The Visions of Home Can Become Reality
A few years back I dreamed (or maybe it was a vision) that someday we will all look at each other and see the image of God, good and merciful and glorious and perfect. We will no longer see the bad in people but only the good. We will no longer see limitations but only gifts. We will no longer find any reason to remain separate and alone. We will only understand reasons to live and be and work together, bonded by our true identities as beloved people of the living God.
This was followed a couple of years later by the dream that is my call story. I saw myself standing in a city, with tall buildings all around. I was at an intersection where at least eight streets came together. It was noisy and crowded and I had to make a determined effort to distinguish sounds so that I could understand anything. I looked down one street and saw people hungry and homeless, many with hands outstretched for help. I looked another direction and saw people ill and dying. As I continued to look at every possible place I could go, I saw uncountable people with too many needs to name. I wanted to help them all!
Slowly I began to hear one voice above the rest, calling “This way!” It echoed among the skyscrapers and it took some time for me to find where it was coming from. Looking down each street, I continued to hear “This way!” but I could not pinpoint the source of the call.
Finally I looked up the last street and saw a teenaged boy with Down Syndrome pushing a young girl in a wheelchair. Two girls giggled as they signed to each other. A young boy stood in front of a store rocking and waving his fingers in front of his face. A man wearing dark glasses walked holding on to the arm of a woman who was missing her other arm. Everywhere people were helping each other, paying attention to each other, caring for each other. I stopped looking and waited to hear that voice again.
“This way!” it rang out again, and this time it grabbed me and pulled me along the street. Of all the places to serve, of all the people to spend time with, it was here, among these people with disabilities, that I found my calling, my place to serve, my home. “This way!” came again and I saw that it was not one person who called, but all of them together. This way is home!
In the more than six years that I have served in DisAbility Ministries, I have heard about the experiences of many people with disabilities.
The words vary but the message to me is always the same, “This way!” The need for congregations and, in fact, the Church Universal, to become more accessible and welcoming to people with disabilities of all kinds is clear. People with disabilities have been kept out of churches by architecture that does not allow for wheelchairs, but that is just one problem. Other barriers include attitudes that are resistant to change and instead expect others to “fit in,” communication methods that do not include people who have hearing or vision impairments, unwritten rules that people with autism and other social limitations cannot follow, and more.
The stories are hard to hear. It’s hard to understand why anyone would leave the door at the top of a long ramp locked when people are arriving for worship. It’s even harder to know why anyone is asked to leave church and never come back, and it’s impossible to comprehend it when the person asking them to go away is their own father, the pastor of the church.
It’s painful to think about people calling others ugly names when they try to advocate for children with disabilities, especially when they use that language in front of the children! And my heart breaks into pieces to know that people in churches have told people with disabilities, “No one likes you and here is why!”
The discomfort and pain and heartbreak that I feel when I hear these experiences does not discourage me. On the contrary, I am spurred on to do more and more to change the way things are so that the vision and the dream become reality, and so that more people find home the way I have. I am convinced that my dream—or vision— is also God’s vision.
This website provides resources and information to help congregations and other church entities become more accessible and welcoming to those of us with disabilities and become home to more people. It also provides ways for you to participate in ministry with us. I hope you will catch our passion and join us!
Sharon McCart, Deaconess
Chair, DisAbility Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church