Affirming Life Through Special Needs Ministry

I’m sorry to upset you, but I almost threw up last week.  You see, each day I comb through tons of articles on issues relating to special needs and link them up for our parents to easily access.  A few days ago I ran across a post by one of my Twitter acquaintances, a fellow special needs mom, Ellen Seidman entitled A MOM SAYS SHE WOULD HAVE ABORTED HER CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS.  The article eerily brought to reality a novel I had read by Jodi Picoult this summer,  HANDLE WITH CARE,  in which a mother whose daughter has brittle bone disease initiates a lawsuit against her doctor not unlike the mother in Ellen’s article.

After running across the article and sharing it with other parents via Twitter, I couldn’t help but share it with my colleague, Terry Bartowitz, President of Zachariah’s Acres, who has a son with severe disabilities caused by medical mishaps.  This father, who sees only the awesome ways that God uses his son, Zachariah, recoiled with even more severity than I did upon reading the title.

I mentioned to him, and I say to you now, this is where Christian disability ministry can make a huge difference in our world.

For years I have watched secular organizations claim that they are there to advocate for the value and rights of those with specific challenges or diagnoses while at the same time being proponents of “a woman’s right to choose”.  I would argue that those two are mutually exclusive.  How can we, like the mother in the aforementioned article, say that there is beauty and unique value in those with special needs while saying that a woman has every right to kill them because of those special needs?  It would be akin to saying, “People with blue eyes are wonderful, but if you don’t want a child with blue eyes, you have the right to take their life.”  We don’t kill what we love.  We put every effort into prolonging the life of that which we value and making it the best possible situation while present.  Can you imagine the confusion of a person with a disability after hearing these mixed messages from our post-modern world?

I also maintain that life is hard.  This isn’t heaven.  We live in a fallen world.  Just because there is pain or difficulty of some sort does not give us the authority to end our life or the life of another.  There are days where my son is in boundless pain either physically or emotionally from his hemophilia.  Nevertheless, the vast majority of days, we give praise for the fact that he is specially fit to touch the lives of others.  I can’t imagine life without him!  And on those days that he cries out, “I can’t wait to go to heaven and be with Grandpa,” I comfort him, remind him of God’s word and tearfully wrap him in my love.  Even after updating my husband that our son’s body weight has now graduated him from $160,000 per year in medication to over $190,000 per year in medication, we would never in our wildest dreams consider him to be a burden, only a blessing.

This, I would maintain, is what sets those of us in Christian community apart in light from a dark, misguided world.  The mother mentioned in the “wrongful life” trial has now been given her jury award, if you can call it that.  Meanwhile, wonderful people like our colleague, Shannon Dingle are calling us to prayer about the issue.  Science continues its rapid development of technology that can be used for good or evil.  Thankfully, we have a place like The Center for Bioethics and Culture to guide us through these complex and often disturbing advances.  No matter what our area of ministry to those with special needs, we have the unique opportunity to affirm life in what has become, as I’ve heard one priest call it, “a culture of death”.  Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full.  Despite our light and momentary troubles (which often may seem to be heavy and everlasting), there is an awesome hope and joy that He holds in store for us.  We, in Christian special needs ministry, know the way to that joy and hope.  Let us never fail to proclaim it to this desperate and cynical world!


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