Steven is a young man in his 20s who came along to our Good News Group. He has learning difficulties, doesn’t work and lives at home with his mum. He speaks slowly, it takes him time to find the right words. His articulation is very quiet and isn’t always quite clear so you have to listen really hard to get what he is saying. This particular evening he took me aside and asked me to pray for him. He wanted pray because he’d had enough. This kind, gentle, quiet man was ready to hurt someone. The reason…he couldn’t walk around our small town without someone calling him names, kids following him down the street, mimicking his walk and taunting him and being laughed at by passing adults. He was fed up of being told he was a ‘retard’ and other names that I cannot bring myself to type.
Home and church were the only places he felt safe.
This is reality for many children and adults with disabilities. Their lives are not peaceful. They are abused and bullied by neighbours and strangers. They are taken advantage of by ‘friends’ who think it is funny to make them do something wrong or embarrassing. Like the boy on a school trip who was made to masterbate another boy so that the others would ‘be his friends’. But his ‘friends’ filmed it, put it on you tube. That boy had to leave the school, his life torn apart. These things really happened. They happen all the time, every day to millions of people with disabilities and differences.
Some don’t even find church a safe place.
There are so many stories of abuse I have read, and I am guilty of not being angry enough. I am guilty of letting it go and feeling helpless to do anything about it.
I think this year I need to wake up to what is happening and seek God to ask him what he wants me to do about it…I doubt the answer will be nothing.
I think the church should do the same. We need to wake up to what is happening in our own communities, our own streets and in our schools. We should be praying, seeking God and making the church a safe and inclusive place.
If we can’t listen to Jesus as in Matthew 25:40-45
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Then I and the rest of us need to repent.