The 2015 Special Olympics Closing Ceremony was Sunday night. Athletes had such a great time competing in Los Angeles, they didn’t want to go home! This meaningful sporting event touches thousands of lives and empowers people with intellectual disabilities to compete with others in an encouraging atmosphere.
The Special Olympics mission is to provide “year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”
This got me thinking about disability and the church. Do we, as a church, seek to give those with disabilities opportunities to participate, engage and serve in the church according to their interests, gifts and skills?
Church, are we keeping disability invisible? It may throw off your groove a little bit to accommodate a variety of skill sets, but I believe the reward will be worth it. So often we turn a blind eye to this community (or any community that doesn’t seem to fit). It’s as if we think to ourselves, “If I can’t see you, you can’t see me.” But they see us, even if we’re not willing to see them.
Joy and sadness work together as we live in the tension of trials and ease. We have a unique role to play. Compassion flirts with passion and quietly demands your attention. If we play it safe, we miss out on the beauty, the mess and the freedom of what could be if we were to let go and take a risk.
Can we set an intention, a budget line, a meeting, resources and love for those with disabilities in our church and community? There are many churches and ministries doing this well. Here are just a few. Let’s learn from each other.
Watch this inspiring video from Willow Creek Community Church’s Special Friends Disability Ministry:
“Maybe the truly handicapped people are the ones that don’t need God as much.”
― Joni Eareckson Tada