The Bible gives us a short definition of faith in Hebrews 1:11
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Thankfully, Scripture has much more to say on the subject. Faith is trust, assurance, and confidence in God and what He says. As we take God at His word, it is seen by our love, service, and obedience to Him. Faith founded in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the single most important thing about us!
In our ministry to and with adults who have intellectual disabilities, we try to help each other see ourselves the way God see’s us. Those of us who collaborate with people with intellectual disabilities see that they are often quicker to hear from God than the rest of us. They may be seen as foolish in the eyes of this world, but they are often wise toward God. We are not defined by our abilities, or our disabilities. We are defined by our God who made us and loves us and has a plan for each one of us through the relationships He has blessed us with and called us to. We can learn so much from each other if we are not too proud.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
Whatever your disability is, I am guessing it can be as hard for you as it is for anyone to live out consistent faith in all the above. This is why we need community, that sense of belonging with others who share challenges, likes dislikes, values, goals etc. I intentionally began the list with challenges because it is one of the reasons, we need each other and yet it is often the reason we go in the opposite direction. The enemy of our soul likes that, but in a faith community we trust God to help us help each other.
admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1 Thessalonians 5:14b
Living out our faith happens in community and cultures all over the world. I recently heard a sermon marking the words Jesus spoke as He began His mission, calling us ALL to repent for the kingdom of heaven is near. When Jesus’s mission was finished at the cross, He hands His mission off to us!
make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
What does He command? That we repent; turn from our sin to our God. And then, we spend the rest of our lives doing that and helping others do the same. That can be exhilarating or exhausting. So, I appreciate this simple statement included in that sermon; “each time we point someone to Christ, we are helping them to repent.” For me, that feels natural; I love Jesus and I want my friends to know His love for them. Throughout the pandemic we prayed for ways to lovingly connect with friends when we could not meet in person. God provided the ways, and amazingly, our community has grown. How wonderful it is now to be together again as the Caring Friends we are. Our gatherings are beautiful, fun, and Christ centered. The palpable joy of our reunion stirs my heart for more… more faith, more community, more often!
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
The older I get the more I see how inherently off my thoughts and ways are from God’s. Although the prophet Isaiah does tell us God’s thoughts and ways are higher, too often what I’m thinking or doing is the exact opposite. Not good to oppose God but, if He is leading as He often does, in a way that seems opposite by the standard of others, I’m good with that – Show me the way Lord, make a straight path for more faith, more community more often!
Reverse Inclusion is a remarkable “opposite” approach which is gaining momentum in Special Education. It was unheard of when our daughter Britt took part in a mainstream program while in grade school. The few who could manage it, were invited to be with typical kids for music, gym and lunch. Our students were the minority and without their friends. No chance or time for social interaction during music or gym, and they sat at their own table with a teacher during lunch. While this approach can be successful with a good plan in place, here the aim of inclusion fell short at most every level.
Reverse Inclusion provides the opportunity for students with special needs and typical students to interact effectively. Students from gen ed spend time in a special ed classroom setting. There are so many benefits to inviting typical students to join special ed students in their space with their friends. It’s a win win! Both student groups have a real shot at understanding each other and becoming friends. The mainstream approach we experienced did not consider everyone involved. Reverse Inclusion does! Schools and churches using this method are seeing more people embrace diversity and respect those who have challenges outside of their experiences.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was first introduced to the idea of Reverse Inclusion through my experience at Camp Daniel. Each summer Camp counselors are co-missioned to enter into the world of the camper we are assigned to. Our time, plans, likes or dislikes are all secondary to discovering what God wants us to learn through our time with God and our camper. It changed me! Not only have I sought out those types of experiences, but I want to recreate them because it is truly a beautiful and God honoring space. And so, I pray for our ministry... more faith, more community, more often!
Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:1-5
When our Caring Friends Ministry began in 2014, I knew it would take time, faith, prayer, and Christians who are committed to next steps of faith in life and ministry because they are connected and God has blessed us with all we need to do His will.
what does the Lord need from you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
Thank you for reading my blog. For more information about Caring Friends ministry and our next steps of faith which always include opportunities to engage in reverse inclusion please visit our website https://meadowsfamily.org/caring-friends Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CaringforFriends/
For more information about Camp Daniel visit their website: https://campdaniel.org