Over the course of my many God-blessed years I’ve had the joy of meeting some of the best people on earth. It’s been my pleasure to rub shoulders and elbows with those quality servants of God who exude humility and righteous compassion. Tim ranks high – oh so very high – on my list.
For many years, Tim and the beloved staff of Handi*Camp (part of the H*VMI family) allowed me the privilege of speaking at one of their several camps for persons with disabilities. These are my tribe, and I’m more at home with them than most audiences with whom I share. Tim is an anointed teacher and leader, and I’ve been most drawn to the kind humility of Christ he embodies. I love his heart and you’ll see it way out there on his sleeve in this article which first appeared in H*V’s monthly publication.
By Tim Sheetz, Executive Director, Handi*Vangelism Ministries International (H*VMI)
Pictures have a way of making things very real. They help us to be “there” for the moment. Although I don’t “do Facebook!” I understand that this is one of the reasons it’s so popular today…
Throughout His ministry, Jesus used word pictures to stimulate His listeners to action or to challenge traditional thinking. I know you can easily run a video in your mind of The Prodigal Son and of the Good Samaritan. I know you can picture the dear woman scouring her house for the lost coin. These video pictures were valuable teaching tools then and now.
There is something I would love for you to picture. When we finish painting this word picture, it just may challenge your concept of “church.” Start by bringing up in your mind a picture of the front door of your church.
As you enter the door, picture the three greeters just inside: a young boy who has cerebral palsy and a mild intellectual disability is sitting in his wheelchair with his parents beside him. In addition to the verbal greeting you receive from his parents, there’s a warm, welcoming smile from their young son.
As you scan the sanctuary to find a seat, you can see that there are cutout sections in some of the rows of pews. These are occupied by others in wheelchairs. They are comfortable there, knowing that preparations were made to make them feel welcome and an important part of all who have come to worship this morning.
You recognize a woman who is visually impaired, sitting on one side of the sanctuary. It’s her customary seat in your church. Lying beside her is her guide dog. In her lap is this Sunday’s church bulletin and several sheets of paper on which are the hymns to be sung this morning. These were prepared in advance for her—all in large print.
In front of the sanctuary, a Sign Language interpreter is in place in front of several Deaf people. They’re all “talking” together as they wait for the service to begin.
In the way back of the sanctuary is a couple who has recently lost a child. Tears are already flowing, even before the prelude music begins. They anticipate that the hymns they will hear will be even more rich with meaning because of their profound grief. They are comfortable being there. They realize that their tears are welcome and that others, as they come by to hug them, will shed tears, as well, for the loss of their child. This congregation has been thoughtfully advised by the caring pastor about the grief journey this couple is on and how important it is to not stand back and isolate them, making their heartbreak even more intense. And, by the way, the pastor has also previously reminded your congregation that all around you in church are people who are struggling with other hurts—abuse, mental health issues. They may not be as easily recognizable; but, they are people who should also feel welcome to worship.
You’re just about to take your seat, when there’s a sudden burst of sound and movement a few pews down from the back of your church. It’s startling at first, but then, you and other worshippers smile, remembering it’s the young man with autism. He’s there with his family; there to worship God in his own way. Because the congregation accepts him, he and his parents can be there. His noisy distractions will come and go through the service, but you know that you and everyone there will soon tune those out as you focus on the One you have all come to worship.
Jesus is the One drawing this picture in your mind! And, as this Masterful Artist draws, tears of joy and excitement are in His eyes. THIS is the way He intends for His church to be. In the Gospels, He paid close attention to people who were hurting and disabled.
ALL were welcome in His presence. ALL were valuable to Him. While He was walking on this earth, He instilled hearts that would care in His disciples.
That’s what He wants in His church today—and in your heart and mine.
Get the picture???
I’m wondering…does your place of worship look anything like this? Feel free to share your own real-life pictures below.