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.Julie