I consider it an honor to be a pastor’s wife. It is a privilege to be allowed into people’s lives: their hurt, pain, devastation, joy, celebration, transformation. This church, this body of Christ—with all of its broken pieces along with its many gifts and talents—is beautiful. But it can also be so ignorant that it pushes away the most vulnerable.
Recently, I was talking to a friend who attends a large and thriving church. She wanted to ask me about a comment her pastor said from the pulpit, because she felt uneasy as soon as it was said.
“It saddens me to see people with disabilities in our church," he said. "It is a reminder that we do not have enough faith.”
Now let that sit with you for a minute. I wish this was the only time when well-intentioned church leaders show their ignorance on disability or their lack of understanding that all life has value and purpose. I wish this was an isolated incident in which someone failed to recognize that we are all flawed—all of us. Because what about the man that carries lust in his heart? Or the woman who is full of bitterness and jealousy? Are those not more damaging to our souls than a physical or intellectual disability? Do we not all need healing from the addictions, selfishness and pride that we carry?
Perhaps we have forgotten that life is a journey and the ultimate healing will come as we stand before the Lord, our bodies restored, our brokenness gone. All of us, every single one of us, healed!
heart breaks as a member of this beautiful church when I see us failing
the most vulnerable. When I see our
When my daughter was born with Down syndrome, one of my friends confessed she thought I deserved it. She said that I must have done something wrong for God to give me a child with a disability. Sadly, this is the message she had heard from her church, the same church I had attended growing up, the same message I’d heard. Thankfully, at that point in life I had personal experience with children with disabilities. I also had a real, deep relationship with God, the same God that whispered to me, I don’t make mistakes.
So I clung to this verse:
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day (Ps. 139:13-16, MSG).
So how does the church receive us families living with disability?
Here is a sad reality: 80 percent of families that have a member with a disability do not attend church. Yes, 80 percent! Why?
There are several reasons, and I will let you hear from other families: Click here to read more:
Teaching Christian Virtues: MERCY
Daring Greatly Parenting Manifesto
A Parent's Confession
God’s mercy hovers over my child. The covenant I have with God in the blood of Jesus extends to my children (and grandchildren)--covering them completely. Everything God gives to me, He’ll give to my children including peace and protection. I lay hold of God’s plans and promises for my children by faith, and I call those things of change to come to pass in their life.
I believe God for my child’s deliverance and salvation. I put all of my trust in the Lord concerning my children (and grandchildren) and am filled with joy because I know they are turning to the Lord. No matter how far away my child seems to be, there is no place where God can’t reach them. I’m not moved by what I see, but by what the Word says. I believe that Christ will capture their heart, and they will follow and obey Him.
A Prayer for our Children
Father, Your Word is true and I believe it. Therefore, in the Name of Jesus, I believe in my heart and say with my mouth that the Word of God prevails over my children. Your Word says that You will pour out Your Spirit upon my offspring and Your blessing upon my descendants. I believe and say that my children are wise and that they take heed to and are the fruit of godly instruction and correction. I love my children and I will diligently discipline them early. Because of that, they give me delight and rest.
Father, I take Your Word that says You will contend with him who contends with me, and You give safety to my children and ease them day by day. They are blessed when they come in and when they go out. I confess that You, Lord, give Your angels special charge over my children to accompany and defend and preserve them. I believe they find favor, good understanding and high esteem in Your sight, Lord, and in the sight of man.
I confess that my children are disciples taught of the Lord and obedient to Your will. Great is their peace and undisturbed composure. I believe I receive wisdom and counsel in bringing up my children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. And Your Word declares that when they are old they will not depart from it. So I commit them to Your keeping and I know and have confident trust that they are watched over and blessed of the Lord all the days of their lives, in Jesus’ Name.
Prayer References from The Amplified Bible: Mark 11:23; Isaiah 44:3; Proverbs 13:1, 24, 29:17; Isaiah 49:25; Deuteronomy 28:6; Psalms 91:11-12; Proverbs 3:4; Isaiah 54:13; Proverbs 2:6; Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 22:6
Calm Parenting: How to Get Control When Your Child is Making You Angry by Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC,
Luke 18;16-17 Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 17 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
I once met a little boy who impacted my heart so greatly that he altered both the way I prayed and the vision I held for ministry. This poor, three-foot tall, brown-eyed foster kid had not a single possession to his name, yet he gave me a tremendously rich gift. He caused me to see.
This little boy was not the first child I had met who had been placed in governmental care, but he was the one who shook me out of my sleep and opened my eyes to America’s fatherless. Actually, I have known through the years literally hundreds of children who are without homes or families. I spent four summers oversees working among orphans and living in their orphanages. Those four summers were paramount for me and set in my heart a burden for orphaned children I would carry throughout my life.
The faces of the orphans I had known overseas were indeed etched into my memory, but I believe the Lord wanted to expand my vision to see more. In years past, the image that most often came into my mind when I thought of or prayed for orphans was almost always that of children living in run-down, congested orphanage buildings. However, I confess I did not give nearly as much thought to the orphans in my own nation.
Although the plight of some overseas orphans is considerably similar to that of foster children in my own nation, for some reason I (and I think I am in good company) thought of American orphans as different from orphans in other nations. Perhaps it was because they just didn’t seem as poor, or desperate, or destitute; though I have now learned how untrue this perception is.
For many of us, if not most of us, when we think of orphans, we picture children living on the streets in third world nations or growing up in over-crowded orphanages. This is an accurate picture. However, it is not a complete picture. The reality is, you could take a relatively short drive right now, some of you could even walk, and come face to face with one of America’s orphans. In 2011, there were 115,000 orphaned children in our nation who were immediately available for adoption. These 115,000 are among nearly half a million foster children who have been removed from their homes due to their own families’ incapability of caring for them . These children live in our same neighborhoods and attend our schools. But do we see them?
I am not implying that we should not consider orphans in other nations, but in seeing these, we cannot overlook our own nation’s children. Certainly I still think of and pray for the orphans of I’ve seen in other countries. The names and faces of those orphans I met in Eastern Europe will remain in my memory and my prayers indefinitely. Even so, it is important that when we consider the fatherless, we include the faces of our nation’s destitute children. I lamentably confess that while I crossed an ocean four times to visit orphans, it was several years later before I ever visited a children’s home in my own nation. It was literally a five minute drive away. There is something wrong with this picture. I’ve since become a little more aware of the institutions and homes for children that have been established in my own city and nation. Through conversations I’ve had with others within the church, I’ve discovered that many do not realize that these homes even exist. But we need to know. And we need to see the children. In the nooks and crannies of your own city, these homes for the fatherless exist. I have discovered nearly fifteen in my own city that I once never even knew were there. And in addition to these children’s homes, a great number more are living in foster families. Truly the crisis of fatherlessness spans across America and stretches across the earth.
I believe there is a question coming from America’s orphans that is echoing throughout our nation… “Do you see us?” And this question beckons another… “Do you care?”
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to care for the orphan. If James 1:27 defines this as “pure and undefiled religion,” then none of us within the Church are exempt from this call. We will not all bring children into our home, but we are all called to do something.
Fatherlessness permeates the world. When the Church of each nation arises to look after her own orphans, this is beautification both of the nation and of the Church.
-Kinsey Thurlow Orphan Justice Center
Did you know the state of Georgia has roughly 1,791 children free for adoption?
Many of these children have special needs or are sibling groups needing placement together. There are 14, 380 churches. What if each of these churches were to help one family adopt a child or group and that church take on the responsibility of providing for those children until they are grown. We would be an orphan free state. True and un defiled religion to the Father is caring for the orphaned and fatherless. Please consider what your church family cna do to help. Every child is deserving of a forever family. It isnt always easy, but HIS burden is light. Consider being a child's answer today.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. . . .It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
—1 Corinthians 13:4–5, 7
One family with whom I worked wanted to expand their family by adopting a child from another country. Their family consisted of the parents and two sweet-natured little girls. The parents wanted to adopt a younger male child. The little boy they adopted came into their lives through much perseverance in the adoptive process. They were thrilled to have him join their family.
Then, a few months after the adoption, he began to act out. His behaviors were targeted on the primary caregiver, his mother. He would yell at and hit her; defecate and urinate on the floor; cry and scream instead of sleep at night; and he wouldn't allow anyone to touch or attempt to calm him. As a result of his escalating behaviors, the mother began to react to him and became angry with herself for her negative thoughts toward him.
When I met them, she felt as though her son was in the process of ruining her family. She expressed how much she despised how he changed their family. She found herself yelling at him in response. The father became the only one who could soothe the child. Without his presence, the boy's behaviors continued to escalate.
The emotionally drained family needed answers. Why was this happening? What could they do? (You can read more about this family in the next article.)
First, I explained the issue of attachment and bonding. As parents interact with and relate to their children, children reflect what they see. They model facial expressions, voice intonations, and physical gestures, and these elements contribute to the child's developing attachment capabilities. For some of us, this process is second nature; for others, it is unknown territory.
Attachment can be a complex concept. To understand, let's look for it in everyday life. The face of attachment is evident in children who, while playing with other children, go to their parent(s) and touch them or stand near them to "touch base" and then return to playing with their friends. Attachment is also seen when children run to their parent(s) when hurt, sad, afraid, or overwhelmed. When attachment is present, the parent(s) can soothe this child. A child who is not attached may be hypervigilant; always on guard out of fear; or they may not respond to the parent's words, sounds, or gestures.
All different degrees of attachment exist. A child may have experienced an intermittent attachment process such as when parents are deployed, divorced, or depressed. If there is even one significant adult in a child's life who will provide consistency and unconditional love and support, that child can attach. Attachment is based on the needs of the child.
Bruce Perry, M.D., a specialist in child development and trauma, defines attachment as "a special enduring form of 'emotional' relationship with a specific person which involves soothing, comfort and pleasure."1 An attached child finds security and safety in context of this special relationship. It is within this secure and safe relationship that a child is able to develop emotionally, physically, socially, culturally, intellectually, and spiritually. This connectedness provides the context for a child to learn, love, survive, work, create and grow.
Attachment is also demonstrated when the loss or threat of loss of the specific person evokes distress. Distress is manifested through behaviors: bouts of crying, throwing tantrums, periods of hoarding, moments of withdrawing, actions of self-mutilating, and other significant behaviors.Taken from Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., © 2008 by Sanford Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.