It’s impossible to miss us as we come into your church for the first time – three of us are walking upright while the fourth member of our family is being pushed in a wheelchair (or walking with a cane, or needing his/her hand held). And as you see us, you smile politely as you would to any other family visiting your church. But we can sense that you’re a little uncomfortable about approaching us. It’s something that we’ve sensed from other people over the years as well. You’re curious, and, as a Christian, you’re a caring person, but you don’t know what to say and you don’t want to offend.
Here are seven things we wish you knew about us.
- We’re just like you. You can’t imagine dealing with our situation. But neither could we, not at first. We aren’t superhuman or specially gifted or anything like that. If you wonder how you would feel if you had to deal with a family member with exceptional needs day-after-day, know that we wonder the same thing about ourselves.
- We aren’t going to ask for your help, even if we need it. We don’t know the level of assistance you would be willing to give us, and we don’t want to impose on you. But we very well may need some help this morning, and for us to get it you’re going to have the make the first move.
- We aren’t going to be offended by any questions you have. We know you’re curious. We would be very happy to tell you about ourselves, our family member’s diagnosis, and the challenges we face. In fact, we would be very appreciative if you asked.
- Each of us is an individual. It may be very hard for our exceptional family member to communicate with you. But they will perceive your concern about them in their own way. Please treat them the same way that you treat the rest of us, even if you don’t seem to get any response. They are God’s child just as much as the rest of us are God’s children.
- You don’t have to feel sorry for us. We experience many challenges, but God always keeps his promises – including his promise to bring good out of every situation for his people. As much as we appreciate being able to share information about our challenges, we also want to tell you about the special blessings God has given us.
- Each of us is a sinner forgiven by Jesus – just like you are. That forgiving love of Jesus has forged a bond in our family that is stronger than any disability, and it just might be that the Lord means for that bond to extend between us and you as well. That’s why we’re visiting your church this morning – we’re looking for a stronger connection with God and with his people.
- While sympathy and simple assistance is always appreciated, what we really long for is understanding and acceptance, rooted in the knowledge that each follower of Jesus carries unique burdens, just as he said we would.
We know that it might take effort on your part to welcome us into your midst than it would take to welcome a typical family. May the love of Christ move you to make that effort!
By Rev. Stephen Schmidt, chairmain of WELS Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry
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