Disability Makes a Church Strong

Each Sunday, as I stand on our elevated platform, I look out at a couple hundred faces of various ages, different shades of color, and a diversity of expressions, all bidding me to speak on behalf of God.

But one face in particular captures my attention in a unique way every week. Her name is Jaakkina, and she sits in the balcony because of her autism. Her parents are intensely aware of her need to jump, dance, and wiggle throughout the service, so they sit up high among the few as an expression of love for their daughter and for the majority of their brothers and sisters below.

They, along with a handful of other families, are a minority in our church. Each week, these families come with many of the same concerns as the average congregant, yet with added cares and burdens that are unique to parents of the disabled — cares and burdens that are hard to imagine apart from raising a disabled child yourself.

And if the daily burdens at home weren’t already enough, families with disabilities carry the possibility of their child being a disruptive force in worship. The one place where these families ought to feel at ease, comfortable, and settled in a grace-filled environment is often a place of palpable anxiety. And consequently, it’s the place where they tend to hide in the shadows the most.

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