Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Power of The People

There is a big problem that exists for families with special needs children and the church.  A real, heartbreaking problem.  The one place that should be a safe haven, a place of rest, a soft place to land....that place has become one more difficult place to be.  And often one too many.  This is so very wrong.  How is it that the church has failed here?  I really don't understand it myself.  I know it is true.  I understand what I have heard from so many families.  There is no place for them, it is too hard to make it work.  Church becomes just one more challenge in a week already full of challenges.  Instead of being a place of refreshment and rest it is yet one more place to try and put on a good face.  To be rejected because your child doesn't fit in with the rest.  I will freely admit that this has not been our experience.  We have been blessed to be a part of two (although I admit that the first probably no longer fits this mold) churches that have been a wonderful model of Ecclessia.  When it comes to church and special needs sometimes a church is too big and our kids can fall through the cracks of programs that won't mold to them.  And sometimes a church is too small and doesn't have the resources for a "special needs program".  And I sit here as a former member of the large and a current member of the small (and I mean small!)  and I say...this is not ok and no excuse.  If the church is letting down special needs families than it is not the church!  Let me show you!
This is just a fraction of the hugs Reagan gets on any given Sunday.
Ecclessia means The Church and is translated as called out ones.  This is what we should be to each other.  And this has been our experience.  Reagan doesn't "fit in" to a proper place at our church.  She refuses straight up to go into the pre-school class except when her friend (also chromosomally enhanced) is in there and even then she would rather both of them crash the big kids party.
Even though we have age groups for Sunday school...the kids mix as suits them best
  Despite that fact that probably 20% of the kids (all dozen or so of them lol) in our church have special needs, there is no special needs program in place for them.  Reagan makes her own place in our church.

Baptisims are family affairs

And at the most fundamental level that is how it should always be.  People caring for people.  The church being there as a family for each other.  Others have written about this problem and probably have "better" solutions than I can present, but I know this:  if we each make sure that we meet a need when we see it, then families with special needs will not feel left behind in our churches.  We don't need programs (though some churches have them and they can be amazing).  We need people who care.  I love the fact that from the time I arrive at church on a Sunday morning (which can be as early as 7:00 if I'm doing music) until the time I actually put my kids in the car to leave (sometimes noon if I play both services)  I don't actually have to worry about where Reagan is.  Because there are so many people who are looking out for her.  This is how it should be.  If I am playing and Grammy and Papa are working the media booth who is going to hold Reagan during singing?

She loves singing with the choir...sometimes she even knows the words

 Oh wait...she'll just join the choir.  She doesn't want to go to Sunday school one morning....its a sure bet I won't be the one holding her for the service because there are several other pairs of arms vying for that privilege.  And while I know Reagan is fun,  I also know that the attitude of caring would extend to others.  If there was a child who needed a quite place away from other kids while their parents worshiped there would be willing people to play with them in the office.  Because as awesome as programs are...they still don't meet people where they are.  Only people can truly do that.  And I am proud to say our Ecclisia does that.  And I want to point it out very specifically here too, because we must never lose that.  And for everyone else out there...be sure that you are truly seeing people and hearing their needs...watch out for what they may be too afraid to say.  Remember when we ask "how are you"...we often don't really want to hear the answer, and families dealing with special needs know that and won't tell you.  Don't look past.  Ask and really,really mean it..."what can I do to give you a day of rest".  And then we will be serving our family.  Because this is what it looks like when we don't put people in a box.  We don't say "I'm sorry she's too little (or delayed or just a kid or....) to participate in this.

Yes a 4 year old with limited speech is included...and participates...in the prayer circle...it is a blessing to all

Nope.  We are a family and families do stuff together no matter how old or young or how many chromosomes we have.  This is Ecclisia.  I know I probably rambled here, but there really is no way to sum this up.  Except I guess...be called out for each other.  And try to make this...Reagan's place...a reality for everyone in your life.

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