and have cried bittersweet tears each time at just how blessed we were to have her in our sons life for that season.  I don't even have the words to describe what a blessing she was....at just how "Hands & Feet" of Jesus her servant-hood to my son was.  How she related the most menial task to doing it unto the Messiah.

Once again I have to say that so many churches seem to be afraid of opening their doors to the disability community, afraid that they can't meet needs or that if they pray for those children, youth, & adults and they aren't healed, that somehow people will lose their faith in that churches "faithfulness."

But that's not the case at all.  Parents don't want to bring their child to your church for any other reason than to be welcomed, accepted, loved, part of a family.  They want someone to simply care enough for their child to include them in a Sunday School class.  To keep them safe while they are in worship service.  Not fix them, not heal them, not teach them all they need to know.  Simply to love them. 

In our story I share how in the midst of a society who knows my son only by his medicaid number, his insurance code, his school diagnosis, -- we found a church that simply knows him as Brandon, a child of God.

In Denise's story she shares how she loved on my son as if he were her own and how she served him as if serving the Savior.

In the Pastors perspective, he shares how he has been inspired by the faith of those parents like me, who truly know how to persevere through life's trials.  In his church are many families like mine who did not go there looking for handouts, but a place to belong.  And in finding that, have gone on to serve in that church.  There are Deacon's, choir members, computer fixers, ministry leaders, -- many who have come to that church because of their child who has a disability and who have later become very active, integral members of that church. 

With this little "intro" piece, along with the praise of how our church has opened it's doors and broken down barriers and stepped out of comfort zones -- I would like to issue a challenge.

Churches, church leaders, -- you have a responsibility to your community to serve all people in your community.  I can still feel the sting of a church Pastor answering me when I asked about any plans for a disability ministry so we could attend there with his response of, "We don't feel called to do that at this time."

Nothing is further from the truth and I know God wept at his remark.  If you have anyone in your community who would like to attend your church, serving them is your priority.  It should be in your plans.

Churches who have mission budgets where a percentage goes overseas, half of that must be spent in working with local disability organizations who have a population to serve but who simply need a place to serve them in.  They are out there soaking wet in trying their hardest to help those who must weather the storms, the least you can do is partner with them in providing the occasional shelter.  Of respite programs, day programs, etc.

Organizations like Desperate for Respite want to serve families, but they need a place where they can on a Saturday so that the parents can have a few hours respite.  They need a place for a few hours during the day, during the week, for day programs when school is not in session.

It is not up to government to fix a communities problem. They quite frankly suck at it when they do try.  It is up to communities.  And if the church of today is taking it's role seriously as an integral part of the community, they will start doing a better job of partnering with all who are in those communities in reaching and serving people for Christ. 

What better outreach than to invite others in?

I can already hear many excuses... the cost... the liability.... the disruption...

What is the cost of standing before God one day and him asking why you turned away one of his children and thus a family?  What is it that the Bible teaches?  To live by faith or be stopped by fear?  You can't not do because of what might happen in doing. You must forge ahead in faith, doing all you can to ensure safety, and then simply trust God to do what you can't in preventing lawsuits.

Disruption...  who would you rather have in your congregation, a stoic, tight-lipped unmoved perfect Christian who won't sing because they don't like the music -- or an unhindered, free, moved by the Holy Spirit imperfect child praising loudly and off-key his or her Savior?  I would bet that if you polled your choir members who must look out in the congregation at both sets of people and both sets of expressions, -- you would have a unanimous answer.

Lastly, I would encourage any church leader coming across this to contact Denise Briley.  It is her life's mission, her hearts passion, for every church to have a disability ministry.  She will go to your church, tell you how, show you how, train you how.
Click here for Denise Briley website