Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Archive for the ‘refelctions’ Category

2017 – A consistent God in an unpredictable world.

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It’s that funny week we have every year when we’re not sure what day it is and there’s nothing much going on.  The TV is full of films and the odd ‘Christmas Special’, and we might be asking each other “What are you doing for New Year?”.

As we think about what happened in 2016 and what 2017 might be like it can seem very frightening.  2016 was full of wars, political upheavals and celebrity deaths (Even over Christmas we lost Rick Parfitt, George Michael and Carrie Fisher).  We got Brexit and Donald Trump, we have millions of refugees and no-one knows when there might be an end to the wars in the Middle East or the terrorism in Europe, Africa and Pakistan.  It’s no surprise that people are anxious about the future and don’t feel like celebrating on New Year’s Eve.

However, as Christians we have a hope that goes beyond the things we can see and hear on the news.  We have a God who doesn’t change and who promises to be with us.  The news does report the spreading of the gospel in the Middle East or the millions of daily interactions God has with his people through the Holy Spirit active on the earth.  They don’t report how Jesus is interceding for us at the right hand of the Father’s throne.  But despite all we hear in the news or don’t – God is a God that keeps his promises.  In these times of uncertainty, we have to hold on to His words and not let ourselves get caught up in the panic of the world’s view.

Isaiah 41:10  Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

Don’t worry—I am with you.

Don’t be afraid—I am your God.

I will make you strong and help you.

I will support you with my right hand that brings victory.

I hope these verses will encourage you this New Year.  2017 might bring worse news or better news. We cannot know.  But our Father in heaven, our saviour Jesus and the Holy Spirit are who we worship and who we have put our faith in.  If you haven’t and you are reading this, then please investigate more.  Read one of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John and see who this Jesus is.  He is God made flesh.  He came to show us what the Father is like.  If we know Jesus and put our faith in Him, then we know the Father.  We couldn’t have anything better in our lives.  I hope you find that truth in your life.  Here is one of his promises that always gives me hope, no matter what the future looks like in this world.

Micah 7:18-20The Message (MSG)

Where is the god who can compare with you—

wiping the slate clean of guilt,

Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear,

to the past sins of your purged and precious people?

You don’t nurse your anger and don’t stay angry long,

for mercy is your specialty. That’s what you love most.

And compassion is on its way to us.

You’ll stamp out our wrongdoing.

You’ll sink our sins

to the bottom of the ocean.

You’ll stay true to your word to Father Jacob

and continue the compassion you showed Grandfather Abraham—

Everything you promised our ancestors

from a long time ago.

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People with learning disabilities are scared about the news too.

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This past month has been really difficult for me.  It was building up since before the Brexit vote, but that tipped the scales.  I’ve been worrying about even watching the news, wondering what horrible event will happen next.  I’ve been upset with the political situations in Britain, Turkey, America, and the middle east.  Upset about the violence, murder and persecution of people all around the world.  I’ve been trying to pray for those killed and hurt in attacks, not just in Europe, not just those splashed across the newspapers in our country, but the forgotten and ignored tragedies in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and other countries.

But I’m overwhelmed.  On top of the exhaustion that comes to every teacher at the end of the school year, I want to yell at God…”STOP THE WORLD…AND LET ME GET OFF!”  I’ve not been sure how to cope at all.

And it was in this state that I set up the ‘Day of Prayer for our Nation’ on Facebook. (Join me here if you still want to pray).  That did help a lot.  In searching the Bible for guidance and when a wonderful friend offered to help, we remembered our response to this world is to pray and to share God’s love.  Praying through those prayers as the day went on, really helped calm my troubled soul…and continue to do so.

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It is so important to include people with learning disabilities in our engagement with what is going on in the world. They worry too. They hear and are affected by what is going on, sometimes more directly than we are.  (Take the Government’s welfare reforms as an example). We can pray with them and give them access to praying with us if we help their communication.  The accessible prayers are just one example. Signing or pictures may help  some. I know L’Arche communities are wonderfully experienced in building the prayer lives of everyone in their communities.

On the Wednesday, at our usual Good News Group meeting we set aside some time to pray for our nation, using the accessible prayers that I had made for the Friday.  Each table had a set and the members and carers each chose a prayer to offer, in our usual ways of either reading it out themselves, a team member reading it for them or just by placing it in the centre of the table, showing that they are offering their prayers to God.

Everyone there took a prayer and offered it to the Lord. What really struck me was their real concerns and worries about Brexit and all that was happening.  People with learning disabilities hear things on the news and worry the same as the rest of us, we shouldn’t be surprised.  They too want to make sense of it all.  The comments I want to share with you show how much they care about this.

D, who isn’t a Christian but comes to the group every week, was really fascinated by the prayers we had set out on the table.  He said “I’m really glad you’ve put these out.  I don’t believe but I want you to pray about this…” and he passed a card to one of the team to pray. 

V said “I’ve been hearing about all this on the news. It’s terrible.  What’s going to happen, I don’t know.” and she chose a prayer for all the politicians. 

E said, “I’m worried about what will happen to my carer.  She’s not from this country.  I’m scared they are going to take her away, then who’s going to help me then? She’s lovely is my carer. I don’t want another one.” 

And all around the room, people with learning disabilities were joining in as prayer warriors for this nation.  Lord hear our prayers.  Lord have mercy.  Lord hear our prayers.

I’m hoping that others have joined us too.  I sent out the accessible prayers to a few people who asked for them, so if you were one of those, I’d love to hear how your prayer times went.

I feel that God has been sending me encouragement this week in two blogs I have read.  I am sharing them here and hope that if you feel overwhelmed and discouraged they will help you too.  Firstly Anthony Delany reminded me of the parable Jesus told us about how we should know that there is evil in this world. God is allowing the weeds and the wheat to grow in the ground together but he will protect his wheat and burn the weeds at the harvest.  It helped me.  And then Helen Murray encouraged me by reminding me of how Gideon felt when God asked him to fight the Midionites – and to go in the strength that we have because God is with us.  Thank you both.

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Consider the history of people with learning disabilities in discipling them

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Did you watch “Call the Midwife” over the Christmas break?  For those of you who didn’t, it’s a drama set in the 1950s and 60s about midwives in the East End of London.  This Christmas episode focussed on a group of unmarried mothers in a mother and baby ‘home’.  It was a bit (well, a lot) sanitised in the programme but reminded me of the way unmarried and pregnant girls used to be treated.  Their babies were often taken from them (whether they wanted it or not) and we can only imagine the effect on a whole hidden layer of our society – the mothers and the children, still alive and whose lives were forever changed by the decisions that were made.

My own grandmother was an unmarried mother in the 1930s. She had a terrible time as the family outcast, but the kindness of her sister and later reconciliation with her parents enabled her to bring up my dad as a single mum.  No wonder she was always such a fiercely determined woman!  Yes, things changed in society in the 1960s and 1970s but there are centuries of ill treatment and children being abandoned to overcome.  History is full of the illegitimate children of kings, but so many ordinary people must have been in the same situation, outcasts from the start.

The same attitudes went for those who were born with disabilities.  So many were outcasts and later in history shut away in large institutions. Some families bravely kept them at home, but education and employment were hardly options for these children.  Education and inclusion for people with learning disabilities, is a rather new concept.  In history we read about the ‘village idiot’ and the Victorian ‘asylums’, of homeless and neglected people with little opportunity in life but to rely on the charity of others.  Life expectancy was low for many people with learning and other disabilities.

Are you glad that you live in these times.  We have an imperfect but much improved education system.  It is enshrined in law that a broad and balanced education is a right for all.  We have social and national health services and community living.  There are some opportunities for employment.   Oh yes…there is far to go and much to complain about…but what if we start from a place of gratitude.  What we do have is a blessing and we can build upon the work of others and make it better in the future.

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In our churches, communities and towns are people with disabilities in their 40s, 50s, 60s and older who were born and raised when times were very different. In our group we have at least one person who grew up in a large institution… a large ‘metal’ hospital.  (As it was known). Now living in the community and well integrated into ordinary life, it is easy to forget how this early experience might have shaped his life.  Do we take the time to ask sensitively about the early lives of the people with learning and other disabilities in our churches?  it is easy to assume that they had schooling and support when they were younger…and maybe they did…but asking them about it might reveal some very interesting insights into the way they have been treated and brought up.  And be careful…we need to be very sensitive to safeguarding and respecting privacy.  Did you know that if an adult with disabilities reveals abuse or accusation to you, then it is their right to report it OR NOT?  This is the difference between adults and children, even if they are vulnerable.  I can cover this issue in another post if people are interested.

If we are to minister to the whole person and disciple them, then we do need to be aware of where they have come from.  I know from my own experience how Jesus ministers to the deepest and most vulnerable parts and heals what has hurt me or made me think wrongly.   People who have learning disabilities and maybe don’t have the words to say or work out what they need healing for, may be able to tell you about their childhood or early experiences.  A parent or carer may know some things that can help.  Then we must pray.  Only Jesus can tell us where to be sensitive and where to challenge.  Only Jesus knows each of us and all we have been through.  He knows what has shaped us for good or ill, and can heal….oh…he can heal…and make us whole in spirit.   It is how we are disciple and how we grow.  Praise God that none of us are different or excluded from this.

A Living Hope – 1 Peter 1:3-9

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has great mercy, and because of his mercy he gave us a new life. This new life brings us a living hope through Jesus Christ’s resurrection from death. Now we wait to receive the blessings God has for his children. These blessings are kept for you in heaven. They cannot be ruined or be destroyed or lose their beauty.

God’s power protects you through your faith, and it keeps you safe until your salvation comes. That salvation is ready to be given to you at the end of time. I know the thought of that is exciting, even if you must suffer through different kinds of troubles for a short time now. These troubles test your faith and prove that it is pure. And such faith is worth more than gold. Gold can be proved to be pure by fire, but gold will ruin. When your faith is proven to be pure, the result will be praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ comes.

You have not seen Christ, but still you love him. You can’t see him now, but you believe in him. You are filled with a wonderful and heavenly joy that cannot be explained. Your faith has a goal, and you are reaching that goal—your salvation.

Expectations…

There’s nothing like the chance to be interviewed on the radio to make me quake in my shoes and wonder what I’m doing this for…

But it is good to stop, reflect and think about why I write this blog…and what I expect God might do with it. So my friend did a little interview with me to give me some practice….

Q1. Why did I start to write a blog?

When three of us (Bob, Gill and I) unexpectedly had to take on the leadership of the Good News Group about 3 years ago, I remember writing in my journal “please God, don’t make me do this, I can’t do it, I don’t want to do it.”  Well, it is obvious what God’s answer to that was!  But because we all felt inadequate, it made us pray…and pray…and pray.  One thing we prayed was for God to share his vision for the group with us so that we could have some idea that we we walking in the direction he wanted us to.  The word that came to us was “REACHOUT”.  And so, looking at the way the world works today, I decided to write a blog about what we do and see how it would reach out to others.

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Q2. Why is it called “includedbygrace”?

Grace is a wonderful and amazing gift of God through Jesus Christ. It is grace that accepts and loves us no matter what we have done and grace makes God’s love unchanging and undeserved.  I live in the light of that grace and so do we all.  “Included by grace” means all of us, whether society sees us as acceptable or not, and as inclusion is the focus of what we do, then the name seemed to explain it.

Q3.  What response have you had to your blog?

I expected a few people to follow and comment on the blog but I have been really pleased at how many people do read it.  It’s a thrill when I look at the STATs and see people from all over the world looking at what I have written.  I get a lot of private messages, as well as public comments,  because there are parents and individuals for who church has been really difficult, and their stories help me form what advice and issues I need to add to my blog.

Q4. How is God building this ministry’s ‘Reaching out’?

Being part of the Facebook page for the Additional Needs Alliance has complimented this blog really well and enabled us to build connections with the main Christian disabilty charities.  I now have great links with http://www.prospects.org.ukhttp://www.throughtheroof.orghttp://www.urbansaints.org , our local diocese,  http://www.careforthefamily.org.uk/Family-life/parent-support/parenting-additional-challenges/additional-needs-support,  http://www.churchesforall.org.uk and http://musingsofakidsworker.blogspot.co.uk/ .  As a group we are so encouraged and equipped by these links and love the fact that there is a great network for us all to belong to.  They are ‘Reaching out’ too!

Last year, my blog attracted an enquiry from the writer Sarah Lothian who wrote the article about us that was in this August’s Christianity magazine and locally we have been invited to share what we do and how we do it with a number of different churches and groups.  Here is just a snap shot of some of the ‘reaching out’ we have been doing…

  • Closer work with our sister church, St John’s, who run a monthly group for ALD.
  • Presentation to the Liverpool Disability Network.
  • Talk to over 60 pastoral assistants in our diocese.
  • Article in Christianity magazine.
  • Practical activities with Lancashire Spirituality Network.
  • Visit to support and encourage Kendal Propsects Group.
  • Training and support for a child with autism at a church in Preston.
  • Invited to talk about our Good News Group and inclusive church on Premier Radio (coming soon!)
  • Talks with printers / publishers to print and make our Bible teaching materials available to others.

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Q5. So what are your expectations for the future?

My husband has a saying, “expect the unexpected” and that is a great thing to keep in mind. This ministry is God’s work and we are just his servants.  I don’t want to put limits on what God wants to do, and I don’t want to impose my plans on His.  I often say how much this ministry is dependent on the fantastic team of people who are committed to serving at the Good News Group every week.  They turn up, pray faithfully and serve with love in their hearts.  (I always say that I am just the ‘gobby’ one who talks about it to everyone!)  The ministry is about including people with learning disabilties in the gospel message, changing their lives through Jesus Christ, and then giving them a place in our church family. As the Bible says; it does not depend on man’s efforts, but on God’s mercy.  So let’s watch this space….

My visit to London is now shaping up nicely.  We’ve mangaed to coordinate the Premier Radio interview, the Christian New Media conference and Award ceromony into one weekend!  I am greatly blessed with funding for my train ticket and accomodation offers and am very grateful to those who have offered and given. All I need to do now is practice my humble acceptance or gracious in defeat face for the award night….hope I don’t cry either way..LOL!

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We’re in Christianity Magazine!

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We are very excited. The buzz of anticipation has been growing for weeks as we knew it was going to happen! And today it did!
Back in February, Sarah Lothian, journalist and writer, travelled up to attend one of our Good News Group http://wp.me/P2MVJu-6n meetings and interviewed some of our members and serving team.
And now, in the August edition, her 1000 words about our ministry has finally appeared and we couldn’t be more pleased. You can find it here…http://www.premierchristianity.com/Current-Issue

So if you have read this and decided to investigate the link to this blog here are some of my favourite posts that I think give an overview of our passion to teach the Bible to adults with learning disabilities well, to build our members up as disciples of Jesus and contributors to the body of Christ and to deal with some of the difficult issues that this and any ministry might come across.

You can get in touch with comments and questions at includedbygrace@talktalk.net

  1.  _45233302_f238da6b-d622-47fe-9753-72aba54ab2c3I did a series of posts about the different BARRIERS people with learning disabilities can face    “Barriers” http://wp.me/s2MVJu-barriers  “Barriers 2” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-4t  “Barriers 3” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-4C  “Barriers 4”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-4H  “Barriers 5”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-8I
  2. IMG_0223 This lead to a couple of posts about how we can communicate well to people with learning disabilities: “A model of God’s communication” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-4U , “Explaining ‘sin'” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-8y
  3. IMG_0214 I’ve done some posts about our teaching the Bible sessions and topics.  From creation to revelation we don’t want to leave out any part of the word (although we haven’t got through all of it yet!!!!)  Judges: http://wp.me/p2MVJu-80  Creation: http://wp.me/p2MVJu-8q  Christmas: http://wp.me/p2MVJu-mb  Noah to Jesus: http://wp.me/p2MVJu-ok  Peter: http://wp.me/p2MVJu-p1
  4. MP900390083 These post cover some of the issues we’ve had to deal with such as discipling, prayer life and discord: “Washing up and a one-legged puppet”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-bC  “Enabling PLD to be active in prayer”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-8b  “Age-Appropriateness” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-5e   “Adult’s behaving badly”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-mD  “Whose choice is it?” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-oP
  5. gold-panning I write a lot.  Here are some articles and stories I have written… “Life’s not fair…Ecclesiastes and Wisdom”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-p8  “Panning for Gold and being honest with God” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-oF  and finally my short story,  “She danced for Him.”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-m6

Do take the time to look at some of these, make comments and please do return.  We’d love comments about the article and to know about your stories of working with people with learning disabilities in church too!   We are putting together our teaching materials to publish and share with others so if you are interested in learning about these, get in touch.

God bless you all.

Rejoice in the Lord, good people!
    It is only right for good people to praise him.
Play the lyre and praise the Lord.
    Play the ten-stringed harp for him.
Sing a new song[a] to him.
    Play it well and sing it loud!
The Lord’s word is true,
    and he is faithful in everything he does.
He loves goodness and justice.
    The Lord’s faithful love fills the earth.
The Lord spoke the command, and the world was made.
    The breath from his mouth created everything in the heavens.
He gathered together the water of the sea.
    He put the ocean in its place.
Everyone on earth should fear and respect the Lord.
    All the people in the world should fear him,
because when he speaks, things happen.
    And if he says, “Stop!”—then it stops.[b]
10 The Lord can ruin every decision the nations make.
    He can spoil all their plans.
11 But the Lord’s decisions are good forever.
    His plans are good for generation after generation.
12 Great blessings belong to those who have the Lord as their God!
    He chose them to be his own special people.
13 The Lord looked down from heaven
    and saw all the people.
14 From his high throne he looked down
    at all the people living on earth.
15 He created every person’s mind,
    and he knows what each one is doing.
16 A king is not saved by the power of his army.
    A soldier does not survive by his own great strength.
17 Horses don’t really bring victory in war.
    Their strength cannot help you escape.
18 The Lord watches over his followers,
    those who wait for him to show his faithful love.
19 He saves them from death.
    He gives them strength when they are hungry.
20 So we will wait for the Lord.
    He helps us and protects us.
21 He makes us happy.
    We trust his holy name.
22 Lord, we worship you,
    so show your great love for us.

Psalm 33 – Easy English Version    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm+33&version=ERV

Life’s not fair; Ecclesiastes and wisdom…

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Life’s not fair…

How many times a day do you think that? How many days in your life have you thought it?

Children say it a lot. Don’t we say to them, “Well life isn’t fair,” while still secretly joining with them in the complaint? Don’t we look at everything that is going on in our own lives, the lives other others around us and all that is on the news and just want to complain loudly to God…

“It isn’t FAIR!”

Well, thank you for agreeing with me – glad it’s not only me.

I’ve been to a http://www.womeninministry.co.uk   conference today. The talks were about engaging with the Old Testament, ourselves and as we teach others from the Bible. The first talk from Daf Merion-Jones (All Saints, Preston) was about the wisdom literature of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job and Song of Songs.

There are a few of facts you need to acknowledge about these books straight away..

  1. They have long passages of doom, gloom and miserableness in them.
  2. They agree that life is unfair, pretty awful for long periods of time and we are not in control of any of it.
  3. Too often the wicked get what the ‘good’ deserve, and the ‘good’ get what the wicked deserve.
  4. We are all heading to the same conclusion…death.
  5. And they are some of my favourite books of the Bible…

whoops taken on another challenge!

Huh????

Daf was telling us is that these books are about the reality of living in a broken and fallen world. We see God has intervened in history from creating the world, to the Exodus, Exile, birth of Jesus, Jesus’ death and resurrection, the growth of the church and we look forward to Jesus coming again and the new heaven and the new earth when everything will be put right…and then there’s all this mundane, hard and everyday bits in between…the bits that are our own lives, somehow weaving into the bigger picture but often incomprehensible to us.

I was thinking about disability a lot through this session. In Jesus’ time and for so many people still, disability was seen as a punishment for parents’ or personal sin.  Jesus dispelled that myth, but it perpetuated for a long, long time…and still does, even in some parts of his church.

Having a disability can be very difficult; the pain and suffering of bodies that don’t work as they should; the confusion of sensory overload and challenges of understanding a confusing world; having to rely on others; the mistreatment suffered from comments, exploitation, physical and sexual abuse;  people with disabilities being locked up, wrongly accused, kept in slavery, or killed.

In our group right now we have people with learning disabilities who are grieving.  Some are fighting the injustice of loss of benefits. Some are missing trusted staff who have been moved suddenly. Some are suffering with pain and medical conditions for which they take a lot of medication. One is having chemotherapy for breast cancer. One is losing his sight.

I know children who have been bullied, sexually abused, taken advantage of by their peers and trusted adults. Their disabilities making them ‘easy targets’.

THIS IS LIFE….BROKEN LIFE…

So why are Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job and Song of Songs some of my favourite books of the Bible?

Because they are real.  They don’t hide the facts that life is unfair and terrible at times. Ecclesiastes has a few great pearls of wisdom.

  1. If you don’t know God, (or choose not to acknowledge him) then all you can do is live life for all you can get out of it.
  2. If you do acknowledge God then there is HOPE. God is working all things together for the good of those who love him. He has promise to carry us through the roughness of life. Most of all he has promised JUSTICE.

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We all want to see JUSTICE done. We want people with disabilities to be treated fairly, to be valued and to be included. To be given every change to make something of their lives and not to suffer. We want that for ourselves too, if we are really honest.

We can and should keep fighting to make this world a better place, we should be exploring better medical treatments to alleviate suffering, we should be fighting for inclusive churches and education, we should be supporting disabled children and their families and giving adults with disabilities the same chances that we all want for relationships, life and work..

… but it is NEVER going to be right, or perfect or fixed. We cannot fix the world, we cannot make it work the way it should.

Only God can do that. If we ignore him we are left with just our best efforts – and then we die, and then we are forgotten.  Sorry.

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But if we turn to God and acknowledge him – we have a hope that brings life, peace, even JOY.

We CAN endure this life, even rejoice in it because we know the one who has promised us eternal justice for all wickedness, including our own. And if we trust in the saving work of Jesus, who took God’s punishment for our sin (of ignoring God) and told us “That WHOEVER believes in him will have eternal life.” A life of joy, peace and complete fairness, a life of hope and freedom from all the crap* in this life.

We treat our adults with disabilities as adults, not children. So when they suffer, and life is unfair we have to have the right answer – not something glib – because that isn’t true.  We must do it with care and sensitivity and make sure that they know the hope we have in Jesus – because that is the grace that saves us.

The God I follow hates the injustice in this world that his created people have caused through their selfishness and because they ignore their creator.  But if you turn to him and say sorry for ignoring him, he promises to forgive you and set you on a new path – his WAY. Make that decision today, before it is too late, then go and tell others about his great saving grace too!

(*sorry if you offended but I feel it is an accurate word in this context)

Just do something…

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Hello Faithful blog readers and new-to-this-blog visitors.

I have been thinking about who you might be, apart from comments, me reading your blogs or if I know you on another media there are very few clues as to who you are.

All I hope is that the insights, thoughts and advice I can share will help someone somewhere feel more confident and able to reach out to people with learning disabilities in their life and church.

Have you ever taken time out of your busy life just to reflect, pray and contemplate with God?  Was it last week, or last year, or even years ago?  There is great value in doing this but then there is the hurdle of actually doing it – organising work, family, life – to make a bit of space for you…and then we feel guilty.

But we mustn’t feel guilty…

This week I have made some space to reflect, seek God and to chat to people I trust about trying new things, dealing with hurdles and what seem to be huge mountains in the inclusion of people with learning disabilities in our churches.  I am fortunate to have two very supportive leaders at church who both are very encouraging, willing and wise in working towards a more inclusive church.  Both realise that we have a long way to go and both realise how far we have come.

The conclusion I have drawn from their wisdom is that we must not give into fear.  When we don’t know what to do, fear can imprison us and we end up doing nothing. Therefore as one of them so wisely put it ‘what ever we do will be something this time next year we weren’t doing already.’

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So my plea and encouragement to you is to just do something…anything…that makes a small faltering step forward. And here are just a few suggestions…

  • Say hello, introduce yourself and ask their name to someone who has learning disabilities in your church, supermarket, street, any place.  Adult or child. Then pray for them.
  • Offer to do something practical at a group for people with learning disabilities – make the tea, clean up, put the tables out…anything really that helps and gives you chance to acclimatise to being around people with learning disabilities. you can then watch how others speak and interact with them and learn from their example.
  • Meet with parents of a child with additional needs for a tea and cake session.  Just listen and maybe ask them what THEY would like you to know and how could you pray for them. Then keep in touch and do what you promised – pray!
  • Ask God to take away your fear and bring opportunities to try out the new courage he gives you…
  • If you are a church or Sunday School leader use more visual images, slow down, break things into chunks and use objects that stimulate the senses.  You’d be surprised at how many more people would engage with your talks – not just PLD!
  • Think of where you’d like to be, what you’d like to be able to see in your church or group to make it inclusive. See it as a step on a tall staircase and then step onto the first step no-matter how far away the goal seems to be.

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  • Don’t think you are alone. We Are the Body of Christ and we were meant to work together. Network via social media, blogs and other people in your church, diocese, look at inclusive church websites and email them for a chat…I would support, help and encourage any of you and I know many others would too – just look at some of the people and organisations I have linked up with below.

Finally – who are you?  What are you doing reading this blog?  What are your simple ideas that would help others JUST DO SOMETHING?

My networks:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/additionalneedsalliance/  – you can apply to join this group – so many great people to connect and share with.

http://www.prospects.org.uk/index.php/whatwedo/2/7  – a charity our Good News Group is supported by.

http://www.throughtheroof.org/ourprogramme/churches-inc  – lots of good resources and is developing regional networks.

http://www.careforthefamily.org.uk/Family+life/parent-support/parenting_additional_challenges/additional_needs_support – just full of care!

http://musingsofakidsworker.blogspot.co.uk – Kay’s blog which is very informative.

http://www.snappin.org/   and their blog (do sign up for by email – daily encouragement!)  http://www.snappin.org/#!blogger-feed/cund  An American Special Needs Ministry that is amazing.

http://www.acceptrespectconnect.co.uk/  – just look at what they do!

 

 

 

 

She danced for Him.

A short story by Lynn McCann

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Susie didn’t like getting up that morning. It was cold and Ken was cross with her. She refused to get out of bed and short of pushing her out, there was nothing Ken could do.

By lunch time she was very hungry so she made her way in her pyjamas to the dining hall. Susie put on her fiercest face so none of the staff would challenge her to get dressed. She didn’t even like the thing called shepherds pie that they gave her but she ate, one mouthful at a time until it was cold and everyone else had left the room.

Susie didn’t like going to the lounge. Usually Ken or Sandra would try to make her join in something. Mostly she didn’t understand what they were saying and whatever they put in front of her, usually a piece of board with numbers or writing on it made Susie want to throw it across the room. She was getting good at aiming for certain people who might have annoyed her sometime. They stopped asking her to join in eventually. Susie preferred to sit in her room watching Strictly Come Dancing, over and over again.

It wasn’t Susie’s fault that she punched Kevin that day. He came far too close and she was fed up of him trying to touch her boobs. But Ken and Sandra hadn’t noticed that. As she watched Kevin fall to the floor in slow motion, the staff bounded across the room like superheroes blocking the baddie’s escape and holding Susie’s arms so tightly behind her back that the pain rushed into her head and screamed.

Susie couldn’t remember screaming hysterically or biting Sandra, but she could remember the way they pushed her to the floor and pinned her down. Susie might have been small and round but Susie knew what danger was and she was going to fight it. She was exhausted from the writhing, kicking and convulsing as they carried her to the punishment room. They didn’t even change her. She sat in her damp clothes, staring at the blank wall and retreated into Strictly Come Dancing land where Susie could dance in the pink sequinned dress she had always dreamed of.

Susie didn’t know why they came to get her. It wasn’t even night time. Sandra hissed at her to stop humming and Ken told her to behave for the visitor. Susie was too tired to fight but she wondered what visitor would ask for her especially and whether he would mind that she stank of pee.

Susie shuffled into the lounge and Ken and Sandra ushered her to one of the empty chairs at the back. Then they left her alone. The room was full. Everyone from every ward seemed to be there. No-one seemed to have noticed that she came in, their whole attention was focussed on the Man stood at the front of the room. Only he wasn’t stood still, he began to move towards the people sat at the front, touching each one and whispering to them. Susie wasn’t going to look but she found herself desperately wanting to hear what he was saying…and desperately wanting that look each person he touched displayed on their face.

The room began to buzz with humming, singing, laughter and conversation as the Man walked up and down the rows, missing no-one out. Susie was the last person, sat apart from everyone else.

She found herself unable to look at Him. She felt bad for all the times she’d hit out lost her temper. She felt dirty because she had wet herself and he smelled so lovely. Susie felt sure he wouldn’t speak to her. When she was bad, no-one did.

Susie, would you dance with me?”

In shock she looked up at the kindest most beautiful face she had ever seen. It was as if stars burst out of his eyes and the whole world was etched on his face. Without taking her eyes from His she nodded and He took her hands gently in His. Together they glided towards the front of the room and suddenly there was music. Susie felt as though a waterfall came down from heaven and washed her dirty, smelly clothes away and replaced them with a pink sparkly ball gown that swished and bobbed gracefully as she danced across the floor with the Man.

Susie, will you follow me?” He whispered in her ear.

Yes!” she squealed with delight, “I will.”

Will you teach others to follow me too?”

Me?”

Show them how I danced with you, tell them I AM JESUS.”

The hospital found her a place to live, a lovely home with friendly house-mates and kind staff who take her to the dance school every week. Susie still dances for Him. And at the end of her dance she tells the audience how Jesus came to dance with her. People are amazed at her peace and joy.

 

This short story was inspired by a conversation I had with my brother about an old ‘mental hospital’ (that’s what it was know as) in our county that I had once visited as a student and he had once worked at. The way that people with learning disabilities were shut away and treated was quite appalling at times and we were both thankful that the old hospital had been closed and the residents moved into group homes in the community. My brother told me that patients were sometimes locked in the toilet, naked or in their wet clothes for the whole day as a punishment for needing more than one incontinent pad a day. I just wanted to remember that Jesus cared for those people too and what might have happened if he had visited it for one day.

 

When we want to run away. (God and Elijah.)

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Run away or stay and fight?

Elijah’s story is an exciting one. He stands up to the evil King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who kill all of God’s prophets except him because he has run away in fear after declaring God’s judgement that a drought is coming. He is brought food in the desert by ravens, runs away again to a far away town, a widow feeds him and her jar of grain never runs out, then God brings the woman’s son back from the dead. In the nail-biting climax, Elijah goes back to King Ahab and challenges all the false god Baal’s prophet’s to a duel of fire…and the one true God of Elijah wins, hands down. Finally proving that Baal can’t do anything, the Israelites turn back to their God and it rains again.

We are always pleasantly encouraged by how our Good News Group of adults with learning disabilities love to listen to and join in the stories from the old testament. They seem to grasp the drama and the tension, learning the ‘Goodies’ and the ‘Baddies’ names and cheering when God steps in, intervenes and saves his people. We have explored some interesting, flawed and surprisingly ‘normal’ characters and I think we have learned a lot through their flaws and how God used them anyway. We are learning that God can use us, that we are not useless or broken even if society looks down on us and doesn’t realise what we are capable of. We are learning that we have Jesus as our saviour and to follow him means that God WILL use us. We are part of the body of the church that belongs to Jesus Christ and no disability excludes anyone from that.

Elijah’s story has spoken to me about what we do in the most difficult situations in our lives. I have had times when the situation has been so hard and threatening that all I have wanted to do was escape. Each day I have prayed for God to give me the ability to persevere and stick it out for my own spiritual growth and maturity. I have prayed for those who hurt me and for blessings upon those who present themselves as my enemy. I’m sure as Christians we all have been in similar situations. Jesus warned us that in this life we will have trouble. But he came to carry our burdens and rescue us for eternity.

But do you know what? I am a coward. In threatening situations all I want to do is get out. Looking back, I used to feel great shame and disappointment that I had given into fear and run away. But whilst studying Elijah I had a change of mind. See how God was with him when he ran away from Ahab and Jezebel. God didn’t reprimand him and send him right back in there to face the enemy. No, he tended to him, gave him a safe place to rest and renew his strength by the brook. He took care of Elijah’s basic needs by sending the ravens with food each day. When the brook dried up, he sent him to another place of safety and provision. It wasn’t until Elijah was fully restored, built up by the experiences of God’s power and miracles, that he sent him back to do the job of standing up to his enemies.

Elijah Prophets of Baal FINAL

Take heart, if you are in a place where you are struggling and want to escape. Do ask God to strengthen you each day and he will Often that will be good and get you through. But sometimes it seems that running away, leaving, failing even…is all we have left to do. Know that God, through the saving grace of his son Jesus, is able to restore us and lift us up. I have heard of marriages, families, drug addicts and lives restored by an awesome, amazing, faithful and kind Lord God of all creation. And once restored, we can fight the battles in HIS strength – and see HIS power just like Elijah did.

Amen to that!

 

Growing in Grace

Our Welcome Booklet

Our Welcome Booklet

It could get messy, out of control.  Things might take longer….but it could also be wonderful, fun and full of joy.  Okay then…it’s agreed…we’ll give it a go!

In July I wrote about how a dissertation based on our Good News Group had challenged us that we were not as inclusive as we thought. You can read it again here – http://wp.me/p2MVJu-8Z .

Our plan is two-fold. First to make our weekly meeting more inclusive so that everyone has a chance to serve in some way if they wish too. Secondly we are looking for ways in which the Good News Group members can access other services and events in the church and have the opportunity to serve there too if they wish.

Our weekly meetings is labour intensive. As we help our members with crafts, games and colouring, then tidy up, serving tea, clearing up, setting out the service, manning the computer and sound desk, leading worship and teaching, praying and signing.  We realised there were so many opportunities to open up these areas to everyone, whether they were able bodied or a wheelchair user, could speak or sign, could read or were visually impaired.

Another issue that came out from our team is that they were so busy serving that they did not have time to get to know our members properly. We didn’t like this and so bringing the two aspects together, we did something a little different for our first meeting back after the summer break.

Taking into account some of our members who get quite anxious if things change I pasted three sheets of paper and numbers onto the wall. i explained we were going to work through 1-3 then have our singing time (our favourite time!) Everyone accepted this well and so we set off.

  1. First we had simply ‘Chat time’.  Supported by visual symbols of suggested topics (home, family, interests, dislikes, church etc) the group was split into four smaller groups and just chatted.  The hub of conversation was a joy to listen to. Many people said how they had found so much out about people. Certainly we should be doing more of this.
  2. Secondly we looked at what the Bible says about being ‘The body of Christ’.  Using a life-size outline of a body I asked everyone to suggest ways we could serve others using some of those body parts (hands, arms, feet) and we had a wonderful list from giving someone a clap, praying, pushing a wheelchair, giving gifts, washing up, walking somewhere with someone.
  3. This led us to unveil a table of a variety of jobs that we were inviting everyone to volunteer for.  TA-DAH!!!   and lots of people signed up!   From washing up to pressing buttons on the computer and saying prayers.  Fabulous!

So now we get on with it and I think it will help us all grow together.

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