All God's Children

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9780310593812: All God's Children

Statistics show that only 5 percent of churches have an outreach to disabled persons and that 95 percent of the people who have disabilities are not active in any church. Why not? In many cases, churches are newly coming to awareness of the need for disability ministry but have no idea how to start or what's involved. All God's Children is a handbook for pastors, elders, ministry leaders, and laypeople who want to minister to people with disabilities. It is a book to equip churches for ministry to those who are mentally retarded, learning disabled, hearing impaired, visually impaired, or otherwise physically disabled. This edition is extensively revised, especially the chapters on hearing-impaired persons and on getting a disability ministry started. The resource lists have been expanded and brought up to date.

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About the Author:

Joni Eareckson Tada is founder and CEO of Joni and Friends, an organization that accelerates Christian outreach in the disability community. Joni and Friends provides practical support and spiritual help to special needs families worldwide, and equips thousands of churches in developing disability ministry. Joni is the author of numerous best-selling books, including When God Weeps, Diamonds in the Dust, A Lifetime of Wisdom, and A Step Further, winner of the Gold Medallion Award. Joni and her husband, Ken, have been married for over 30 years. For more information on Joni and Friends, visit www.joniandfriends.org SPANISH BIO: Joni Eareckson Tada es el fundadora del Centro Internacional de Discapacidad Joni y sus amigos, una organizacion con sede en California que promueve el alcance cristiano en la comunidad de discapacitados a nivel mundial (www.joniandfriends.org). En 1967, un accidente durante un salto de clavado dejo cuadriplegica a Joni, pero los anos no fueron desaprovechados. Su siempre profundo amor por la Palabra de Dios ha generado mas de treinta y cinco libros, incluyendo sus exitosos devocionales, Diamantes en el polvo y Mas precioso que la plata. Joni y su esposo, Ken, han estado casados durante veinticuatro anos y tienen su hogar en Calabasas, California.

Greg Newman is a specialist in physical education who works in church, educational, and recreational settings. He earned the MA from California State University, Northridge.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter I God Does Not Create Accidents The Question of 'Why?' Ask anyone who has been awakened out of spiritual slumber with an ice-cold splash of suffering. 'Why?' is often the question. 'Why me, Lord?' In reality, those few words are rarely spoken out of a heart that is honestly searching for answers. Initially, the question may be voiced in resentment, bewilderment, or frustration. A person recently diagnosed with a disabling impairment or a progressive disease may clench his or her fist in anger against God. There may come a time when these same people search through Scripture trying to discern the real purpose behind everything that has happened. Sometimes, though, they are compelled to face a verse like Romans 11:33: 'Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out!' Our Understanding Is Finite J. I. Packer, in his book Knowing God, tackles this problem of our inability to understand the purposes of God behind every event: Now the mistake that is commonly made is to suppose that the gift of wisdom consists in an ability to see why God has done what He has done in a particular case, and what He is going to do next.... People feel that if they were really walking closer to God, so that He could impart wisdom to them freely, then they would discern the real purpose of everything that happened to them.... If they end up baffled, they put it down to their own lack of spirituality. Such people spend much time wondering why God should have allowed this or that to take place.... Christians may drive themselves almost crazy with this kind of futile inquiry.1 What makes us think that even if God explained his ways to us, we would be able to understand them? It would be like pouring million-gallon truths into our one-ounce brains. Even the great apostle Paul admitted that, though never in despair, he was often perplexed (2 Cor. 4:8). One Old Testament author has written, 'As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things' (Eccl. 11:5). Yet, even though 'there are secrets the Lord your God has not revealed to us' (Deut. 29:29, LIVING BIBLE), we are never lacking hope. There is an answer. God Is Sovereign Let God's own words to Moses speak for themselves: 'The LORD said to him, 'Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or dumb? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?'' (Exod. 4:11). And hear the words of Jeremiah the prophet: 'Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?' (Lam. 3:38). The Psalmist says, 'For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.... My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be' (Ps. 139:13, 15--17). Scripture indicates that not only is God sovereign to physical injuries or illness, but he is Lord over the changes and alterations that transpire within the womb. Does this mean that God wants disease and injury? The key here is how we use the word want. God doesn't want disease to exist in the sense that he enjoys it. He hates it just as he hates all the other results of sin---death, guilt, sorrow, and catastrophes. But God must want disease to exist in the sense that he wills or chooses for it to exist. If he didn't, he would wipe it out immediately. So God is neither frustrated nor hindered by Satan's schemes, but he permits suffering to serve his own ends and accomplish his own purposes. There Is a Purpose Although suffering is largely a mystery, it is not a mystery without direction. God has his reasons. Whether it is to mold Christian character, to stimulate empathy toward others who hurt, to refine one's faith, or to focus one's attention on eternal glories above, only time and wisdom will tell. The whole ordeal of our suffering is inspired by God's love. We are not the brunt of some cruel, divine joke. God has reasons, and learning some of them can make all the difference. The following story vividly illustrates how God often uses the most unlikely candidates to accomplish his will. It is written by Gloria Hawley, the mother of two mentally retarded children: Psalm 127:3 speaks of children as a 'gift of the Lord' and 'a reward.' I didn't disagree with God, I simply refused the thought. Gradually, gently, God's light began to invade the particular dark chamber in my mind. Finally I realized that all biblical principles apply to all people. Each individual must respond, by an act of his will, and apply the principles to his situation. So I determined to administer large doses of God's Word to Laura and Craig. They seemed bored, so I began to sing Scripture to them. Craig became helpless with laughter, while Laura smiled politely and put fingers in her ears. It became apparent that the children needed the Scripture to be related to their own personal frames of reference. Laura and I began with the 23rd Psalm. 'Jesus is Laura's strong Friend and Protector. He takes care of her in a very special way. Laura cannot see Him but He sees her. She is His darling little lamb.' The paraphrase delighted and animated Laura. Her large, soft, brown eyes glowed and sparkled. Her smile was dazzling. Her attention span stretched as her understanding was kindled. A miracle occurred. Her teacher sent a note home: 'Laura is so animated; she is singing and telling the other youngsters, 'I love you, kids! I love you!'' Her speech therapist called: 'What are you doing with Laura? She is responsive and bubbly!' My explanation was met with a cautious silence. Then---'If it works, do it. Send the Scripture along, and we'll work on it here too.' This shy, silent, fearful daughter of ours had begun her ministry---to teach me; to exhibit God's power; to bring God's Word into other lives. Laura particularly liked the end of the Psalm which, for her, stated: 'And some day Laura will go to live in Jesus' house and be with Him all the time! They will talk together, and she'll be able to tell Him how much she loves Him. No one will have to say it for her---she will be able to say it herself! Laura will live with her special Friend, Jesus, all the time. They will talk and sing and laugh together---with love....' Psalm 23 is Laura's special Psalm. A few weeks passed and Christmas was near. Craig loved the story from Luke 2. Enthusiastic and responsive, he received the Baby Jesus with gusto. The miracle repeated itself. Craig's teacher called and, in tears, described how he had told his class about Jesus' birth---the star, God's love, angels and shepherds. Our little boy, his eyes shining with the light that split the heavens so long ago, spilled over with God's message of unchanging love---to a group of abnormal children no one had thought to tell before. Craig's ministry had begun. Craig and Laura remain handicapped. God has not chosen to 'heal' them. He is pleased to use them.

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