Look How Far We've Come (Ros' Blog)
It was an icy winter’s afternoon just before Christmas, and with perfect timing the snow was falling on our outing to the London Emmanuel Choir’s annual Christmas concert at Westminster Central Hall. We had tried to time our arrival at the station so that we wouldn’t have to wait too long on the windy platform. I held my ten year old’s hand and helped her up the steep steps to the bridge that took us across the line to the far platform. My husband picked up our eight year old’s wheelchair and carried her lock, stock and barrel, up the steps, wheeled her across the bridge and carried her down again at the other side. The old train clattered into the station and came to a halt. As the doors opened and people got out, I helped him to lift our daughter in her wheelchair into the unheated guard’s van. I tucked her up as best I could with the blanket I had brought for the purpose, and settled down to squat on the floor beside her in the arctic conditions of the van while my husband went with our older daughter to sit on a “proper seat” in the heated carriage. On the way home we would reverse roles.
What a long way we have come since those days. In time for the 2012 Olympics, our local station was equipped with a wheelchair lift on each platform so wheelchair users no longer have to be carried up the steps or drive and park at a more accessible station further along the line. A guard with a ramp now comes rushing to help us board the train with relative ease, and designated spaces ensure that the whole family can sit together in a heated carriage like everyone else. Journeys to London in the winter are no longer the bone-chilling affair they once were.
And yet in other ways society seems to be regressing. There are countries where Down’s Syndrome has been eliminated, not by medical science but by the killing of unborn babies who have the condition. With the new screening test likely to become widely available in the UK we seem to be following other countries down that route. The so-called “bedroom tax” has disproportionately targeted disabled people and their families (up to 66% of those affected in some parts of the country). Food banks have a high percentage of clients from the disabled community, and disabled people make up over 45% of the homeless population, compared with 19% of the general population. A relentless rhetoric from politicians and the media has painted people too disabled to work as a bunch of skivers. Every few years a bill to allow the killing of terminally ill and severely disabled people is brought back to Parliament again although none has yet been successful, and this week we have heard that Lord Shinkwin’s Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill will not proceed.
At such a time it is vital for the church to be at the forefront of disability equality and inclusion, befriending disabled people and giving them equal access to all levels of the church life and leadership. Jesus said it would be our love that marked us out as His disciples and that how we treat the ones the world views as “the least” is how we are treating Him. It is no longer enough for churches to ask, “How little can we get away with to comply with the minimum requirements of the law?” We should be leading the way, modelling for society the equality and dignity that disabled people deserve. We should not be hearing, as I did again this week, of disabled children being turned away from church because they are too difficult. In the same week I heard from another church considering a change of venue in order to be able to include a young man who currently finds it too difficult to access their meetings – that’s more like it, and is in the spirit of ripping up the roof to bring a friend to Jesus.
Here at Through the Roof we are longing for the day when no disabled person ever has to say, “I wasn’t welcome in church”, and when every time society wants help to be more inclusive they turn to the church as the acknowledged experts. A pipe-dream, you say? Yet consider these words of Jesus: “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” It is His intention that we will be beacons, showing the world how to love.
Twenty Years of God's Goodness - the Spring 2017 Vital Link
The Spring 2017 Vital Link Newsletter is now available for download - this issue contains stories about our upcoming 20th anniversary celebrations, holiday details, fundraising fun, reports from trips away, and plenty more inspiration. There's also an introduction to our new 'Bible Sponsorship' plan - where you can help support wheelchair recipients and Churches Inc trainees in getting their own Bible, in their own language.
- Follow this link to download the Spring 2017 Vital Link (including a Bible Sponsorship form) - right-click and select 'save' to save the file for later
Please get in touch (on 01372 749955 or by following this link to email us) if you have any problems downloading this, or if you’d like to receive future newsletters by post or email.
Time to Celebrate (Ros' Blog)
I get the impression that God loves an excuse to celebrate. The Bible stories are full of them. From the annual celebration when the harvest was brought in, to the Year of Jubilee every fifty years, not to mention Passover and all the other feasts, celebration was written into the Jewish law from the outset.
After a remarkable victory, Samuel erected a stone on the border of where the victory had taken place, and held a naming celebration, calling the stone Ebeneezer – “The Lord our Help” – and proclaimed, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7.12)
When Nehemiah had completed supervision of the repair of Jerusalem’s wall, he gathered the people together to celebrate “with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.” (Nehemiah 12.27)
After God’s deliverance of his people from the scheming of their enemies in the time of Esther, their reprieve was commemorated in perpetuity by an annual celebration, the feast of Purim. This festival was marked by feasting, rejoicing, and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor. (Esther 9. 22)
When the Jerusalem temple was rebuilt with the help of two gentile kings – authorised by Cyrus and funded by Darius – the sons of Israel, the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. (Ezra 6.16)
Several of Jesus’ stories end with a great celebration: the prodigal son’s welcome home by his father, the woman’s discovery of her missing coin, the shepherd returning with the lost sheep; and of course Jesus’ first miracle was performed during the celebration of a wedding.
So it seems fitting that at Through the Roof we should seize the opportunity for a celebration whenever one appears. And as this is our 20th anniversary year, there’s no time like the present! I like the fact that in the verse quoted above from Nehemiah 12, the people celebrated not with mere thanksgiving, but with thankgivings. There were multiple reasons to give thanks, and they made use of them all.
And in that spirit, we are inviting you to help us hold multiple thanksgiving celebrations this year. Firstly, save the date of September 9th when we will be holding a celebratory thanksgiving service at St George’s Church, Ashtead – details to follow in due course. And secondly, we have put together some birthday celebration kits to help you hold a Through the Roof birthday celebration in your own area. The pack contains: invitations; a DVD to play to your guests; balloons; bunting; rice paper cupcake toppers printed with our special birthday logo; a gift for each guest of a pen, a commemorative postcard with the story of the man lowered through the roof to Jesus and a leaflet celebrating 20 years of Through the Roof; and a glossy souvenir booklet for the party host to keep. In the picture at the top of this post you can see our trustees sampling the cupcakes we made.
To get your hands on one of our celebration kits all you have to do is ask! You can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01372 749955 and we will put the pack in the post to you. All we ask in return is that you invite your guests to give a donation to our work – we are aiming to raise £80 from each celebration held – and that if you are able, you take some photos of your event and share them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, using the hashtag #TTRis20. Happy celebrating!
20 Years of God's Faithfulness (Ros' Blog)
1997. The year of Labour’s landslide victory under Tony Blair. Scientists succeeded in cloning a large organism, resulting in the birth of Dolly the sheep. The first Harry Potter novel was published and the UK handed the sovereignty of Hong Kong back to the Chinese. The world was shocked by the untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales and the BBC launched its full time online news service. Twelve disabled people were arrested at Downing Street for a protest against cuts in benefits, in which they daubed red paint all over the pavement to symbolise “Blair’s blood”, while others padlocked themselves to the gates of Downing Street. David Blunkett became Britain’s first blind cabinet minister and Anne Begg became the first full time wheelchair user to sit as an MP at Westminster since Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh in 1880. And in the same year, via a tour of Bristol, London, Sheffield and Belfast with Joni Eareckson Tada, Through the Roof was launched.
All of these events left their mark on the world, whether positive or negative. The impact of Through the Roof, a small charity that punches above its weight, has perhaps been one of the more quietly remarkable.
Earlier today I was reading some of the statistics of what has been accomplished in the 20 years since the birth of Through the Roof. 40,000 people have heard the Gospel preached through our ministry. 20,000 people in 13 developing countries have received a wheelchair or mobility aid and a Bible. 6,000 people have found friendship and encouragement in groups and holidays. And thousands of Christians and churches have been helped to become more fully inclusive of their disabled brothers and sisters.
That is the overall picture; some of the individual stories are truly inspiring; the young man who came on one of our holidays as a volunteer to support a disabled person and left having given his life to Jesus in one of the meetings on the holiday. The blind volunteer who was able to tell an African audience of disabled people that their disability was not a curse as they had previously been taught. Rather, as the story in John 9 of the man born blind shows, it was that God’s good works could be displayed in their lives. The young Kenyan man who had suffered a catastrophic head injury in a road accident, which had left him paralysed but still with feeling and pain. With no medical care his joints had seized to the point where he could no longer sit up, and his legs were covered in bed sores. Our team were able to obtain wound care advice from a specialist in the UK, and also found and adapted a suitable wheelchair in which he could be wheeled around while lying almost flat. It was adjustable, meaning that his family would be able to sit him more upright very gradually over a period of time. And then there’s this little lady, whose joy at receiving a wheelchair and a Bible shines from her face and needs no words to describe it.
I recently bought a CD of Methodist worship, and I’ve taken to listening to it on the way to work. The track I keep playing over and over again is Great is Thy Faithfulness, and when I look back at what God has accomplished over the 20 years since the inception of Through the Roof I can see exactly why that particular hymn evokes such a response from me.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
As we look forward to the next 20 years of Through the Roof, how might you get involved and partner with what God is doing through our work? Could you become a Roofbreaker in your church, tasked with helping your church to ensure that disabled people are welcomed and can belong with you, giving and receiving as God intended? Follow this link for more information about becoming a Roofbreaker.
Get the Bunting Up!
Could you hold a 20th birthday celebration in your home or church? It could be on your birthday, an anniversary, or just a regular Saturday! You might want to share afternoon tea and cakes, or host a pudding and games evening. Whatever you choose it’s the ideal opportunity to tell your friends about the work, share your experiences of TTR, and invite them to give a birthday gift to Through the Roof and change more people’s lives. Our celebration pack contains everything you need to host ten guests (except food and drink!) We can supply you with:
- Invitations and instructions
- Bunting and balloons
- Rice paper logos to decorate your cakes
- Inspiring DVD to show your friends
- Souvenir brochure for the party host
- Pens and keepsake postcards to give away as gifts
- Souvenir leaflet for friends to take-away
We provide everything to you free of charge, and all we’re asking is for you to aim to raise at least £80 and have fun celebrating. We’ve tested the pack at the last TTR Board meeting, and everyone had a great time! Contact us to order at email@example.com, or 01372 749955.