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Disabled and Disenfranchised
ave you checked out the Uniquely Free Methodist campaign (fmcusa.org/uniquelyfm) yet? When you do, you’ll find nine strategies from FM bishops to fulfill the church’s vision “to bring wholeness to the world through healthy biblical communities of holy people multiplying disciples, leaders, groups and churches.” This issue of LLM is inspired by the second strategy: “We will improve our reach to the poor and disenfranchised and create a normalcy for multicultural ministry by rewarding and celebrating churches that minister to the hurting, broken and people unlike themselves.” As Kari Morris-Guzman explains, our churches are not always welcoming places for people with disabilities. Anyone can find it difficult to feel accepted when attending a new
church. Add the physical challenges of a difficult-to-access building, and a church facility may not seem worthy of the name “sanctuary.” We need to make sure physical barriers don’t keep people from worshipping with us. Families whose members have special needs are also at risk for disenfranchisement. In our foundation and news sections, we share stories of FM congregations that make sure each family member’s unique needs are addressed. What is your church doing to reach hurting people? Share your story at fmcusa.org/submityourstory i Jeff Finley and facebook.com/fmcusa. [LLM]
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& MERCY ACCESSIBILITY ofJESUS
BY KARI MORRIS-GUZMAN
uke 18:35â€“42 tells the story of a blind man sitting by the side of the road when a crowd passes by him. He is curious about the commotion and is told that Jesus of Nazareth is walking by. uuu
3 [feature] He cries out to Jesus for mercy and is immediately rebuked and told to be quiet by those leading the way. In his desperation, he cries out louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus responds and restores the blind man’s sight. In July 2005, I lay in the critical care unit of a Colorado hospital screaming this prayer. Unlike the blind man, no one could hear me because I had a breathing tube
Kari with aron, husband, A , Grace. & daughter
LLM | Apr 2013
crammed down my throat and no audible sound could come out. However, I knew and believed with every fiber of my being that Jesus Himself heard me and had mercy on me. My husband, Aaron, and I were in a tragic automobile rollover that summer. Traveling down a two-lane highway in our rental convertible with the top down, Aaron was forced to make a split-second decision to avoid hitting a truck that had stopped in front of us. Our car rumbled through a field, hit a ditch that launched it airborne, and landed upside down on the other side of the road with both of us trapped underneath. I was hanging by my seatbelt. My head was pressed on the ground with my chin pushed down on my chest blocking my windpipe. I remember seeing my legs and thinking they had been cut off because I couldn’t feel them. Realizing what happened, I said to Aaron, “I broke my neck.” My neck was broken, and my spinal cord was crushed, which left me paralyzed from my shoulders down. I was now a quadriplegic. For nearly six months, I was in a rehabilitation hospital trying to learn the skills necessary for assimi-
lating back into the “real” world as a disabled person in a wheelchair. When I finally came home in January 2006, my physical perspective on the world had changed drastically. I was much shorter in a wheelchair, and much wider! Doors were narrower, hills were steeper, people were bigger, bumps were bumpier, and steps, stairs and barriers were everywhere.
Often people’s attempts at being polite and kind ended in embarrassment for me as I became the recipient of so much curious attention. Any sense of anonymity and independence was completely gone. This was a traumatic change for me as an independent and introverted person who does not like being the center of attention. Just as there are physical and emotional consequences for becoming disabled, there are also social consequences. I noticed that other people were uncomfortable with me, just as I was uncomfortable being in a wheelchair. As a pastor, I found this extremely difficult. I was used to talking so easily with others, and I was usually described as an approachable person. But now people didn’t know how to act or physically orient themselves
[feature] 4 around me. I couldn’t shake hands anymore. The headrest on my wheelchair made hugging awkward, so a lot of people would kiss or pat the top of my head instead. Rather than stand in front of me to have a conversation, people would stand beside me or even slightly behind me. Because the volume of my voice was affected by my paralysis and because I was so much shorter than before, people often couldn’t hear me.
The church where I was on staff, and still attend, happened to be redesigning the front of the sanctuary at the time of my accident. When my condition’s permanence was realized, a ramp was worked into the design so I could still access the platform when I spoke. I was so touched by the sensitivity of that gesture. It made me realize two things: (1) These people thought I still had something to say in spite of my physical condition. (2) They still wanted to include me in ministry. They gave me accessibility and inclusion. Jesus said in Luke 14:12–14, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your
rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” I really can speak only for myself as there are a myriad of different kinds of disabilities. But as a pastor who has been on the able-bodied side of ministry and the disabled side of ministry, I have observed that often the church does not invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind” as Jesus instructed. Maybe if there is a special prayer or healing service scheduled, these people are invited. But including disabled people — simply sharing in their faith journey and being involved in each other’s lives — is not a common experience in many churches. Most churches make an attempt at physical accessibility. Ramps are installed, bathroom stalls are widened, and parking spaces are labeled. However, because churches are exempt from meeting Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements,
When we make our churches accessible, we are, in a sense, making God accessible. many churches fall short of having truly accessible buildings. Many older buildings need elevators. Ramps are too steep. Doors are too narrow. Thresholds are too high. Signs don’t have braille. Sanctuaries often have wheelchair seating, but it’s usually in the back, so the view is blocked when the congregation stands up. Making a building fully accessible could be quite expensive, but Jesus said, “Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” LLM | Apr 2013
5 [feature] Improving accessibility by removing barriers and including the poor, crippled, lame and blind is a theme that we see throughout Jesusâ€™ ministry. Zacchaeus was too short so he dealt with the crowd barrier by climbing a tree; the bleeding woman dealt with the crowd barrier by crawling to the hem of Jesusâ€™ robe; the friends of the paralyzed man dealt with the crowd barrier by cutting a hole through the roof! When we make our churches accessible, we are, in a sense,
making God accessible. Our brothers and sisters with disabilities have enough barriers to overcome in their daily lives. Letâ€™s make our churches places that are barrier-free with all people included and valued. [LLM]
Kari Morris-Guzman is an ordained elder in the Free Methodist Church. She lives in Southern California with her husband, Aaron, and their daughter, Grace.
Dust and Debris in Church
didn’t do it, but the world is broken. I wasn’t even there, so don’t blame me. But there’s no disputing it. Evidence of brokenness is everywhere: divisions, cracks, splintering and dysfunction. Some folks have obvious brokenness; some less obvious. When the brokenness invades our minds and bodies we call it “disabled.” We “able” people tend to draw lines that keep the disabled out of work, conversations and sometimes even church. But followers of Jesus draw a different line, one that includes and encircles the disabled. We remember that the disabled flocked to Jesus, and He touched them, taught them and healed them. What will this look like for us? l Expect commotion. There will be distractions by voices that don’t work, limbs that flail or don’t respond and apparatuses that assist. l Pay the price. The disabled will cost you something. You’re not going to get as much done, but what gets done will please God, which ought to count for something. l Slow down. People with broken bodies may take more time to move. l Speak up. I don’t mean raise your voice; I mean speak up for the disabled. Advocate for church buildings and services that include rather than exclude. At the heart of it, there’s a heart. Every disabled person has a heart just like yours, but it may be complicated by the encumbrances of wounds. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Free Methodist church buildings and people were a refuge for those so encumbered? Let our church services and meetings be filled with wheelchairs and walkers! Let us be known as people and places that include those with a “can-do” spirit but a “can’t-do” mind or body. Imagine the disarray when the paralytic’s four friends removed the roof to lower their disabled friend in front of Jesus. What dust and debris must have fallen on those good church folk! Who were these tenacious friends who, at all costs, took their disabled brother to Jesus? We don’t know their names. But they give us the model of disarray, i Bishop David Roller tenacity and love that we will follow. [LLM] To read more from Bishop
warmbeach.org Stanwood, WA Warm Beach Senior Community is a ministry of the Free Methodist Church and is full of those 62+ who want to remain purposeful and actively engaged in life. At Warm Beach, you’ll experience: l Scenic 90-acre campus l Christian environment l Manufactured homes, cottages, apartments and low income housing l Future health care available on site, if needed l Close to shopping, restaurants, medical facilities and services l Guest accommodations l Access to 22 miles of walking trails, indoor swimming pool, exercise room, billiards, on-site chapel service and volunteer opportunities l Security patrol 24/7 l Breathtaking scenery of the Pacific Northwest Discover more at warmbeach.org or by visiting our Facebook page.
Roller, visit fmcusa.org/ davidroller.
20420 Marine Drive | Stanwood, WA 98292
Special Shepherds BY EMILY DAVIDSON
S C RI P T U R E : Hebrews 10:25 Romans 12:10–13 2 Corinthians 9:6
e experience worship, encouragement and renewal by going to church (Hebrews 10:25). We need these things to grow and mature as Christians and, frankly, just to survive some days. The simple duty is to get out of bed on a Sunday morning and get to church. Well, church attendance is not quite that simple for everyone. My 8-year-old daughter, Lexi, has Down syndrome and is autistic. She is my lovely little bundle of sunshine. She is also a whirlwind adventure disguised as a petite, blond beauty. After the challenge of getting out the door in the morning, what do I do once I get there? I can’t put her in children’s church. She would eat all the chalk and macaroni art. I can’t take her into “big” church. Last time, she chucked a hymnal at a lady’s head and ate a page of the pew Bible. She takes digesting the Word very seriously. Thankfully, I attend a church that is willing to step up and make it possible for me to get that renewal and fellowship that I so desperately need. It has something called a “special shepherd” program. One person a week volunteers to spend one-on-one time with my little girl, which frees me to worship. These people epitomize Romans 12:10–13. The program blesses Lexi, me and the person volunteering. While caring for a child with special needs is admittedly exhausting, it is one of the most rewarding things a person can do (2 Corinthians 9:6). You may be a children’s ministry leader who hasn’t cont Lexi Davidson is held by her aunt, sidered this possible ministry avenue. You may be someone Sarahlin Smith. who goes to church and wants to help. Start the program. [Photo courtesy of Emily Davidson] Offer your services. Moms like me will thank you. [LLM]
Emily Davidson is a musician and mother of three who worships at Portage (Mich.) FMC where her husband, Adam, is the lead pastor.
LLM | Apr 2013
Happy in God’s Sunlight BY CHRISTY MESAROS-WINCKLES
liza Suggs spent much of her life riding in a baby carriage pushed by family members. Stunted by rickets, she was only 33 inches tall. Her father, James, was a Free Methodist minister who moved with his wife, Malinda, and their family to Nebraska in 1886 so their daughters could attend Orleans Seminary, a Free Methodist school. Known for its temperance activism, the seminary engaged in a massive prohibition movement in its small community while Eliza Suggs was a student. She actively took part in the campaign through voracious letter writing to the local newspaper. The family struggled financially. Suggs saw their difficulties as a joyful test of their faith. Many people encouraged the African-American family to put Suggs in one of the freak shows common at that time. Her small stature, childlike features and race could make her family a great deal of money if they put her on display. Suggs explained, It has never been a temptation to me to want to go with a show or to be in a museum for money-making purposes. I once went to a museum in Chicago just to see and learn. I was asked by one there why I did not speak to the manager and get a place in the museum, and make lots of money. Oh, no! Such places are not for me. God wants me to live for Him, and I could not do it there. I must keep separated from the world. … Some wonder how I can be happy in my condition. It is the sunlight of God in my soul that makes me happy. It would be hard to live without the Lord. Suggs did not see her disabilities as handicaps. She was, as everyone else, a unique creation of God with a specific purpose for His glory. [LLM]
Eliza Suggs (Photo courtesy of Marston Memorial Historical Center)
Read Eliza Suggs’ autobiography, “Shadows and Sunshine,” at fmchr.ch/elizasuggs.
LLM | Apr 2013
ministry growth BY JEFF FINLEY
hen Tim Huff moved from Kentucky to North Carolina six years ago to become pastor of the Murphy FMC, the Sunday morning worship service averaged 15 people with a median age of 78. Sunday morning attendance has tripled since then with much greater diversity in worshippers’ age and ethnicity, but the congregation’s impact is not limited to Sunday mornings. uuu LLM | Apr 2013
[action] 10 Nearly 600 people enter the church building each month for programs aimed at the diverse needs of this 1,700-resident Appalachian Mountains community. “We have reached out extensively to alcoholics, to drug users, to the homeless,” Huff said. “We felt it was wrong to have a church just sitting empty all that time.” The congregation formed partnerships with other community organizations for services such as a free lunch at the church building. Although only the volunteers showed up for the program’s first day, the free lunches are now a big draw. “The outreach through this program is probably the single biggest factor in the growth of our church,” said Lois Huff, the pastor’s wife. “Church is not always at 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.”
mistaken identity Another successful program is a substance-abuse-addiction group. Its leaders welcomed Tim Huff to meetings, but advised him not to immediately identify himself as a pastor. Some group members made a different assumption about his identity. Upon eventually learning Huff was
the church’s pastor, one member said, “You’re a pastor? We had you pegged as a hardcore drug addict.” The member explained that group leaders didn’t pressure Huff to talk — seemingly because he might be heavily addicted. Huff said Tim’s wife, Lois the member also told him: “You were wearing dark glasses at night, and we know that the only reason people wear dark glasses is to cover up their bloodshot eyes.” Huff’s glasses are a sign of a different eye condition. He has been visually impaired throughout his life, wearing glasses since he was 10 months old. As an adult, his eyesight suddenly worsened one day in 1995 when a blood vessel burst. “It took about 15 minutes for me to lose my vision. I was watching Kentucky basketball, which is what a way to go,” Huff said. “I lost the ability to read regular print and to drive and basically to recognize people. … My vision never came back again.”
approachable He soon discovered an unforeseen side effect of his blindness. “Losing my vision immediately helped my ministry,” he said. “The thing that I needed was to be able to be more approachable, and, all of a sudden, I was.” He said new doors opened as people with struggles in their lives found him less intimidating. “People are much happier to come up and talk to the blind guy,” Huff said. “Frequently, they come up to give me help, and before the conversation’s over, it’s been a very positive experience for both of us.” [LLM]
LLM | Apr 2013
Sharing God’s Choice BY MICHAEL J. METTS
hirley Elosh understands special needs well. Her son, Jonathan, 28, has multiple needs that require unique care. Elosh’s parenting experience has prepared her for ministry to people with similar needs. “I was starting to think about what the Lord was putting on our heart about special needs,” said Elosh, who began to consider launching a church designed for people with special needs and disabilities. On Sept. 26, 2010, God’s Choice held its first service in the facilities of the First FMC in East Liverpool, Ohio, where Elosh serves as associate pastor. It soon grew to have 60–70 people in attendance every week. When attendance made a second location necessary, Monacrest FMC in Monaca, Pa., offered to partner with Elosh. With its facility and volunteers, God’s Choice Beaver For a video Falls launched on Oct. 1, interview with 2012. Attendance has Elosh, visit already reached the maxifmchr.ch/EloshInt. mum capacity of 100 people, LLM | Apr 2013
and Elosh is working to launch a third location. She has received offers to partner with other churches in the Pittsburgh Conference. Elosh and God’s Choice volunteers find it rewarding to work with people who have special needs. “When they Left to right: Jonathan, Shirley and Stephen Elosh first come in, (Photo by Michael J. Metts) we see the wheelchairs, the walkers, the disability,” While God’s Choice has been Elosh said. “But it doesn’t take long expanding rapidly, Shirley Elosh hopes before that’s not even a thought in it will spread even further. After receivlooking at the person the way God ing encouragement from conference wants us to see.” leadership, she wrote a manual for Elosh’s son has also played a very how to replicate the ministry. active roll in the ministry. If you’re interested in learning “I’m happy to be a part of it,” Jonamore about God’s Choice, contact than Elosh said. “I’m learning to see Shirley Elosh at email@example.com or other people be used by God.” by calling (330) 550-9434. [LLM]
[news] 12 VISION CAST: STORIES OF SERVING Indianapolis
Individuals, small groups and congregations from hundreds of locations connected online Feb. 10 to watch Free Methodist Church – USA bishops interview church members who live out their faith by serving their communities. The event launched the Uniquely Free Methodist campaign (fmcusa.org/uniquelyfm). To learn more and watch the Vision Cast, visit fmchr.ch/vcserve.
NEW CHURCH LAUNCHES IN ARIZONA Phoenix
A new Oasis Conference congregation, the Element, held its public launch Jan. 20 at the Lookout Mountain Elementary School with nearly 200 first-time guests, according to the conference newsletter. Ben and Jen Forsberg planned the launch for more than a year. For more information about the Element, visit its website, wearetheelement.com.
SEED HIRES OPERATIONS MANAGER Indianapolis
After a nationwide search, Free Methodist Pastor Tasha Pryor was selected to serve as the new operations manager of the SEED Livelihood Network. Pryor has experience owning and managing retail and services businesses. She began working in her new position March 11. For more, visit fmchr.ch/seedpryor.
STORM-DAMAGED STEEPLE FIXED Beloit, Wis.
After moving last year to Janesville, Wis., Michael Jasinski — previously a member of Wesley FMC in Waukegan, Ill. — drove by the Beloit FMC and saw the steeple had blown over in a windstorm. Wesley FMC’s Blaine Brock — who owns a crane company — joined Jasinski; Jasinski’s son, Eric; and two of Jasinski’s co-workers in repairing the steeple.
The Rest of the Story Want to find indepth stories of remarkable Free Methodists? Visit fmcusa.org.
We want to hear from you! Tell us what your church is doing to impact lives in the United States and around the world. Submit your story at fmcusa.org/ yourstory. LLM | Apr 2013
Sales Support Workers With Disabilities BY JEFF FINLEY
any artisans find it challenging to earn enough money to support themselves and their families. A living wage is even more elusive for people with disabilities. Two Free Methodist ministries — Heavenly Treasures and SEED Livelihood Network — have formed partnerships with African, Asian and Latin American artisans, many of whom have disabilities and illnesses that range from Hansen’s disease (leprosy) to hearing impairment to HIV. Some artisans have become physically disabled because of landmines and other violence. “We believe that everyone is made in the image of God and has gifts, talents and experiences that God wants to use. Our goal is not to start businesses that are a great idea to us, but to affirm the skills and interests people already have,” said David Brewer, co-director Visit seedlivelihood.org to of SEED. “This lets groups choose their own learn more about SEED, method of generating income, and in many and shop online at seedlivelihood.org/store. cases, this affirmation of the marginalized — including the physically compromised — is a powerful witness of God’s care and involves a restoration to society as well.” Heavenly Treasures has been working with a group of Asian artisans for more than Heavenly Treasures 15 years, and the ministry now works with (heavenlytreasures.org) operates a store at nine projects that support people with dis224 W. Foothill Blvd., abilities. Caroline Sakanashi, Heavenly TreaGlendora, Calif., with online shopping at sures’ communications manager, said the shopwithamission.org. projects teach the artisans skills that lead to LLM | Apr 2013
Mama Abraham, an artisan with WOW Uganda, creates beads for a living after surviving head injuries from a landmine. (Photo courtesy of Heavenly Treasures)
their finding self-worth in societies that may shun them. “Our main goal is to help the poorest of the poor … the people who are not only poor economically but poor in spirit,” Sakanashi said. “Heavenly Treasures is about people, not products.” Both Heavenly Treasures and SEED work with artisans in Uganda who recycle paper from magazines into beads and other jewelry. Much of the workers’ revenue is spent on medical care for themselves and their families. [LLM]
“I Can Understand” BY KEN AND JONI TADA WITH LARRY LIBBY
n their early days of marriage, they had circled the globe, served the desperately needy, stood in front of eager crowds, and racked up more adventures in a few years than many couples would in a lifetime. But then they would come back home to “normal life,” unpack the suitcases, restock the pantry, pay the bills and allow the adrenaline to drain. In reality, living with quadriplegia was never “normal,” and even the most compelling of international escapades began to fade. For Ken, what didn’t fade was the daily-nightly drudgery of Joni’s disability routines. l Help Joni get up. l Clean up breakfast dishes. l Pick up groceries. l Help Joni sort through her things when she comes home from work. l Put away the dishes while one of the women gets Joni ready for bed. l Turn Joni and tuck her in with pillows. l Get up in the night when she calls to turn her again. l and again ... l Help Joni get up. The days of those nonstop routines became weeks, months and years. “My disability puts a lot of pressure on you, doesn’t it?” He nodded, his arms still folded, his mouth working, not trusting himself to speak. “I can understand,” she said. “If I were you, I would feel exactly the same way.” Suddenly it felt as though someone had released the steam from a pressure cooker. They realized nothing “new” could be said about the quadriplegia and marriage; it was what it was. But just saying these words out loud, just voicing the truth without casting blame, was exactly what had been needed. This sentiment of “I understand” and “thank you for understanding” turned into a litany that would be repeated through those years. [LLM]
Ken and Joni Tada
This condensed book excerpt is taken from “Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story” by Ken and Joni Tada with Larry Libby. Copyright © 2013. Used by permission of Zondervan, zondervan.com.
Did you know a new discipleship article is posted to our website each week? The four monthly articles are perfect for use in your small group or as a weekly supplement to individual study.
LLM | Apr 2013
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[resources] “JONI & KEN” A new book gives the previously untold love story of well-known quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada and her husband, Ken Tada: fmchr.ch/joniandken. “BEYOND SUFFERING” This study guide and CD-ROM by the Joni and Friends Christian Institute on Disability is a comprehensive course on disability ministry: fmchr.ch/beyondsuffering.
Read more about people with disabilities in these books available from our partner, Wesleyan Publishing House.
“DISABILITY & THE GOSPEL” Michael S. Beates offers a biblical look at how God reveals His grace in our brokenness: fmchr.ch/disabilitygospel. “EPHPHATHA! OPEN UP!” This children’s curriculum provides 13 lessons to help children accept people with disabilities: fmchr.ch/ephphatha.