Let me introduce you to Gemma….
She’s 8, is autistic and love’s Jesus. But sometimes - she doesn’t love Jesus.
Sometimes she can be profound with her comments about Jesus, sometimes she just doesn’t want to even talk about Him - preferring to play with some lego, giving the impression she’s not listening. But she is listening.
I don’t understand how her faith journey works - I know God does. Her journey is important to me, the fact I don’t understand it isn’t.
The other thing that is important to me is how other people view Gemma and others like her.
Mostly, she is ignored.
The times she is not ignored are those times she makes a loud comments in church (Usually, an appropriate comment!). Or when she struggles to wait in line for a drink or a biscuit, or cannot wait her turn in a game - maybe shouting out an answer during the children’s talk in the main service. In other words, those times when she goes against what us “Nice” Christians consider to be appropriate behaviour in church. Other than that - she is anonymous.
No one notices the depth of her faith, her amazing knowledge of the Bible or her ‘straight to the heart of it’ prayers. No one notices her parents either, even though they are desperate for support and conversation.
The same goes for many other children and adults with special needs or disabilities - they and their families are anonymous and ignored.
I often quote Joni Eareckson-Tada: “The Blind can see with the eyes of Christ, the deaf can hear with the ears of Christ, a person with a learning difficulty can think with the mind of Christ”. This is so true, but who listens to what they have to say about it?
Everyone has their own thoughts, ideas and opinions, things they feel strongly about - those who have disabilities and special needs, child or adult, are no different. And surprise, surprise - it’s not always about disability!
I have a dream - I want them to be heard. I don’t want them to be anonymous anymore.