Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

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This is a guest blog from Elizabeth Mellor who runs an Additional Needs Ministry called “Take 5 take5& Chat”.  I thought it would be good for us to look at what kinds of Additional Needs Ministries were out there and give you some ideas about what you could do too. 

Whitley Bay is a small seaside town in the Far North East of England (FNEofE) and is famous for many reasons. We have St Mary’s Lighthouse, the Ice Rink – and the town has been used as the setting for many films and music videos. Whitley Bay is also the first town to run a Take 5 & chat Café Drop-in, supporting families who have children with additional needs.

It is a sad fact that many churches struggle to be a truly welcoming place for families who have children with additional needs. I know that there are many success stories but I have heard of so many families who take turns to attend church, look after their own children in church settings, or give up and do something more family friendly on Sundays instead.

So I wondered what the church could bring to the lives of families in our communities who face extra challenges? I wondered what ‘church’ could look like.

I thought about being the parent at the school gate whose child isn’t meeting the same targets as others. Perhaps their child isn’t invited to parties. Perhaps the teacher often has stuff to report at the end of each day. Perhaps their child is excluded by physical reasons from taking part in everything. When the other parents chat about the weekend, the holidays, the classroom, the reading scheme, this parent feels isolated and alone.

What about setting up something that meant these parents, from different schools in the area, could meet together, as if at the school gate? What might this look like?

It’s a while since my children were at school and my next step had to be to see if this was still needed. So on 9th March 2015, after much prayer and planning, I launched a Facebook Page www.facebook.com/take5andchat as a ‘place to just be’ for those caring for children with additional needs. The intention was to reflect a face-to-face Café Drop-in on a Facebook Page. It hit the ground running and I saw quickly that the need was still there.

We opened as a friendly, accessible café at Whitley Bay Baptist Church in June 2015 and the Drop-in now opens every other Tuesday afternoon, all year round. The parents asked that we stay open through the school holidays as most activities close.

We have hot drinks and homemade cakes. We have activities and some toys – and a play leader in the holidays, but the children remain in the care of their parents. We are a friendly café, not a play scheme.

Neither are we here to directly promote our faith or attendance at our church on Sundays. We open for the parents to have a safe place to be, “an oasis”, as one parent said. God walks amongst us whether or not we recognise him.

Once relationships were established and everyone felt safe together, a number of the parents asked if we could offer any parenting courses, which we could, and did. (I am a trained Facilitator for Care for the Family’s Time out for Parents… but maybe that’s another blog post!)

So now there are over 30 families who ‘drop in’ to a room at the side of our church. They have found support and encouragement. They come with friends, they make new friends, they share the names of helpful teachers at local schools and tell each other where to go for further support and advice. They keep in touch via a closed Facebook Group. Whenever our team is a bit stretched, these parents eagerly step up to help set up, serve at the ‘counter’, clear up or talk to new parents. Because Take 5and chat Café Drop-in is their place and they belong.

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Most of the parents have never been involved in any kind of church before.

Some ‘sign in’ on Facebook at the church.

Many now describe our church as their church.

On Tuesdays. With cake… and a train set.

 Our Founder & Coordinator, Beth, is available to talk with your team, or to your church/faith group, about setting up a Café Drop-in for those parenting children with additional needs. Sometimes having someone from outside explaining it can really help! (Fee is dependent on time and distance, and is to cover costs, please ask.)

If you would like to run a ‘Take 5 & chat’ Café Drop-in, using our name and logo, there is a one-off License fee allowing use of our name and logo to named individuals. We send you digital copies and a certificate. You can use this for your closed Facebook group, on mugs & aprons. (There is a good supplier!)

If you choose your own name, then please acknowledge us if you use any of our general wording or ideas. We can still help you get started!

Email    info@take5andchat.org.uk

www.facebook.com/take5andchat  

https://twitter.com/take5andchat

Website (coming soon) www.take5andchat.org.uk

lego-builders

Are you a leader?  Do you ever have doubts? Do you dare admit you have deep questions for God?  Do you believe but find it difficult to see what God is doing in this world? 


Yesterday was my first day of not going to the Good News Group…but of course, the wonderful people there have been on my mind all summer and yesterday I found myself fretting all day. Not because they can’t all manage without me, but because I wouldn’t be there to talk and fellowship with them. 

The thing about taking a sabbatical is that you are supposed to take time to think, reflect and listen to God without the distractions of busyness.  And what you forget when you haven’t done this in a while, is that it’s quite an uncomfortable and dangerous thing to do.  

I like to go to a special place not far from where I live.  It’s a small country park nestled in the midst of the motorways and residential areas.  There’s a bench in a wooded part of it, that is raised up and makes you feel that you are sitting in the trees themselves (see picture above). They put out bird feeders and food for squirrels and I sit and just watch the nature around me, doing its thing.  It helps me calm my hyperactive mind. And it’s a lot easier to listen to the Lord in that place.  

However, I have felt the Lord uncovering some big holes in my faith that I had carefully covered over.  My faith in who Jesus is and what he has done for the world is secure.  I know he loves us and has saved me.  But I’ve been trying not to think about things that underneath my veneer of trusting him for everything – I have no real foundations.  “Everything?  You trust me in everything?”  says the Spirit to my soul.  

And then I started to ask some questions…”Yes, but…”  I want to know if I can trust him  for the salvation of friends and family who I’ve prayed for constantly since I first became a Christian 27 years ago and who seem so far from him right now.  I want to know why people are disabled and some get healed and some don’t.  I want to know what he’s doing in this messed up,  stupid world where leaders are more concerned with their own reputations than actually doing things to help their people.  Where religion is used for an excuse to kill and enslave people…including Christianity.  And while we are on that…why DO churches exclude people because they  have a disability, are different or because they don’t fit a certain stereotype?  Why are so many people sharing with me that churches were places of pain and rejection for them because they or their children have a disability?  

It feels like I’ve opened a Pandora’s box!  My carefully constructed lids have been blown away!  And I’ve only just started, just a few little sessions sat watching the birds and trees and the Holy Spirit smacks me with this lot! Woah! My instinct is to stop this right now and put those lids right back on!!! 

But…..what if God wants to answer those questions?  What if he wants to teach me and show me what he is doing and can do?  

I believe it is good to ask our Heavenly Father those big questions.  I believe he is just waiting for us to ask them so he can begin to teach us new and wonderful things.  It makes us so vulnerable before him to admit we haven’t a clue where to start or how to figure it out.   It make take a lifetime to just learn some basics,  and a lifetime of continually asking him for more understanding.  We really won’t be able to grasp the answers because God and this world is far beyond what we can understand.  I know  we can learn to trust him better and that he can give us the gift of faith to do so.  I believe he can use our faith to make a difference to people’s lives and bring his love into the dark places.  And if you are a leader, I believe your greatest strength will be found in opening up your vulnerability before God  and asking him to build your trust and faith in Him.   He is active in so many ways we often can’t see,  but already I am being drawn to stories and testimonies where God is at work in this world, mostly in individual lives, transforming them into lives of faith.  

Leaders can think they have to have all the answers when really our job is to lead people to Jesus.  We shouldn’t be afraid of uncomfortable questions and times of desert or valley experiences.  I was thinking about Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones and Moses or Elijah in the wilderness and how much God taught them there.  They were places of meeting with God and places of miracles.  I’ve learned not to panic or try to avoid the difficult things through those stories. 

Leaders, take off those lids and expect God to teach you new things.  But be open to being surprised, challenged and even disciplined for the wrong assumptions you might have about things.  Its going to be worth it.  He has promised.  And those you lead will certainly benefit. 

And please remind me of my own advice when things get a bit challenging for me! 


A few years ago I went to speak about our Good News Group at a retreat for pastoral workers.  These people gave up their time to visit people in their homes who couldn’t get to church. Many were retired clergy and gave communion and company to the elderly and disabled.  One of the group said to me at the beginning…”Why do you bother teaching the Bible to people who have the minds of a 3 year old?”

Now, after choking on my tea, I introduced him to my friend S, who has Down’s Syndrome and who was there to deliver the talk with me.  I didn’t answer his question there and then but as we gave our presentation, it was clear that teaching the Bible to people with learning disabilities was very much worth it.  And in the end, his mind was changed.

But it’s that attitude…’the mind of a 3 year old’ that I come across in other people too.  (Firstly I think, how many 3 year olds do you know? They are lively,  curious, active, always learning) but it is wrong to give a mental age of a child to an adult. Really wrong. 

Yesterday I was at the funeral of one of our GNG members. It was so positive and full of hope because we all remembered his life and his faith.  But what struck me was that he was sent to a special school (which did him a lot of good) but nowadays he’d have coped well in a mainstream school.  He was intelligent, had brilliant knowledge about his favourite football teams and musicians, he wrote songs and knew so much about the Bible.  Despite his physical degenerative condition, he never complained, always made his carers laugh and loved his wife of almost 30 years openly and affectionately.  Yet, I just know there are people whose response to a death of someone with disabilties, who needed constant care (and the funding for that care) is to say it was a blessing, that he isn’t suffering anymore.

We devalue people with learning disabilities ALL the time. From my work in schools where the ‘special needs kids’ are seen as a problem to be solved, to our society that sees adults with learning and physical disabilties as a burden on the state.  

But there are different ways of being intelligent than passing GCSEs, there are different ways of contributing to this world than being economically independent.  The people with learning disabilties and with autism that I know enrich my life beyond measure. They are funny, intelligent, able,  have ideas and imagination.  Those who cannot speak can have a lot to say if you take the time to listen.  I could tell you every child, every adult I know who has a label of learning disability, Down’s Syndrome, Autism, Aspergers, Cerebral Palsy and anything else, and tell you about their personality, what they are good at and why they are great to know. In the GNG we have made getting to know and spend time with our members the priority. This has enabled us to see ABILITY not disability.  We have tried to enable each person to serve using their gifts.  S gives out the badges and taught herself to read everyone’s names.  J runs the computer desk,  and E gives out the instruments every week.  G is so observant she notices everything, she also does puppets for which she is learning all the puppet tricks we can teach her.  J, who doesn’t speak, sits humming and twiddling, has a way of looking at you out of the side of his eyes. He brings a gift of seeing the world through the sensory, as we share those experiences with him. 

None of these people function as a 3 year old.  None of these have stopped growing and learning.  All of them have personalities and gifts that are different.  They are adult people who should be respected as such. In church, especially.  We do the body of Christ a great disservice when we infantilise adults with disabilties. We should not patronise then, assume they cannot do things, speak about them over their heads, consider them a burden on their families, think it is a blessing if they die sooner.  This stuff happens. It is wrong.

Of course then there are changes we need to make.  From finding ways of including children in our Sunday Schools and Yourh work (not just by putting them in with the younger children) to finding them their rightful place in our adult churches. We may need to think hard and have a plan. We may need to do things completely differently. We should get some training and support. We should being seeing people with learning disabilties as having infinite potential…they’re not all going to be Paralympians (but do enjoy those games as they are brilliant!) but because I believe that’s how Jesus sees them.  And would you argue with him? 

Here’s a couple of training opportunities coming up soon…. Hope to meet you there! 



A picture of a nice wildflower spot in our garden. 

When deep inside your heart is raw, or broken, or full of fear or doubt….then the usual thing we do is get busy.  If we are busy we can pretend not to hear God’s voice.  We can tell ourselves, I’ll sit down in a while, then I can listen properly…but we never do. 

It’s easier to tackle the dirtiest oven,  or get swallowed up in running the kids here, there and everywhere.  And there’s that thing that needs fixing,  and I really need to do some exercise.  Oh and look how many emails, FB messages and Twitter notifications there are to answer.  We work full time and after all the other stuff, and don’t have time for anything else…or so we tell ourselves.  

Well, I do anyway.  And when I do sit down it’s to make myself a list of all the things I haven’t done and write out some plans to solve the problems I have,  or others around me have…because I like solving people’s problems, I do.  

I love Jesus. He saved me. He showed me the way I could be friends with God. All I had to do was believe in him and realise what he had done on the cross.  I rejoice that he is alive, interceding for me in heaven.  I know the Holy Spirit and have experienced his gentle, quiet voice and awesome power.  God loves me.  I am his child. 

Those  wild flowers in our garden are there for our sensory pleasure and for the bees.  They just get on with doing their thing, all lifting up to the light.  I like the fact that they are a bit untidy and a bit wild.  They don’t fit in with the rest of the carefully tended garden. I would like to be a bit like that…just concentrating on my God given purpose. 

But busyness tries to steal all that away from me.  Instead of remembering that God is kind, gentle, healing and life giving… I think if I sit down with God, he’s just going to give me another list of things I need to sort out.  And that makes me full of fear.  You see, there’s so many problems in my head, things I want to see get better – from within my own family to the plight of those caught up in war, slavery and the evil of this world,  that I would need to spend 10hours a day in prayer just to get through the all of it. I want to pray, I love prayer,  but there’s so much to pray for right now.  Don’t tell me to make lists and go through them systematically.  I’ve tried that.  I journal, I use the prayer mate app, and pray throughout my day.  If someone asks me to pray for them, I do it there and then. Because I care and want to help. 
Obviously I’m missing something.  I need to get rid of my fear of what my Heavenly Father wants to say to me.  How can I insult him to think he will add to my burdens?   And then this came.  In a rare moment I was listening to a Bible podcast the speaker read the Message version of a familiar passage….

““Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.””

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭MSG‬ 

For the real beginning of my sabbatical I wanted to do something grand and book an away day at a Chrisitan retreat centre, spend the day with someone who would pray things through with me and have a grand time just with me and my God.  But busyness came and took my time and opportunity away.  Work commitments are looming. 

But I’m clawing a little back.  Understanding that I don’t need to make excuses, that my Father, my Jesus and the Holy Spirit want to meet with me, strengthen and heal me and give me a lighter burden…has made me want to spend that time with him.

I can’t claw back a day…but I have arranged an afternoon walk just to a local park, with a friend who loves me and will pray with me, and together we will listen to our Lord.  I’m still scared of stopping,  everything might fall apart without me doing it….right?! (Not!) And maybe there are some deep things I need him to tell me, some healing to be be received and some changes I need to make.  We shall see.  

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I had such sad news this week. One of our GNG (church group for adults with learning disabilities)  members died.   I am so upset.

He was so friendly and loved to tell jokes. He knew so much about the Bible, liked to pray out loud and we all loved him.

He never complained that he was reliant on others to do his personal care routine.  He never complained that he couldn’t get around without needing someone to push his wheelchair.

He loved Jesus.  At Good News Group he read the Bible and said the prayers, some he had written himself. He loved being involved in the dramas and was brilliant at knowing  the answers to Bible quizzes.  He knew about being saved and all he needed to know about heaven.  His wife will be devastated.  She will miss him terribly.  And so will we.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:35-57 (NIV)

The resurrection body
But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.  But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.  Not all flesh is the same: people have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.  There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendour of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendour of the earthly bodies is another.  The sun has one kind of splendour, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendour.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.  So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.  The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.  The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.  As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven.  And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed –  in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’

‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

And that is why I firmly believe there will be no wheelchairs in heaven. None of could comprehend what this ‘spiritual body’ will be like and some of us may even be a bit afraid that we will lose our individuality.  But God is good and now this lovely man we all loved knows what it is like…and is praising God with the freedom we can all only dream about.

If it comforts you – this is a wonderful song  I can Only Imagine – by Mercy Me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xwzItqYmII 

 

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Writing helps me work things through but since starting my sabbatical I am plagued with questions about the etiquette of sabbaticals! Am I supposed to come off social media? am I supposed to go and hide in a cave? Am I supposed to wear sackcloth?

I have quickly realised there is no etiquette.  It’s time for me and God to do some chatting and for me to take some time out of my too busy life to listen to him.  Jesus has been my best friend for nearly 28 years and I like spending time with him, so actually taking a sabbatical is a joy rather than a trial.

I began with a social media fast, I lasted 1 week and discovered that I did spend a lot of time checking my Facebook and twitter accounts!  It did feel terrible the first couple of days, but it helped that I’d gone away with my lovely hubby and left all my devices at home! It’s teaching me that I need to have more wisdom in who I listen to and where I seek wisdom from.  It’s easy to turn on Facebook and ask a question that I should really be asking God. Coming back, I’ve taken the apps off my phone so it isn’t constantly available and am going to plan regular breaks from social media. And by that, I mean, actually put them in my diary so that it happens!

I have quickly been reminded in my prayer times of two important truths:

  1. Those who seek God will find him – It has been wonderful to feel his presence with me again.  I know he is there all the time but being so busy and distracted meant that I had lost that feeling. I’ve begun to hear his voice in the Bible and in my prayers once again and it is like a wonderful reunion.  I’m glad God has patience with me.  I’ve also met some new people that are so on my wavelength with the disability ministry work and am very excited that they might join a growing team of people in our area.  It sounded like they are seeking God for the same things and that God brought us together.  That makes my heart sing.
  2. Those who seek God will be attacked by the devil – Already this week three things happened that threatened to open up past wounds and put me in danger of being the object of someones anger.  We should not be surprised and I was quickly reminded in my Bible reading that we have the armour of God in Ephesians 6.  When my kids were young, we actually made the armour pieces with them in Sunday School and it was the best visual activity for learning the Bible we’ve ever done.  I still mentally see all those pieces as I cover myself with his protection. I was also reminded that Jesus is interceding for the world (as the picture above tries to depict).  The battle belongs to the Lord.  It’s going to be important that I get into my Bible and study the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, as I go through these next few months.

So, I am going to blog occasionally, about my sabbatical, and hope that you might join me in putting time aside to just ‘be’ with our Lord Jesus.  I’m sure there’s going to be lots I will not share but plenty that I will.   My prayer is that we come together in unity, as Paul prayed.

 Ephesians 4:4-6
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

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photo from office.microsoft.com/en-gb/images/

A moment in time

I have been involved in women’s ministry for many years.  Sometimes organising women’s retreats, or getting groups of women together to support one another.  Often it has been 1:1 ministry, just talking and sharing some of the deepest and hardest times in our lives.  I have seen God do some amazing healing.  So many women have struggled with the pressures and expectations of being a woman in this world; having to work, family, motherhood, singleness, relationships, faith, church, illness, past abuse and difficult relationships, and all seeking God in the midst of their turmoil.  Some of these women have spoken to me about their guilt of particular sins…and some have shared what they called ‘secret sins’ that they dare not share widely because of the fear of judgement from other Christians. One of these issues has been abortion, including taking the decision not to continue with a pregnancy when they were told that the child would have a disability.

Recently there has been some debate on social media about a new test to detect Down’s Syndrome in a foetus.  Currently all pregnant women are offered a test to detect if their baby is at risk of having an extra chromosome and if the risk is high (usually between 1 in 2 and 1 in 150) then the mother is offered a second test which can tell more accurately if the child has Down’s, Edward’s or Patau’s Syndrome. (see references for more information).  The new test is less invasive, less of a risk to the child and is done through a maternal blood test.  (However, is yet to be available on the NHS). Ultrasound scans can also detect other disabilities, abnormalities and serious medical complications with a baby in the womb.

Whilst this seems good news in terms of medical safety, it highlights the moral dilemma of what to do if the baby has a serious condition. We rarely talk about these issues in church and it is very easy to preach that abortion is wrong and all life is sacred (yes these things are true) without realising that statistically there will be someone in our congregation who will have been through a termination and will feel condemned and unaccepted in the church because they have done such a thing.

I found the website ‘Antenatal Results and Choices’ very informative and very balanced.  It isn’t a Christian or religious advice service but one that allows parents to gather information, talk to one of their counsellors and gives balanced information that doesn’t try to influence someone’s choice. Ministers, pastors, youth leaders, all Christians…be informed please! Read up what parents have to go through in these circumstances and have compassion on those who have to choose.

And that is what parents are faced with.  A moment in time choice.

A typical pregnancy can be hard work, emotional, exciting, amazing and have problems such as sickness to contend with along with all the planning and expectations that the new parents build up over the months to the birth.  Once a parent is given the news that their child may or will have a disabling condition the whole tone of the pregnancy changes.

Emotionally, a mother is carrying around more hormone induced emotion than she will ever experience in her life and a shock such as this can make rational thought extremely difficult.  We mustn’t ignore a father’s emotions too. If he is present and involved, it hurts him just as much.  The wider family will be affected and may have strong influence on what the parents decide.

It is at this point that what the doctors or midwives say next becomes crucial.

‘The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have produced a report on ‘Termination of Pregnancy for Fetal Abnormality in England, Scotland and Wales’ (May 2010). Within it are a number of recommendations. The following is a quote from their report’

“All staff involved in the care of a woman or couple facing a possible termination of pregnancy must adopt a nondirective, non-judgemental and supportive approach. After the diagnosis, the woman will need help to understand and explore the issues and options that are open to her and be given the time she needs to decide how to proceed. She must not feel pressurised to make a quick decision but, once a decision has been, made the procedure should be organised with minimal delay.”

http://www.healthtalk.org/peoples-experiences/pregnancy-children/antenatal-screening/making-decision-end-pregnancy

Unfortunately, sometimes doctors and midwives seem to assume that a parent will NOT want to continue with the pregnancy.  Some have been asked immediately not what they want to do, but how soon would they like the termination? There have been staff who have given a negative and poor picture of what life with Down’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy, Hydrocephalus, physical disability or other disability will be like which puts unequalled pressure on the parents and is often the advice that influences the decision the most.

I thank God for all the doctors and midwives that do share positives and possibilities with parents. There are many who are just amazing at supporting parents through this most difficult of times.  We know there have been many testimonies of parents whose children have achieved much and more than ever was thought possible by doctors.  The support the family and child will need and receive, and realistic but positive outcomes for their lives is paramount.  Parents need to see that there are services, support groups, benefits and advice that can help them care for and bring up their child, whatever their difficulties.

However, we do have to be realistic.  Some children are diagnosed with conditions so severe that they are unlikely to live long after birth, and the trauma of the birth can be a dangerous event.  Some children may have such severe needs that knowing whether having them will only bring them pain and suffering, is a question that parents will be faced with. And the truth is that looking after and bringing up a child with disabilities is more than any parent thought that having children was going to be.  And at the heart of that, is our thoughts about our ability to cope with that life.  I know for so many people, they wouldn’t even question that.  They have the determination and faith to go ahead with whatever needs the child will have.

 

Reaching out to those who need to know Jesus forgives them

But this post is about those who do go ahead with a termination.  In this context I am considering those who terminate because of a disability, but the principle has to include all, for whatever reason.  In that life moment, whatever their decision, God is aware of it and present in that moment.  Whether the parents who make the decision are week or strong in our eyes, God knows they are fallible human beings. Just as the rest of us.

The truth is that termination of a pregnancy, breaks the 6th Commandment – Thou shall not murder.  As human beings we have been murdering innocent and helpless people since Cain murdered Abel.  And it is no surprise to God. Yes, it is sin.  But the Bible is very clear about where we all stand on the issue of sin. He is not going to punish us…because he punished Jesus in our place. What love!

Romans 3:23-25

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith.”

In the post I am asking that we all remember that whilst aborting a baby for whatever reason is against God’s commandments and however wrong you feel it is, that we have compassion on those who have been through something and made a decision that we may not begin to be able to understand.

At the heart of the gospel is forgiveness and this is for all.  In fact, it was often those who felt that they were not worthy of coming to God that Jesus was especially kind to. It is those who have been forgiven much who understand the enormity of his GRACE.

Luke 7:40-43

Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’ ‘Tell me, teacher,’ he said. ‘Two people owed money to a certain money-lender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[c] and the other fifty.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’

‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.

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And Jesus’s command to us was to forgive as he forgave us.  We know lots of things are wrong, and hurt others.  Forgiveness is the power we have as Christians to share God’s Grace.  None of us deserve his favour. None of us can stand before him and say we are better than anyone else.  We may hate what others have done. We may think we have done better than them, but in the end Jesus tells us to forgive and have compassion on one another, just as he has done for us.  When you are tempted to judge and post comments about how awful some people are because of what they have done, let’s remember that may be someone sat next to you at church, or one of your Facebook friends.  It has been an honour for me to have someone tell me that they made a decision not to go ahead with a pregnancy because their child was disabled, when they fully know that I work to include and promote people with disabilities in our society.  I hope that is because I remember how much Jesus has forgiven me, and that the only thing I can offer is his Grace for them too.

If you are a person who has gone through this and feel guilty, lost and have maybe never dealt with the pain, when I have ministered to those in a similar position, we have taken the time to talk to God and he has given the women or couple the gift of naming their child.  Being assured that their child is with him can bring hope and I recommend the book “Tilly” by Frank Peretti if you’d like to explore God’s grace and forgiveness more. Please do search out someone to counsel you and guide you as God’s forgiveness is for everyone. Truth.

As always we should pray for God’s wisdom to understand and for his grace to do his will.  Christian women and men carrying the burden of such a secret can struggle to believe forgiveness is for them if they feel that other christians will judge and condemn them.  And there will be non-christian women and men who may be saved by our showing forgiveness and grace to them, no matter what they may have been through or done. Jesus would have us do this. So let’s pray…

Prayers

Prayer for those who are suffering.

Heavenly Father, we pray for those who have made that decision not to go ahead with a pregnancy because a child had a disability.  We pray that you will heal their pain and help them know that you will never punish them, that you have forgiven them and that you can take away their pain and guilty feelings.  Help me be sensitive to those that I may meet and be open and gracious to forgive them as you have forgiven me.

Romans 4:6-8

David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:  ‘Blessed are those  whose transgressions are forgiven,  whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.’

In Jesus Name. Amen

Prayer for children and families with disabilities

Heavenly Father we pray for children who have been born with a disability and for their parents.  We pray that you will help them and guide them and give them all the strength that they need to navigate this life that is made harder for them because our society does not value them well. We pray for the support, help and resources they need to be available and for them to flourish and thrive in our churches and in society.

1 Corinthians 1:26-30

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

In Jesus Name. Amen

Prayer for midwives and doctors

Heavenly Father we pray for all midwives and doctors who support women who are told that their baby may have physical, learning or other disabilities. Give them compassion and wisdom and may they never assume that the child’s disabilities will follow a certain pattern that is negative and hopeless.  May they get the training and have the compassion and wisdom they need to help and guide parents through this difficult time.

Mark 11:24-26

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.’

In Jesus Name. Amen

Prayer for the church

Heavenly Father, we pray for the people in your church to be bigger and better at forgiveness.  Let us preach it far and wide and shine the light of your forgiveness and Grace into the darkness of people’s lives. Let us be guided by the power of the Holy Spirit to listen and to learn about people’s deepest lives and give kindness and compassion instead of judgement.  Let us not be as the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18.

Matthew 6:14-16

 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Acts 10:42-44

He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.  All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

Ephesians 1:6-8

...to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,

 Collossians 3:12-14

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

In Jesus Name. Amen

All Bible verses are from the New International Version. www.bilegateway.com

About the pregnancy screening tests:  http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/screening-amniocentesis-downs-syndrome.aspx

Antenatal Results and Choices website:  http://www.arc-uk.org

About forgiveness for those who have had an abortion:  https://carm.org/are-you-christian-woman-who-has-had-abortion

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