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Everyday Sunday School

Pat Verbal

For children who are medically fragile, Sunday school doesn't have to be on Sunday. Julie's first cancerous tumor was removed when she was in first grade, ruining her near-perfect attendance. By fourth grade, Julie had three more tumors. She lost her hair due to chemotherapy, but never lost her love for God. When Julie couldn't go to church, her teacher and classmates visited her at home or in the hospital. They shared stories, songs, prayers, crafts, and posters from the lessons.

Make Connections

When kids battle chronic or life-threatening illnesses, people tend to pull away from the parents because they're unsure of what to say or do.

Don't pull away. Make efforts to connect with these parents. Don't worry about saying the right thing -- simply ask how they are and let them talk.

In Jesse's Shoes

Children learn not to judge what they don't understand after meeting Jesse and his sister in Beverly Lewis' tender and realistic new book. Readers discover that everyone is unique in God's eyes and deserves real friends. $9.99; Bethany House Publishers; www.bethanyhouse.com

Feel What I Feel

People fear what they don't know. Rachel Olstad, mom to a child with special needs, is working with the Southern Oregon Joni and Friends Board to change that with interactive workshops called "Come Feel What I Feel." They visit schools, churches, and organizations with displays promoting understanding of various disabilities. Olstad shared five stations you can use in your church.

"We post definitions and facts about disabilities on posters and encourage people to read all the information before trying the experiences for themselves," says Olstad. "Once people feel what children with disabilities experience, their hearts open toward this ministry." The displays are simple, and everyday items facilitate the experiences.

• Which Way? -- Using a hand mirror, have participants copy a sentence by looking at its reverse image in the mirror. This is how some children with dyslexia and central processing dysfunctions see print. With patience and help, they can learn to read by seeing words in a different way.

• Tell Me If You Can -- Some children with autism have difficulty expressing emotions. To help people experience this frustration, prepare cards describing different emotional situations. People choose a card and try to get a friend to understand what it says without using words.

• Walk in My Shoes -- To understand what it feels like to have physical impairments, ask participants to tie shoelaces on a pair of boots while wearing large gloves. Or, ask them to make a sandwich with one hand tied behind their back. Children with cerebral palsy, birth defects, or amputations are skilled at adapting to the world around them.

• Yes! No! Maybe So! -- Some children have paralysis that affects their communication. To understand how this feels, create a picture collage and a poster with large letters of the alphabet. Give participants straws to hold in their teeth, and ask them questions they can only answer by pointing to a picture or letters that spell out a word.

• Pour It On -- To understand visual impairments, blindfold participants and have them pour six ounces of water into a cup with the help of a measuring stick. It's always appropriate to ask a blind person if he or she needs help, but many can do things by themselves.

As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, God's power shows up best in weakness. When families affected by disability thrive at church, we see God at work. In other words, we're more aware of God when we're aware of others' needs.


Pat Verbal is co-author of Special Needs -- Special Ministry (Group) and manager of curriculum development at the Christian Institute on Disability at Joni and Friends International Disability Center (www.joniandfriends.org).

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