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.
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
"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).