Eugene Cho

“I have disabilities…I am broken but not because of my disability.”

disability-housing

We live in a world where people are named, categorized, and labeled based on what they can and/or cannot do. Most often, those with perceived “disabilities” are primarily seen as less valuable, important, or worthy. In contrast to this, we know we are ALL created and made in the image of our God; this image includes our gender, ethnicity, and abilities.

Today’s guest post is from Pam Christensen, Associate Director of Children and Family Ministries at Quest.  This is important. Really important. And it is also really vulnerable as she shares of her “disabilities.” I need you to read it because it touches a topic that is rarely spoken of not just in our churches but in our larger culture. It’s the topic of disability and how we view or not view those who are disabled.

Read on and let me know what you think. Let me know of your experiences. Let us know how the Church can grow and learn in this area.

I am broken…

I have disabilities. I have two chronic illnesses and a learning disability (yes, adults can and do have learning disabilities and yes, they still affect us, even when we are not in school, but that is another blog posting for another day). Between them, my diagnoses affect how I sleep, how and what I eat, my relationships, my finances, my breathing, my work, even my driving.

I am broken…but maybe not the way you think.

Throughout human history, the myth of an “ideal” version of humanity has been repeated until it is believed. Over the years, this has come in different forms: the myth of being male as “ideal”, the myth of being white as “ideal”, the myth of one culture being more “ideal” than another. In all of these myths, there is a basic theme: if you are not a part of the “ideal”, you are “less than”.

Then there is the myth of ability: a whole, sound mind and body, as defined by science and culture, is the “ideal”. Anything else is “less than”. That’s made clear even in the language we use: disability, literally “not able”. A victim. A problem. Broken.

Over the years, we as Christians have allowed the myth of ability to co-op and warp our perceptions of those who are not typically-abled. Even the early Church Fathers, who took the radical approach of establishing hospitals that were for the care and cure of those with disabilities (unheard of in their cultures during the 3rd and 4th centuries), struggled with this. They welcomed and cared for all, but their patients were not allowed to become leaders, pastors, bishops (Disability and the Christian Tradition, Swinton and Brock, 2012). Brothers and sisters to be cared for and assisted, but not individuals, gifted and called by God for his purposes.

Several months ago, I had conversation with someone around this subject. In articulating my belief that the church needs to seek inclusion of and reconciliation with those with disabilities or who are not “typically abled”, I compared it to the need for reconciliation and inclusion of those marginalized due to race and/ or gender. This person responded that by comparing disability to gender and race, the implication was that gender and race were deficits, which they are not. I responded, “I agree. Neither is disability a deficit.”

I am broken…but not because of my disability.

We all are broken…and equal in our brokenness. I am a sinner, saved by grace, justified by love, overwhelmed by mercy from the Cross that I did not deserve. Sinner, but saved. Depraved, but redeemed. Broken…but healed.

I am broken…and called.

Scripture declares it!
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Not only that, but scripture says those that may be seen by others as “weak”, “less honorable” or “unpresentable”, are equally called and gifted, essential to the function of the Body, Christ’s church.

1 Corinthians 12:14-27 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

What would happen to a part of our own bodies if we fail to use it? If we coddle it because we see it as weak, injured or fragile? If we ignore it because we are sure we don’t need it? If we think that working it, exercising it, using it, would take too much time and effort? If we pretend we don’t see it, hoping it will go away?

What would happen? We all know the answer.
That part would weaken, atrophy and the tissue may even die. The only way to strengthen a weak part of our bodies is to utilize it.

The irony is that when the Body of Christ ignores, pities, and fails to utilize the gifts of those brothers and sisters with disabilities, we choose to atrophy. We, the Body, cease to function as God designed us to.

When we approach those who have disabilities from the standpoint of “how can I help?” instead of “how can I come alongside and work with you?” we miss out on the ways God works through each of us. Not only do we deprive our brothers and sisters of opportunities to do that which they are called to, but we miss out on the opportunity to see the work of God in a new light. That’s not to say that everyone doesn’t need help up from time to time. I do. You do. We do. That is the nature of true community. But what if the person who is giving you a hand up has depression, is in a wheelchair, can’t speak, has schizophrenia, cancer, ADHD, diabetes or epilepsy? What if the person giving you a hand up, doesn’t have hands?

I am broken…but not in that way.

– Pam Christensen

PS: If you’re in the Seattle area, Quest Church is hosting a 3 week depth class on “Faith + Ability beginning this Sunday from 1-3pm. You are welcome to join us:

In light of this year’s theme on Reconciliation and in our continual pursuit of discipleship, we are excited to launch our first depth class on “Faith + Ability”. The purpose of this class is to create an open dialogue about how our faith intersects with our understanding of people who are typically-abled and differently-abled. Here are some target questions we will cover: What does God say about how we are created? How do we, as both differently-abled and typically-abled brothers and sisters, learn to understand and celebrate one another? We look forward to having your voice in the conversation.

Filed under: , , ,

12 Responses

  1. Cayce says:

    Tell Pam thanks for sharing her voice as a member of the disability community, especially as person with chronic illness. Disability from chronic illness is often invisible to the abled. We’re often unheard and more often subjected to tokenism or paternalism. Thanks, too, pastor, for using your platform to get this message out.

  2. Cathy says:

    This is a wonderful post. I recently left my job to start a research project concerning disabilities and the Church. This encourages and emboldens my efforts!!

    • Kathi McNair says:

      Hey Cathy … check out http://trinityonline.org and search for outreach and then disabilities ministries and then Light and Power faith stories (sorry that there isn’t a direct link). This is the ministry that my husband and I facilitate for adults with mostly intellectual disabilities.
      Also my husband has had a blog for years that deals with disabilities and Christianity (disabledchristianity.blogspot.com). Please let us know we can assist you in any way. We have spent 35 years together in disability ministry and we both feel like that Christians and churches are just “waking up” to the fact that people and families affected by disability are an essential part of the church. Amen!!!! Kathi McNair

  3. Esther says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for addressing this issue! It speaks so much out of my heart and I wish I could be there to take the classes! I will PRAY and lovingly participate in my prayers…

    Having gone through advanced-stage cancer, a rare chronic lung disease plus suffering from the aftermath of the harsh medical treatment(s), I have had my share in disability, both physically and mentally.

    What I noticed is this:

    1) When the news of a serious illness hits, AT FIRST there is a lot of response. However, it wears off very quickly. Then there seem to be several different responses: Some truly care. Some keep at a save distance. Some cut themselves off emotionally, sometimes to the point of becoming critical / dismissing the sufferer etc.

    2) If the disability is VISIBLE, people more likely react with compassion. (Sitting in a wheelchair for 9 months I received kindness. When I could walk again, still suffering from mental slowness, I encountered harshness, impatience etc.)

    3) The LONGER the disability goes on, the harder it is on the sufferer to endure, which is often not understood by those who never experienced something similar. Generally, there seems to be the belief that the sufferer should have got used to the suffering by now.

    Having experienced all that, I found it most helpful to FOCUS on JESUS. He understands. He sees our true worth. He knows us and He alone can meet our deepest needs. By this, the sufferer is protected not to react in bitterness and most importantly, not focussing on self, not focussing on the suffering, but on our BELOVED LORD.

    Thank you for letting me share.

  4. Pam says:

    Cayce and Cathy, I’m glad this could be an encouragement to you. Thank you for your encouragement of me. I’m thankful for the way that God is moving in the church and in our world as we move from inclusion to belonging, from the head to the heart.

  5. Doris says:

    Thank you for posting this, Pastor Eugene.

  6. SHARAT BABU says:

    Dear Brother Cho, Thank you for this spiritfilled Teaching, please share more. in JESUS LOVE, Evangelist Babu.

    ________________________________

  7. AmyFentonLee says:

    Absolutely fantastic post!

  8. Shirley from VA says:

    Wonderful post !! You have said so much of what I have been trying to say but just haven’t put into the proper phrasing that people will accept. ! Thank you

  9. Fatimat says:

    Thank you for sharing this. My brother has a disability and it was encouraging for me to read this.

  10. Amanda Detchman says:

    Thank you Pam, Eugene, and other Quest staff/members who are addressing the issue of marginalizing persons with disabilities. I am amazed at God’s timing, God’s patience, and God’s hand in all things.

    I am presenting a project summary tomorrow on the book, “The Disabled God” by Nancy Eiesland, who herself is a person with disability. She presents a theology of disability, ways to talk about “body knowledge”, and foremost the importance of engaging the participation of persons with disabilities in the church! (right on with what Pam is emphasizing).

    Our responsibility is to listen and encourage persons with disabilities to be advocates, taking time to listen to their stories and ideas.

    This article is very exciting and again encourages the ways God is convicting and moving hearts at Quest and the larger church body! May we be ready and willing to have open ears, willing to change our perspective and learn more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. Thanks for your prayers. 
I have numerous stories to share but for now, the following came up in every conversation with Iraqi/Syrian refugees:

1 Have tea with us. Or coffee. Or juice. Or something with lots of sugar in it. Or better yet, all of the above.
2 We want peace. We want security. 
3 We hate ISIS. 
4 We just want to go home.
5 Please don't forget us.

Please don't forget them... Father, please bless and protect these Iraqi and Syrian "refugee" children that have already endured so much. Protect their hearts and mind from unfathomable trauma. Plant seeds of hope and vision in their lives. And as we pray for them, teach us how to advocate for them. Amen. "We don't call them refugees. We call them relatives. We don't call them camps but centers. Dignity is so important." -  local Iraqi priest whose church has welcomed many "relatives" to their church's property

It's always a privilege to be invited into peoples' home for tea - even if it's a temporary tent. This is an extended Yezidi family that fled the Mosul, Iraq area because of ISIS. It's indeed true that Christians were targeted by ISIS and thatbstory muat be shared but other minority groups like the Yezidis were also targeted. Some of their heartbreaking stories included the kidnapping of their sister. They shared that their father passed away shortly of a "broken heart." The conversation was emotional but afterwards, we asked each other for permission to take photos. Once the selfies came out, the real smiles came out.

So friends: Pray for Iraq. Pray for the persecuted Church. Pray for Christians, minority groups like the Yezidis who fear they will e completely wiped out in the Middle East,, and Muslims alike who are all suffering under ISIS. Friends: I'm traveling in the Middle East this week - Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Make sure you follow my pics/stories on IG stories). Specifically, I'm here representing @onedayswages to meet, learn, and listen to pastors, local leaders, NGOs, and of course directly from refugees from within these countries - including many from Syria.

For security purposes, I haven't been able to share at all but I'm now able to start sharing some photos and stories. For now, I'll be sharing numerous photos through my IG stories and will be sharing some longer written pieces in couple months when ODW launches another wave of partnerships to come alongside refugees in these areas. Four of us are traveling together also for the purpose of creating a short documentary that we hope to release early next year.

While I'm on my church sabbatical, it's truly a privilege to be able to come to these countries and to meet local pastors and indigenous leaders that tirelessly pursue peace and justice, and to hear directly from refugees. I've read so many various articles and pieces over the years and I thought I was prepared but it has been jarring, heartbreaking,  and gut wrenching. In the midst of such chaos, there's hope but there's also a lot of questions, too.

I hope you follow along as I share photos, stories, and help release this mini-documentary. Please tag friends that might be interested.

Please pray for safety, for empathy, for humility and integrity, for divine meetings. Pray that we listen well; To be present and not just be a consumer of these vulnerable stories. That's my biggest prayer.

Special thanks to @worldvisionusa and @worldrelief for hosting us on this journey. 9/11
Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.

Today, I had some gut wrenching and heart breaking conversations about war, violence, and peacemaking. Mostly, I listened. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having these conversations on 9/11 of all days. I wish I could share more now but I hope to later after I process them for a few days.

But indeed: Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.
May it be so. Amen. Mount Rainier is simply epic. There's nothing like flying in and out of Seattle.

#mountrainier
#seattle
#northwestisbest

my tweets

  • Boom. Final fishing trip. Grateful. A nice way to end my 3 month sabbatical. #catchandrelease twitter.com/i/web/status/9… || 20 hours ago
  • Christians: May we be guided by the Scriptures that remind us, "Seek first the Kingdom of God" and not, "Seek first the kingdom of America." || 21 hours ago
  • Every convo with Iraqi/Syrian refugees included: 1 Have tea with us 2 We want peace 3 We hate ISIS 4 We want to go home 5 Don't forget us || 3 days ago
  • Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan to assess @OneDaysWages' partnerships & to film mini-documentary on refugee crisis. So many emotions. || 3 days ago
  • Pray for Mexico. For those mourning loved ones. For those fighting for life - even under rubbles. For rescue workers. Lord, in your mercy. || 3 days ago
  • Don't underestimate what God can do through you. God has a very long history of using foolish and broken people for His purposes and glory. || 6 days ago