Ability Ministry recently attended a Christian convention. At this conference we had both an exhibit booth and a "breakout session" we were leading. Leading breakout sessions are fun! I get to speak about things that I am passionate about with people who are interested. Hanging at the exhibit booth can be challenging. It consists of standing for long hours and trying to interact with people who may, or may not be, interested in what you are trying to talk about. For me as an introvert this is incredibly draining.
I must tell you about the very first conversation I had at our exhibit booth.
After driving nearly 800 miles and setting up our booth I was ready to conquer the world! The doors opened and people started trickling in. As I stood in front of our booth and waited, I rehearsed what I would say to engage people as they came by. Then it happened.
The first person approached our booth. I was a bundle of nerves. Laugh if you want, but I always get nervous for the first conversation. It was a little old lady. I don’t mean that to be mean; she was a little lady who happened to be older. She had her eye on something on our table. That was certain. As she zeroed in I introduced myself to her and told her briefly what Ability Ministry was all about.
I will never forget what she said.
“I am not interested in that. I only came here for your candy.” She said as plain as could be as she grabbed some Reese Cups and walked away.
I was reeling. On one hand I was glad she was honest. On the other hand, I couldn’t believe how rude and insensitive she was. I mean at least humor me and pretend that you care before you grab my Reese Cups.
I had just told her that it was our mission to help churches reach out to their disability communities. To equip and empower them to share Jesus with the disability community. And she said, “I’m not interested in that. I only came here for your candy.”
Could people be so cold? Uncaring? Unloving? Selfish?
The answer is, yes!
When you look at the landscape of churches out there less than 10% have any form of outreach to their disability community. Do I think this lady represents more than 90% of churches? No. I do not believe that churches and their leadership are necessarily cold and uncaring. Some may be, but overall, I believe that most churches and their leadership are simply unaware of the need.
Too often the disability communities that exist within each community remain out of sight and out of mind for church leadership. Communities have evolved. Many in the disability community have learned to care for one another. Care that at one point in time came from churches has been handed over to the government. The ADA came and went over 30 years ago, and the church became the only exempt institution. As a result, the divide continued to widen between the church and the disability community.
It is my prayer that churches will be made aware. It is my prayer that church leadership will see the need and the opportunities that exist within every community. It is my prayer that the divide would not widen anymore, but rather would be closed. It is my prayer that the disability community would be overwhelmed by the love of people in the church and no longer pushed away.