It’s in our nature when we come across a person with physical or intellectual challenges to focus on what that person can’t do. Perhaps we even define them according to what they cannot do. This person cannot live independently. That person cannot walk. This person cannot speak. That person cannot hear.
In a sense, that’s how God decided to define all of us when he planned to send his Son to earth to save us: he defined us by what we could not do. We could not come to God of our own will and serve him. We could not obey God’s commandments. We could not make up for our sinfulness with good works of our own. Our Lord Jesus did what we could not do – living a perfect life and paying for our guilt.
Now God says that we can: we can serve him. We can obey him. And that spirit of “can” applies to all of God’s people – including those with disabilities and challenges.
Take Amber Todor from St. John’s Lutheran Church in Oak Creek. As a young woman with autism, Amber and her family find ways for her to participate in congregational life and offer service to fellow members and, more importantly, to God. Amber assists her mother Shirley in assembling the monthly church newsletter. Amber attends worship and the monthly Jesus Cares program her congregation offers. Amber also comes to the monthly SMILES (Songs, Movement, Instruments, Learning, Encouragement and Signing) service that runs concurrently with the Sunday morning church service, and even pitches in with clean-up after congregational meals.
When asked why she likes doing things in and around her church, Amber simply says, “Everyone is busy.” And she’s right on several levels. First, Amber recognizes that she has free time that others might not have. That time can be spent, as her mother’s schedule allows, in God’s house, a place where Amber feels comfortable and close to her Savior. Secondly, and more importantly, Amber sees all the work her fellow Christians do for their congregation and wants to do her part as well. Amber is proof that God’s people – ALL God’s people – have a place in their local congregation and service to render to God and their fellow members.
One of the primary goals of WELS Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry is to help congregations utilize their members who, like Amber, have unique challenges. Looking for ideas specific to your church setting? Contact WELS Special Ministries.
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