April 25, 2019 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Larry R. Evans, Special Needs Ministries
Sometimes referred to as “Special Needs Ministries,” those who serve in this office of the Seventh-day Adventist Church actually prefer a more descriptive term called “Possibilities Ministries.” The theme of this ministry says it well: “All are gifted, needed and treasured!”
No More Disabled
For decades, those who have not been able to see, hear, walk or communicate like the majority have often been referred to as being “disabled.” While it is important to recognize one’s limitations, being identified in this way can have a limiting effect on the person’s self-perception. Their horizon can become limited, and it can happen in a number of ways.
First, the recipients receiving the “disabled identity” are reminded of what they cannot do. But when they learn that their lives are significant in God’s sight and each person has a purpose, they begin to see their future differently. Their future changes from a perspective of impossibility to that of possibility. Their thinking changes. It is no longer based on a model of scarcity, failure or shame. With God, life is more about possibilities than impossibilities.
Secondly, those who see others as being “disabled” are likely to see more mountains of difficulties than an oasis of possibilities. This isn’t to suggest that tragedies should be denied, but it does suggest that life’s challenges need to be embraced knowing that God can redeem them for our good. A few decades ago an important life-changing principle was stated about our role this way: “Everyone who loves God in sincerity and truth will love the souls for whom Christ has died. If we wish to do good to souls, our success with these souls will be in proportion to their belief in our belief in, and appreciation of, them.”1 Whatever the challenge, we should have more engaging conversations about what is possible.
Thirdly, such a label implies that others do not have a disability of their own. The truth is, we are all broken in some way and are also in need of wholeness. It has been reported that 25 percent of all families are affected by disability, and every one of them struggles with questions like, “Why me? Why us? How could God let this happen? Will He fix this?”2 While Possibilities Ministries does focus on specific areas of concern often called disabilities, it does so recognizing that we all face challenges in life. Indeed, we are all “broken” in some way. No one should ever be left to travel alone. We need each other. This is why we have added the unique calling of caregivers as an important part of the Special Needs Ministries.
Together, with God’s guidance, we can begin the journey towards greater wholeness which opens doors for even more possibilities.
Possibility Ministries begins with the basic belief that we are all created in the image of God regardless of our limitations. It starts with the premise that each person must be given the opportunity to not only accept Christ but to also share Christ with others. At times it may be necessary to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Prov. 31:8) We do so because far too often lives filled with possibilities are not given opportunities to grow, develop, and contribute.
It is often said that “we must give them a piece of the pie” as a way of showing recognition and inclusiveness. However, this can be a limiting approach. It separates one “piece of the pie” from the “whole pie.” Possibilities Ministries does recognize uniqueness, but not at the expense of losing a sense of inclusion, a feeling of belonging. The motto for this ministry makes it clear: “All are gifted, needed and treasured.” When all are included, all become learners and, therefore, together we “share the whole pie.”
Together we are community. We are the church. Together we see differently when we begin with a view of abundance, not scarcity. Of God, it has been wisely, said, “In every emergency, we are to feel that the battle is His. His resources are limitless, and apparent impossibilities will make the victory all the greater.”3 We are not, must not be, limited by impossibility thinking.
Special Needs Ministries begins and ends with a new identity — we are one in Christ. Awareness, acceptance, and action as prompted by the Holy Spirit are the driving forces behind what has become a rapidly expanding movement. This mission field is largely untouched, but that is beginning to change. Many are sensing the calling to reach out to the millions who have been marginalized because of their “disabilities.” The time has come for a “Possibility Ministries” — a time when the church and the community unitedly believe that, “All are gifted, needed, and treasured.”
1 White, Ellen G., Fundamentals of Christian Education, p.281.
2 Diane Dokko Kim, Author of Unbroken Faith: Spiritual Recovery for the Special-needs Parent
3 White, Ellen G., Prophets and Kings, p.202
* Quotation in “You Are a Possibility” sermon video, taken from Fundamentals of Christian Education, pages 280-281, was paraphrased.
This commentary was first posted on the Seventh-day Adventist Church Special Ministries site.