My Friend, Julie

Julie recently attended a conference unlike anything I've ever been to.  Julie's world is expanding and she is courageously stepping out into new places.  Following is her report.  I've got a family member who is handicapped and it is taking what Julie offers me to open my eyes wider and to really "see" instead of "assume" that I know.  SO, I'm posting her letter here.

Hello, Folks,
I'm home.  The conference was overall pretty good.  I am glad I went.  We had three main speakers at four general sessions Fri-Sun and workshops all day Saturday.
The first night, Friday evening, Joni Eareckson Tada spoke.  If you've ever heard her speak, you know she usually comes across as pretty pleasant and very compassionate.  She did Friday night as well, but she sounded more intent on her message and very adamantly stated that disability ministry is a truly life or death issue.
Despite technological advances, it is much more dangerous to have a serious disability today than when she first had her accident 30 some years ago. This is due to popular attitudes that it is less cruel to allow death for a suffering or severely disabled person than to continue his life. 
Today we have ethicist teaching at our universities such as Peter Singer, the concepts of pre-human (an infant born with severe disabilities, for instance), post-human (an Alzheimer's patient), and non-human (a person in a long term coma).  They claim that the profoundly mentally handicapped have no rights. 
In addition, insurance companies now dictate patient care instead of doctors and families.  In the state of Missouri, medicaid no longer pays for respirators and feeding tubes (as well as canes, crutches, walkers, etc.). 
Doctors themselves are practicing in some places 'futile care', where if a person's care is judged futile, they are overriding families decisions about life sustaining measures.
She reminded us that these attitudes about the disabled are nothing new.  Society had been murdering and hiding, etc., them forever.  Satan has been attacking them forever, as well, is called the accuser, telling the disabled they have no worth and that they are a burden.  This is why Jesus called him a murderer.
She admonished the church, that when a nation no longer cares for the disabled, we're all in trouble; this is why the weak are so important in the body of Christ. We are so afraid of suffering in the church.  Fear of disability and intolerance of suffering, leads to hating the person with a disability.  But God says the righteous will suffer.
Therefore, we are to bring in the disabled and surround them and include them in our Churches.  We are to encourage their life worth as image bearers of Christ.  We are to be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Now I understand why in Luke 14 Jesus says to quickly bring the poor and the lame to the table.  It is life or death.
When she was done speaking, I found myself completely numb of emotion.  I am still in shock of what is happening in our own country.  And in other countries is it even worse.
Saturday morning and Sunday morning David Ring, a motivational speaker/Evangelist spoke.  He shared some of his life story of being set free of the pain of rejection due to his cerebral palsy by Jesus, by finding love and self-worth in Him. 
He shared how he was called every name but his own growing up and the pain of losing his father at age 11 and his mother, his only supporter, at the age of 14.  Despite his 'three strikes' as he called them, God called him to preach, and he says to the healthy and non-healthy alike, "I have CP.  What's your excuse?" for not giving your all for the kingdom, for not doing what God has called you to do.
The third speaker was a pastor from a church in Arizona who exclaimed (and I do mean exclaimed) the importance of disability ministry.  He gave the example of how in his own state, each church would have to serve 200 people with disabilities (not including families) to reach all the disabled.
Many gave the statistic that 85% of people with disabilities in our country are unchurched.  Only 14% claim to be a Christian.  It is truly a mission field in our own backyard.
The workshops were okay.  The ones I attended were ways to include adults with developmental disabilities in the church (which was pretty good), how to start a ministry in your church, and how to teach a person with cognitive disabilities (which was more geared toward teaching children).  They were all pretty 'program oriented', so not Bridgeway and so not what my own vision might be.  However, a lot of what they taught could be adaptable, and I have much to think and pray about. 
The one thing every leader emphasized was 'start small'.  They reassured us that because no church is alike, no ministry is going to be alike, and encouraged us that if God puts something on your heart, go for it.
The rest of the trip was good.  My mom decided to fly out with me at the last minute because she has been yearning to visit her aunt who lives out there for years.  So, I had a good 'traveling buddy', and after the conference I joined them for a couple of days at my aunt's house in Ventura, CA.  We did a little sightseeing, and now I can say I've been to the west coast, or the left coast as everyone seems to like to jokingly call it.
Thank you all so much for your help and prayers and encouragement.  I couldn't have gone without that.

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18 thoughts on “My Friend, Julie

  1. Hmmm…a quick thought. I'm familiar with some of Peter Singer's stuff…I'm curious how these different "types" of humans can fit with the other stuff he says. Like, for instance, if someone is in need of help, and you wouldn't be sacrificing anything of comparable moral worth, you have an obligation to help them. Doesn't seem to fit. Curious.

  2. Thanks, GP, I definitely want to check into this Singer guy and keep an eye on him. It used to be you could say, "Oh, I doubt he really thinks that," but I've been so surprised over the last few years about how people are pushing the ethical envelope that I don't discount anything anymore. I like Joni Eareckson Tada and hear her sometimes on The Bible Answer Man with Hank Hanegraaff. Her story is really interesting and inspirational. She also has a good ministry.

  3. Thank you for posting this letter, GP. My sister was in a sledding accident when she was 4 (she's 27 now), and was in a coma for 6 weeks. When she "woke up", she had brain damage as a result and is now what most would consider handicapped. She is probably at the level of a 13 or 14 year old (emotionally & mentally), is unable to drive herself or get a regular job, and most days really struggles with her value and self-worth. However, God has given her a special ministry of praying for people, sending out a bi-weekly email encouragement and writing "stories" that she gets made into little booklets that she hands out to people. It may not seem like a lot to most people, but it makes her feel like she has purpose, and we're so thankful for that.Your post is near to my heart.

  4. What a wonderful thing your sister is doing. She's in the ministry of prayer, encouragement. And she takes it a step further by taking initiative to write 'stories' and puts them into little booklets and gives them to people. That's so cool. You must be proud. I know it must tug at your heart with what could have been but look how she's using what she has? Your sister is an inspiration to me. Thank you, Mindy, for sharing this wonderful story. I pray God will continue to use her and help her in her stuggles with her value and self-worth. She is precious in His sight and mine too.

  5. I think Julie is quoting Singer in a negative light. His arguments argue against the "value" the the ones she has the biggest heart for. I had not read his essay on animal rights until yesterday. I'm seeing why he is controversial. He veiws human life and animal life through the zoological lense. Human life, to Singer, is not of greater importance or value than animal life.
    He views would assert that, in most situations, the developmentally disabled and the physically disabled person may or may not have value based upon their ability to contribute significantly or, at least, not bring greater suffering to themselves or those around them.

  6. My relative has had a progressive disease that, over the years, has removed various abilities one by one. Their mind is clear and good but the body has failed over the course of over 35 years. They are currently bedfast. It is interesting to consider what is "ethical" v. what is "moral" in light of my relative's suffering and the suffering of those around them.
    Singer might have argued that if something were to happen to my relative causing a life or death struggle, they might be considered to be post-human and, in the suffering paradigm, should not be saved.

  7. Hey BB, what is the struggle with the living will stuff? You definitely do not want it left to the doctor's decisions alone. And, you probably would want to still discuss that with your mother. ::::winking at you here::::: (and you most definitely do not want me to decide whether you ultimately should be saved or not 'cause I would need some accountability….I mean, what if you had missed a note in worship and hadn't cooked my steak correctly….)

  8. mmmm GP… considering how Garfield can so easily kick Odie off a table and laugh about it… I hadn't really thought about putting you in as the person responsible for executing my living will, specially since I know I do know how I annoy you at times and I do occasionally miss a note every now and again… AND I might over cook your steak someday. :::::: wink wink :::::::

  9. Regarding Peter Singer, et. al, a person, by his definition, is one who is aware that he or she has a future and can find contentment in his or her life with a desire to prolong it. By his definition, an infant, an Alheizmeir's patient, a human with severe psychosis, and a human with a profound mental retardation, are not people. His ideas and teachings, for he is a tenured professor of ethics at Princeton University, contend that speciesism (the belief that one species, like humans, are of a higher order than 'other' animals) is a form of discrimination. According to his ethics, therefore, a grown gorilla's life is to be preserved over that of an infants.
    What is absurd to me is that their subjective ideas of personhood ignores truth. We know that an infant does have a future whether he is aware of it or not. We know that a severely depressed person's life does have worth whether she can see it or not. How can we be arrogant assume any less worth of coma patients?
    We know that people with mental disabilities smile and laugh and cry and love. This suggests to me that they do have contentment in their lives. None of my friends with such a disability, and I've befriended hundreds, has ever asked me to kill them.
    What's absurd to me is that we even have to have this conversation.
    Singer's and other ethicists' ideas suggest that personhood is based on what one does or can do. The truth is,personhood is the image of the personhood by Whom we were created. (How about a bumper sticker- "God is a specist"?)Personhood is based on Whom we are loved by. Loving the weakest among us is humanity at its best.

  10. This is good GP. There is a pastor in B.C. Canada who has a huge ministry to the mentally disabled and handicapped. He has amazing stories of how God uses them to teach him profound Truth. Their bodies may not be able to function the way they are supposed to but their spirit is fully intact and very engaged with God.

  11. We have to have the conversation because the conversation isn't being held widely enough. I appreciate your comments, Justme. Good additon! Singer does speak to all these issues. I had a thought though. The thing that separates humans from other animals might be our arrogance.
    Julie has been lurking about reading the comments. I hope she chimes in or writes to her own blog soon.

  12. The thing that separates us from animal is arrogance. Yeah, interesting. We certainly are.
    The similarity between Singer's ideas and the practiece of 'other' animals is that animals do not tend to their wounded when deemed futile. The similarity between Singer's ideas and the ideas of 'other' animals is the idea that to be a burdon is bad.
    In fact, people like Terri Shaivo, for instance, are doing what there are supposed to do. We are supposed to be a burdon on one other. We are supposed to carry one another's burdons. God created us to be interdependent on each other.
    So, what also separates us is compassion.

  13. Hey Julie! The ideas from Singer are scaring me. I think I see this idea everywhere…Oregon as it debates "mercy killing" for one example. Other nations have done it and we are going there in a hurry.

  14. Thank you for sharing Julie's letter! It helped me realize that I am NOT crazy and that society really DOES treat me differently than the healthy, fully-abled population. My disability is relatively minor, in the grand scheme of things… arthritis has bent my left knee and right elbow so that they can no longer be straightened. I need joint replacement surgery. THANK GOD that I live at a time in history when these operations are POSSIBLE. Thanks again. Your blog encouraged me today, while acknowledging that my perception of things is not "all in my head".

  15. Thanks for popping by my blog and having a look at this one. I'm glad that this post encouraged you. I hope you have a chance at the replacement surgery someday since it is possible and you might just become "able" again. Still, this is a good discussion.

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