Thursday was our seminar day. Andrew and I led a presentation about making Sunday Services more accessible. It was encouraging that we both had the same ideas when we planned it and we were excited to share our enthusiasm and ideas with the audience.
I have to say (and this IS my own opinion and no one else’s) that I was disappointed when only 16 people attended. In the main tent every night there have been over 3000 people. Surely more of them could have come….
Of course there were other seminars on at the same time but I often feel that making your church inclusive for all is really low on many peoples priorities, an after thought, or no thought. You might disagree with me but it is my experience that some churches are really open to change for the sake of inclusion and some are not. I can’t help but feel disappointed because I am so passionate about it.
But, on the other hand, I am grateful for the people who did come. I am sure God will honour their heart to hear about including people with learning disabilities. I pray that their churches will be lights on a hill to show others around them what can be done. I so want to see people with learning disabilities be full and serving members of our churches. If you see their abilities and gifts, you can make ways to let them use those gifts in your ministries and congregations. We have been really blessed by Karen’s signing too. Today she signed through the seminar and the celebration service so that one profoundly deaf man could access all the teaching and everything in between. It was great to hear his mum say that these sessions are the only ones he goes to that are fully accessible to him as he needs simpler signing to support his learning disabilities.
More about Elisha
I really enjoyed the morning celebration today. Partly because all the things I had been most nervous about (the puppet workshop and the seminar) had passed and gone ok, and partly because I can see how all the guests have engaged with the stories of Elisha and Jesus. Everyone has enjoyed Janet’s story telling this week. Today she helped me tell the story of Pentecost. We focus on how God gifts us so we can tell others about Jesus and invited the guests to write or draw on a post it, what gifts God had given them. then they brought their notes to the cross and put them on it. What am amazing set of gifts were there! And how wonderful to meet with people who were learning that God had given them gifts. You can also see the bowl of prayers they offered to God on Day 3.
The drama of the healing of Naaman was hilarious, with each time he (well, the actor who played Naaman) went under the water, he threw out a different item…arm bands, googles, back scrub, water pistol, rubber duck. Naaman wore a white shirt to represent the leprosy and on the seventh ‘dip’ we changed it to a pink shirt to represent the healing. It was a great way to show the story and make it ‘real’.
God’s message came to me at the evening meeting.
The evening meeting in the main tent was all about mission, with the usual call to go forward for anyone interested in going on overseas mission. I was casually thinking about how this week had been ‘mission’….All the team giving up their week to serve and bring the gospel and good Bible teaching to adults with learning disabilities. Almost all the team volunteer or work with children and adults with learning disabilities at home too. They are right there, in the mission field, in all their lives, in this country. We had shared stories of the hardships, abuse and difficulties faced by the people we work with , care for and know. Each one of us longing to see them accepted and included in God’s family.
During the last song I began to cry. I had no idea why, but it welled up and I couldn’t stop it, like God had opened a valve that was releasing all its pressure. I did feel silly and it took me a while to stop. I couldn’t explain why I was crying, because I didn’t know, except I knew it was something from God. It was like the love for people with learning disabilities was too much and too big for me to bear.
It wasn’t until the next morning, as I was eating my breakfast on the patio, looking out at the amazing mountains, that God explained a little of it. What I felt was just a tiny part of his heart for people with learning disabilities and his desire for them to know Jesus. It was good to share and hopefully encourage the rest of the team that God sees all that they do for him. He loves people with learning disabilities much more than we do. He sees how badly they are treated and is concerned about all the lives of the people we had been talking about all week. I’m not sure why he gave me this experience…maybe there’s more to find out….