Thursday, 30 May 2013

Enjoy the Miracles, But Don't Forget Your Communities

It does appear that given the choice of a seminar on signs and wonders and a seminar on making sure those with disabilities can access church, the majority will opt for the seminar on signs and wonders. 

That seminar is usually full to overflowing.

I find this slightly disturbing.

There’s been a lot of talk about healing on social media, both from Wales and from a couple of recent festivals - that’s wonderful!

But I still can’t helping feeling as though the finger of blame is pointing at those who are not healed - “those people have been healed, why not you?”

And now I hear of people getting into their cars and chasing the new welsh revival, much like they did with a well known “revival” in America in the last couple of years.

This gives me another question: Would as many folk do the same to learn how to make sure everyone - including those with disabilities - can access their church? Would they do that to learn how to include and teach children? 

The figures for those attending these sort of conferences speak for themselves…… No.

Don’t misunderstand me here - I believe in healing. I believe in Biblical signs and wonders. But I don’t believe it should be at the expense of caring for our communities. 

I believe there is the same amount of wonder in seeing a child with a profound disability worship as there is in witnessing a healing…. And I have witnessed both.

So here I am, a very quiet voice in the world of the church, putting my hand up and saying “Excuse me please! Enjoy the miracles, but don’t forget to care. Don’t forget that not everyone will be healed and will still need to access the church. And whatever you do - don’t forget the children.” 

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Forgotten Ones

I and many others are busy raising awareness about children with additional needs in our churches - there's a growing army of us!

But in all the forums, conferences, chats with families and focus groups what I'm finding is, there are still two groups of young people who are being forgotten.

There are lots of discussions about autism, dyspraxia, ADHD and other similar additional needs. That's great. The fact there is so much discussion (and sometimes heat) means these children are actually in our churches.  Awesome!

But where is the discussion on proper inclusion of children with physical disabilities? Hang on - where ARE the children with physical disabilities?? Have you noticed that on the whole, the only children we have with physical disabilities are those born to families already in the church?

There is no discussion, because there are no children to discuss.

And what about those children with hidden physical disabilities? I'm sure there are house bound young people with ME out there that would love contact with the church!

On chatting to a young lady in her teens recently, a girl who has a life limiting disease, she said that although she can't get out, she used to like getting invitations to church events, just because it meant she wasn't forgotten. Sadly, she no longer gets the invitations..... And she no longer feels included. No one from the youth team visits. How sad is that.

There is no discussion on these children/young people because they have quietly wheeled, limped or crawled their way out of the church for good - and that's if they managed to get in to start with. Many see the church as uncaring and uninterested and therefore don't even bother trying to come in.

We've fought the issues of physical access....... And many churches feel as though they've got that one ticked off their list. But they haven't.

Here's some things I bet many churches haven't thought through: 
- For a baptist type church, how do you baptise a young person who can't access the baptistry?
- If a young person who does not take food orally wants to take communion, what do you do? And what about young people with poor swallowing reflexes who choke/splutter when taking communion - how do you react?
- What do you do for the young person who is blind and can't see the amazing visual aids you've produced?
- Is it obvious how to access your church in a wheel chair with out having to ask? 
- Do you have an accessible parking space with enough room to open the car door wide so parents can transfer their child to a wheelchair more easily?

I think we need to look at our accessibility in our children's work, and if it is truly accessible..... We need to say on our publicity, on our websites an on our notice boards that our children's work is 'fully accessible' displaying the international signs for accessibility.

We also need to be intentional in our support of those children who are housebound due to disabilities, and also in our support of their families.

There are many children out there with life limiting diseases, their time for hearing the gospel is short, but it appears no one is reaching out to them. Why? The urgency is huge!

How about getting into the local specialist schools, or running carer's support groups. 

Use your imagination!

Don't wait for them to come to you, reach out to them.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

It's Fibro Awareness Day - this is what it means to me

I don’t usually complain about my Myofacial Pain Syndrome or Fibromyalgia on my blog or on social media. I try to talk to the friends who know me well and know how to pray and leave it with them to pray. The whole of social media doesn’t need to know!

But today is Fibromyalgia awareness day (Also ME, CFS and other similar disorders) SO…. I’m going to tell you what life is like at the moment.

I will start by saying that I still carry on doing what I do, I have to find other ways of doing them, but I carry on regardless. Not doing stuff wouldn’t make a difference, so I might as well carry on!

There’s something that many are not aware of that happens to those with a slowly deteriorating disease. Each downward step brings grief, and it sneaks up on you unawares. If you let it, it steals your joy and makes you want to give up. But I decided a long time ago not to let these conditions define me or stop me.

One milestone has brought me relief, fun, but also a return of that grief.

I got a second hand electric wheelchair! It’s great fun, it’s brought me independence (I can now do London meetings without having to drag Steve along and pay for an extra train ticket) and it’s so much more comfortable. 

But it’s also an aching reminder of what I no longer have. Two years ago I could manually wheel myself around, or go to London and use a walking stick (slowly) without worry.

The Fibro and the MPS fight each other, and lately it has been the MPS that has the upper hand. Causing severe pain and permanent damage in my left side - especially my arm/shoulder, hand/wrist making using my walking stick really difficult (I can’t balance if I use it in my other hand) But alongside that, the Fibro is causing weakness in my left leg!

Life is never dull with these conditions!

I still do what I do - but now I have to check accessibility of venues a lot more carefully. I have to book assistance (and hope that it works) for trips to London - why are so many meetings in London? It’s SO inaccessible! If someone chooses a venue where the local tube station is not accessible I either have to pay a fortune on taxis or not go. Considering many of my London meetings don’t pay expenses…… this is costing me a lot of money!

I recently asked on twitter and facebook if anyone knew of any well known speakers who were physically disabled, there were a few - but not many. There are not many in full time Christian work at all - and I can see why.  

I feel honored to do what I do - to serve the church and the children in it. I wouldn’t do anything else - this is what God has called me to and He hasn’t changed His mind! But I say the following with care - It’s flippin’ hard!

It’s not that people don’t care or are deliberately thoughtless, that is so far from the truth! The reality is, it just doesn’t occur to people that a venue may not be accessible, either through transport or steps. When they realise - they are genuinely mortified! But by that time, it’s too late to change, or the more accessible venues are not affordable.

There are of course those who refuse to understand the issues I face - usually people who have known me a long time and just can’t get their head around the fact I don’t function like I used to! But these people are in the minority.

I’m not the only one with these conditions - there are thousands more people with them, some worse than me.

Pray for us, pray for me, but also pray for those people in full time Christian work who have a disability - many of them hidden disabilities, some more obvious, but all of us having to work harder to do what we do.

NOTE: This is not written for sympathy - I don't like sympathy! That's why you'll often hear my hubby say un-politically correct things to me - it makes me laugh!