Most people with disabilities--and most of their families--do not continue to attend church when confronted with barriers to access and fellowship. When they perceive that they are set apart or unwelcome, they assume that they can just as easily worship God at home--and sometimes they are even sent home because disability-related symptoms or behavior make them disruptive or difficult to accommodate.
A friend who was in town for the convention a few weeks ago asked me when my passion for disability ministry began. I started to tell him that it began in 1998; but it really began in 1990, when I was at AU. One of the associates at East Side back then told me that 95 percent of people with disabilities are unchurched. It occurred to me in that moment that we have a huge mission field right here in North America that we do not touch. Why? Because it's difficult physically to transport them to church. Because we don't know what to say to them. (How ridiculous! How about, "What's your name? I'm Sarah Blake. Do you live here in town? Tell me about yourself.") Because because because... Ignorance and busyness need to stop being excuses. If they are explanations, then we should move past them and start doing something. A pastor from Michigan wrote to the Church of God email list on June 29 and expressed wonder at why we only experience an average of three conversions per year in the Church of God nationwide. We might experience more if we intentionally built relationships with all these unchurched people...
So why am I going to seminary? Because it is finally time to act on the passion! Fear and laziness need to stop being excuses, and I need to move past the explanations and get out and do something about the mission field! I have a mission, and it's here in America. My mission is:
- To equip the church to reach people with disabilities who have not heard the good news of Jesus by meeting practical needs, making disciples, and including people with disabilities in the community life of the church
- To meet practical needs, make disciples, and devote myself to the building of community in the church
That's as far as I've gotten at this point.