“We are all born helpless. As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness. We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually: we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.”
- C.S. Lewis
Yesterday I spoke with Pastor Brian Van Osdol, Senior Pastor of LaGrange Church of God. I called to check on how their Bible study class was going. His response was, “It is amazing.” While this class runs about 30-40 people with a close ratio of one-on-one relationships, half volunteers half students, there was something he brought to my attention that made me think of this quote by C.S. Lewis.
Generally the philosophy of these classes would be that a person with a disability would form a meaningful relationship with someone without a disability, and that relationship would transcend the walls (not being limited to an hour a week relationship). In turn they would naturally begin to attend that congregation’s worship services, and be empowered to use their gifts.
Pastor Brian began to tell me a story about a student who has no family, and was recently hospitalized over an hour away.
It was not just the student’s friend in class (who reluctantly got involved in the first place) who was making the visits. Instead it was the entire class that made weekly visits – and continue to visit weekly. Some people visit twice a week. Did I mention this hospital was over an hour away? Having one friend is an amazing gift from God; having an authentic Christian community that makes these types of sacrifices should truly be the goal of the Church.
LaGrange Church of God has not just embraced the concept of making a friend with someone who has a developmental disability; their congregation has taken in this person with a disability and became their family. While the student may not have a biological family, they have a true Christian family. This is the type of community we all desire from our church family.
While this student fully understands the loneliness Lewis mentions, they have their emotional, physical and intellectual needs fulfilled by their Bible study; LaGrange Church of God exemplifies the Acts 2 church. They have not embraced an outreach ministry to people with disabilities, the class has fostered an understanding of what a true church family looks like, and this student is the recipient of the true function of the Body of Christ – community. There is no better example of inclusiveness than what LaGrange Church of God has demonstrated.
When ministering, or working, with people that have developmental and intellectual disabilities, one of the big “buzz words” is “inclusion.”
I avoid using the word “inclusive,” as much as I refrain from using the “r-word,” as it immediately places people with disabilities into a special category. If the Church is equipped to look at the person and not the disability, they would look at people with the eyes of God.
They would have a heightened spiritual level that is able to receive the ministry people with disabilities have to offer that comes from the Holy Spirit. The ministry would be a two-way street, iron sharpening iron, as all other ministries within a congregation (i.e. a small group) function.
Maybe the people without a disability in the Bible study at LaGrange Church of God started their ministry with the goal of creating an “outreach to adults with disabilities that would result in inclusion within their congregation.”
However, as their lives have been impacted by this student, the word “inclusion” probably never leaves their lips or enters their thoughts as they have come to see this ministry as that two-way street, therefore seeing the student’s problem for what it really is – an opportunity to minister to a friend.
Not a friend with a disability, but simply a friend who is at a point in their life where they simply need their church family.
Filed under: Spiritual Life Tagged: | Christ, Christian, church, community, congregation, Developmental Disability, disabilities, Disability, God, inclusion, inclusive, intellectual disabilities, minisrty, r-word, spiritual, worship