All of us at Through the Roof wish you a very happy and blessed Christmas, and would like to thank you for all of your involvement and support over the year. We'll be taking a Christmas break from Christmas Eve to Monday the 5th January, but any messages left on the phone or email will be responded to as quickly as possible once we're back. Take care, and we'll see you all in 2015!
Advent Reflections (Ros' Blog)
The approach to Christmas in our family is, as in so many other families, a time of growing excitement. Each day that the Advent book is opened, each chocolate from the Advent calendar, marks off another step nearer to the big day. Ellen loves everything about Christmas – the lights, the shopping, the carols (especially the carols), the presents. That’s to say, she loves the still-wrapped presents. She loves to take hold of them, clutch them in a moment of anticipation and then with her faltering fingers, slowly pull off the wrapping paper, by herself if she can, but sometimes defeated by the task and appealing for our help.
What happens next depends entirely on the contents of the parcel. If it contains something safe (i.e. familiar) all is well. If it contains something scary (i.e. unfamiliar) it is usually hurled across the room with a fearful cry of, “Take it back to the shop!” I’m sure it’s a scene repeated in many homes where there is a family member with autism.
Over the years we have learned how to make Ellen’s presents “safe”. It’s safe to give her CDs or DVDs as long as it’s music and films she’s already familiar with (asked what she wants for Christmas she will usually name a CD she already owns). It’s safe, and indeed very welcome, if the parcel contains chocolate, bubble bath, money, colouring books and pens, a personal stereo or dictating machine or a roll of bubble wrap that she can cut into strips and take to church on Sundays to sit and pop during the long sermon.
Stray outside these boundaries and the gift will cause stress, fear and antipathy – very embarrassing if the dear old aunt who chose it is present at the opening. The reaction can be quite extreme – given the extent of Ellen’s quadriplegic cerebral palsy, it always amazes me how she manages a bouncer that would be the envy of many an England bowler. This gesture can be accompanied not only by demands for the offending object to be taken back to the shop, but by mounting cries, screams and self-harm unless a swift promise is made to return the gift at the earliest opportunity.
Once again, as I make my preparations for Christmas, I can see a parable in Ellen’s behaviour. How often do we ask God for something, anticipating joyfully the answer to our prayer because we know how faithfully He has answered us before; but then if the answer comes in a guise we were not expecting, we reject it and refuse to allow Him to lead us into a new experience?
I am lonely and want a friend – but I’m not willing to befriend the particular person God brings across my path. I want a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in my church – but if it manifests in a way that is quieter, or noisier, or in some way more unusual than my previous experience, I’m quick to join those who denounce it as not being genuinely from God. I need financial provision – but God’s response is to tell me to sow what I have in order to reap the harvest He has for me, and my fist tightens around the little I have, unwilling to make the faith experiment.
May God give us the grace to receive all His gifts, even the unexpected ones, and to allow Him to lead us in unfamiliar paths, in undreamt-of ways, into greater blessings than we could ever have imagined if left to our own devices.
This article first appeared on Ros’s personal blog at rosbunneywriting.wordpress.com.
With the Poor and Mean and Lowly Lived on Earth our Saviour Holy (Ros' Blog)
Jesus was born into a country under Roman occupation. Times were harsh for the poorest members of society – and we know that His family were poor, not only because He had to be laid in a manger but also because His parents sacrificed two doves, as was permitted for poor families, rather than the lamb which was the normal sacrifice at the birth of a child.
Within a short time of His birth He became a refugee, and only returned home once it was safe to do so. Home was an insignificant village of probably fewer than five hundred residents, which had no trade routes and was of no economic importance; poverty was a way of life for its inhabitants. Jesus grew into an adult who had 'nowhere to lay His head' and so little money that He had to trust God for a miracle when His tax was due. A very different world from the one we inhabit. Or is it?
Contact a Family has published the 2014 results of its annual 'Counting the Costs' survey, which aims to build an accurate picture of the economic circumstances of families in the UK with disabled children. Of the people who completed the survey, twenty-five percent have more than one disabled child and half say they or their partner have a disability or health condition. Twenty-eight percent are lone parents, and sixty-six percent of the households have someone in paid employment.
The survey, conducted every other year, showed that since 2012, the number of respondents going without food has almost doubled to thirty-one percent. The number going without heating has increased from twenty-one and a half percent to thirty-three percent. Of these, twenty-two percent say their child’s health has worsened as a result of going without essentials and forty-nine percent say their own health has suffered. Marriages and relationships have foundered as a result. “Going without everyday essentials” means different things for different families; most had no days out or leisure time; many had cut back on purchasing clothes and car fuel. A very significant number (more than a third) could not afford specialist equipment, therapies and hospital visits.
Sixty-five percent say that in the past twelve months they have fallen behind on energy and utility bills; thirty-six percent have taken a loan, most of them to pay for food and heating. Fifty-one percent have had threats of court action for non-payment of bills, mainly for council tax and energy bills. Unsurprisingly, ninety-three percent report anxiety and stress.
More than twenty-five percent of those surveyed reported that they incur an average of £300 of extra costs directly as a result of their child’s disability. These costs are for things like special clothes or equipment, adapted transport, and more frequent laundry and replacement of items. Eighty-eight percent have caring responsibilities that prevent them working as many hours as they want, and almost three-quarters are cutting back on work or giving up on careers because of the difficulty of finding specialist care for their disabled child. A third are worse off as a direct result of benefit changes, nearly half of them by £30 a week.
Right at the outset of His ministry, the child who had grown up in poverty stated that He had come to preach good news to the poor. He supported His words with actions, seeking out the poorest and most marginalised members of society to show them God’s love and power. He specified that poor people, as well as disabled people, were to be given pride of place at the banquets of the wealthy. In the parable of the sheep and the goats He was very specific about the way in which His followers should care for the poorest and most disadvantaged people around them.
The apostles took up His call – Paul connected giving to the poor with the example of Christ: “But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also… For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8. 7-9)
James declared that religion was worthless unless it included generosity towards those who were lacking life’s essentials: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1.27).
This Christmas, as we worship the one who was born into poverty, lived among poor people and challenged us to care for those around us who lack the means to meet their own needs, let us be aware of those who are raising disabled children in hardship and want, and ask God to show us what we can do to help.
Celebrating our Volunteers
On Tuesday 2nd December 2014, as part of the #GivingTuesday enterprise, we celebrated some of our disabled volunteers by posting on Facebook about their amazing gifts and contributions to Through the Roof. Those posts are collected here...
As Chair of Through the Roof, Mike, with guide dog Oxford at his side, provides leadership to the whole charity, and is a regular guest speaker in churches across the UK and the world. Thank you Mike for your unique contribution… It’s good to give!
Philippa travelled on mission to Guatemala, and has worked for Through the Roof as a Youth Ambassador, using her experience of being blind from birth to inspire thousands of people with the Bible message of inclusion and God’s heart for disabled people. Thank you Philippa for your unique contribution… It’s good to give.
Brian contributes his business acumen to assist Through the Roof with our finances each week, his electric wheelchair enabling him to get round the office quickly. Thank you Brian for your unique contribution… It’s good to give!
Jenny has tirelessly provided support and encouragement to disabled people all around the UK for 40 years. An electric wheelchair user, she coordinates Through the Roof’s programme for disabled Christians and was awarded the MBE in 2012. Thank you Jenny for your unique contribution…It’s good to give!
Abigail travelled to India with Through the Roof to encourage and inspire hundreds of schoolchildren, church congregations and Government Officials through sharing her own experience of the positives and challenges of living with autism. Thank you Abigail for your unique contribution… It’s good to give!
Karen channels her energy, enthusiasm and passion into the cause of Through the Roof, regularly pushing through the pain of life with arthritis to organise several fundraising events in her village, encouraging local people to donate thousands of pounds throughout the year. Thank you Karen for your unique contribution… It’s good to give!
Anita records and copies Through the Roof’s print and audio resources (including the Vital Link, and Coming Fishing) onto CD and cassette to benefit other blind people like her. Thank you Anita for your unique contribution… It’s good to give.
James played a key role in a Through the Roof team visit to Uganda, positively encouraging hundreds of teachers, church and community leaders to focus on ability not disability. With support he wrote down his presentation so that his learning disability and autism didn’t get in the way of his mission. Thank you James for your unique contribution… It’s good to give!
Paula, who regularly uses a wheelchair, channels her great enthusiasm, energy, humour and love for Jesus into leading adults on spiritual retreats and activities for children and families.
Thank you to all of our volunteers and team! Through the Roof's work depends upon all of your contributions.