A Place to Call Home (Ros' Blog)
So… the dust has settled, the boxes are emptied and everything is in its proper place. Our new office is in apple-pie order, thanks largely to the efficiency and hard work of Michael, our Operations Manager. A few adjustments are needed on our part – a bit more desk sharing, board meetings have to take place elsewhere, and for most of us a slightly longer commute. But all in all the process has gone very smoothly and we are happily settled in our new home, Alpha House, Alpha Place, Garth Road, Morden, Surrey, SM4 4TQ. We’re getting to know our new neighbours, Ascension Trust, who have made us very welcome on the ground floor of their building, and on Wednesday of last week we held our first board meeting since the move, in a nearby Baptist Church.
A lot of preparation went into the move, a lengthy search for suitable premises, a lot of planning and packing, hiring of vans and marshalling volunteers. The whole process took quite a long time from start to finish. But the hard work paid off, and here we are.
All this got me thinking about a passage of Scripture that we’ve been studying at my church lately. In John 14 Jesus says these words: “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
Our pastor challenged us to get away from the traditional understanding of these verses as referring solely to our state after death, and think about what they might be saying to us about life here and now. And when I thought it over, something struck me. The idea of Jesus having to go away and take some time to make some preparations before everything would be ready makes no sense in the light of the fact that He is eternal; He is not subject to the constraints of the passage of time or sequences of events in the way that we are. So maybe that is not what Jesus meant?
Suppose the place that needed preparing was the hearts of the disciples – and us? That reading makes sense in the light of what He goes on to say: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” He also refers to the Holy Spirit, who “dwells with you and will be in you.”
Perhaps Jesus was referring to the fact that His dwelling place – the hearts of men and women – was not yet ready, and so the disciples’ dwelling place needed preparation time. How could the disciples’ own hearts be their dwelling place? Because Jesus would be there – “that where I am, you may be also”.
And so the disciples plus some of the women and Jesus’ mother and brothers shut themselves away in the upper room and spent their days in prayer and fellowship until the Day of Pentecost had fully come. Then, as we know, they were transformed by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and the Church began its mission.
To those who live with disability, of course it’s a comfort to know that a place is ready for us when this life is over, a place where we shall be in the direct presence of Jesus, where pain and sadness will be things of the past, and God will wipe away all tears. But if that’s the only hope we have, then this life could be an irksome phase to be endured until that time comes.
And yet it’s clear, that’s not what Jesus intended. “I have come, He said, “that they may have life, and have it to the full.” And when our hearts are prepared to be a place where we and Jesus live together in unity by the Holy Spirit, even the most restricted life is transformed from mere existence to a life of fullness and abundance.
How has the experience of Jesus dwelling in you given you a sense of being “at home”? What difference does it make to those around you when you live out of that place of abundance?
Churches Inc in Tanzania: Final Blog
Janet, Abi, Katie, and Shaun visited Tanzania from the 6th to 16th June, working hard to deliver events and workshops, and to support church leaders and local work. Our Churches Inc. programme equips the church with a Christian perspective on disability, helping them to be fully inclusive so everyone is valued. Here's their report on the sixth day - Follow this link to the team's day 5 blog.
Final blog (jointly written in a plane somewhere over Ethiopia)
We survived the lions' den (literally) in the Serengeti and experienced some interesting off-road driving. It was a good opportunity for fellowship with Pastor Shadrack and his father (who has a disability himself) and a tour guide who is a member of their church.
As we leave Tanzania we are encouraged by the heart of Pastor Shadrack and his team for people with disabilities. We are privileged to have witnessed the work that is already taking place and to hear about the vision for the future including a centre for employment skills training. It is clear that there is a lot more work to do. We trust that by God’s grace it will be completed.
One thing that has struck us has been that by providing a safe place for people to share their stories during our workshops, it was so powerful to see people with disabilities using their gifts and the impact this had, not just on us but on others in a similar position. There was a tangible sense that people were growing in confidence and their confidence was based on a renewed understanding of their value and identity in God.
The home visits were truly humbling. Any difficulty experienced by the team only served to bring into focus the difficulties that are faced on a daily basis by people living in these communities. It also highlighted the need for a diversity of different mobility and other equipment in order to best serve the unique needs of each individual and the situation they live in.
It was such a joy to be able to leave people listening to the word of God on the Swahili audio Bibles.... in the leprosy camp the sound of audio Bibles filled the air from different directions.
This trip feels to have been extremely worthwhile and despite the range of challenges in the lead up to the trip it appears that God has been, and is, working powerfully through it.
We are grateful to everyone in the UK who has supported and prayed for us and we ask that you continue to remember the work of Pastor Shadrack and his team in your prayers. In particular please pray for the ongoing work to complete the disability centre. It is wonderful to see a local team so committed to challenging cultural attitudes, including and valuing people with disabilities and sharing the gospel message with those who are so often excluded.
By the way, we nearly came back without Abi following a marriage proposal. However, we decided the dowry of 20 cows just wasn’t enough for such a special person (and anyway we couldn’t get the cows on the plane!)
Churches Inc in Tanzania: Day 6
Janet, Abi, Katie, and Shaun are working in Tanzania from the 6th to 16th June, delivering and supporting Churches Inc leaders events and workshops. Our Churches Inc. programme equips the church with a Christian perspective on disability, helping them to be fully inclusive so everyone is valued. Here's their report on the sixth day - Follow this link to the team's day 5 blog.
Shaun left this morning to travel back to the UK.
For the rest of the team today was our last day of workshops, with some of the same people from yesterday and some new ones who joined us.
Abi acted as children’s coordinator again, teaching the children (and playing quite a lot too!)
Katie spoke about Psalm 139. People seemed to respond really well to this and it sparked off lots of conversation with testimonies and experiences being shared.
Esther, the blind lady we met on one of our home visits, had the opportunity to sing a song she had written herself about her experiences. She also gave a message about the nature of true faith in Jesus and her desire to bring others to know him.
We had lots of opportunities to pray and worship today. Katie sang ‘In Christ Alone’ and even Beatrice our interpreter joined in leading a worship song.
We finished with an inclusive Bible story about the parable of the banquet followed by a worship session which would have been fit for any banquet.
The team is rather tired now. We’re off to the Serengeti tomorrow and just hoping we don’t fall asleep in the midst of the lions den!
Katie with Helena.
Churches Inc in Tanzania: Day 5
Janet, Abi, Katie, and Shaun are working in Tanzania from the 6th to 16th June, delivering and supporting Churches Inc leaders events and workshops. Our Churches Inc. programme equips the church with a Christian perspective on disability, helping them to be fully inclusive so everyone is valued. Here's their report on the second day - Follow this link to the team's day 4 blog.
Today is the first of two days of workshops. People arrived from all over Mwanza and from rural areas.
People in Africa are very often have a misconception that white people don't have disabilities. Janet began by explaining that there are people with disabilities everywhere. Katie explained her own disability. About 100 people were expected at today's workshop but it's midday and people are still arriving. We have about 200 in attendance now.
Some of the disabled people that attended today's workshop sitting in front.
This is Isaiah. He has five other siblings. They all became physically disabled around the same time. He is the only one who has pursued his aspirations. He is encouraging other people with disabilities not to become despondent.He is expressing his desire to be independent. To those who are able, he encourages them to accept and love those who are disabled. To those who are disabled, he encourages them to change their self image and to accept themselves.
Michael also spoke, to tell the people of the challenges and fears he faces as a person with albinism. He also encourages everyone to change their views and opinions of people who have albinism.
Churches Inc in Tanzania: Day 4
Janet, Abi, Katie, and Shaun are working in Tanzania from the 6th to 16th June, delivering and supporting Churches Inc leaders events and workshops. Our Churches Inc. programme equips the church with a Christian perspective on disability, helping them to be fully inclusive so everyone is valued. Here's their report on the second day - Follow this link to the team's day 2 blog.
Today we set out at 7.30am to visit people with disabilities in their own environments. As we visited the homes it became more and more aparant just how many barriers disabled people face in this community. Disabled adults have the same responsibilities as able people and this is an indication to what degree they are affected by these barriers.
The first lady we visited was Magdelena. We drove very slowly for a number of miles toward her house. About 300 metres before we reached it we could drive no further because of the rough terrain and large boulders. Mwanza is often called Rock City because large boulders are everywhere.
We walked the last 300 metres. Katy, who is a wheelchair user wanted to accompany the rest of the team as we walked on foot.
Magdalena is a mother of five. They all live in one room about 3 metres by 2.5 metres in sizes. This is their bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and toilet. Magdalena became paralysed from the waist down a few years ago. Her husband and father of her children absconded and they haven't seen him since. Magdelenas oldest child is 12 year old. She cares for Magdalena. Because of her disability her children aren't able to go to school as they have to look after her. Her desire if for at least one of her children to get an education so that the family will eventually be able to be supported.
Janet presented Magdalena with a solar powered audio Bible which she was thrilled to have.
Magdalena has been clamouring over the rocks with crutches to get anywhere. She would like a wheelchair. Our concern is that a wheelchair will need to be carried on someone's head over the boulders.
Although the story is a depiction of this particular family, it is not an isolated case as this is the nature of the terrain here in Mwanza. After having left Magdelenas house we were shown the Centre where the workshop will be held tomorrow and Wednesday.
Ps Shadrack has applied with the UK charity Tools with a Mission for tools and equipment to be used at this Centre to equip disabled adults with the skills to earn an income. The first consignment is due to arrive in August in a container that is being shared with other partners of Tools with a Mission in Tanzania.
After our visit to the disability Centre we visited a number of people with disabilities in their homes. One little boy by the name of Juma has cerebral palsy. He is 16 years old and after two years at school he was so badly discriminated against by the pupils and the teachers that he left. He therefore has no education. He said that he would like to be a DJ. He is pictured below.
We then drove about 45 minutes out of town to a leprosy colony. One of the men there was Clement Bula. He is seen below trying to wash his bandages. Because he has no fingers he has to do it with his teeth.
Churches Inc Tanzania: Day 2
Janet, Abi, Katie, and Shaun are working in Tanzania from the 6th to 16th June, delivering and supporting Churches Inc leaders events and workshops. Our Churches Inc. programme equips the church with a Christian perspective on disability, helping them to be fully inclusive so everyone is valued. Here's their report on the second day - Follow this link to the team's day 1 blog
Today's group sessions after the teaching on 'Made in the image of God.' During this time the delegates discussed the barriers to inclusion within the Church and also the challenges that they face in their communities to combat the cultural barriers to drawing disabled people in.
Katie, one of our team members who is disabled and uses a wheelchair shared about her own challenges and testified about the goodness of God in her life as she serves Him in her one weakness and how her disability beings glory to God.
Day 2 went very well. The group was smaller because the government officials weren't there, and with a different group of leaders. We met at the same venue as yesterday.
We were informed that the idea of group discussions are something that is completely new to the Church, not just in Mwanza but in the whole of Tanzania. When the people understood the concept some really intense debates began to ensue and we were requested today to shorten out teaching so that we could have longer group discussions.
We were requested to return to do a follow up Churches Inc. trip, but specifically to help the communities to change their attitudes towards people with albinism. One man by the name of Emmanuel who has albinism arrived at the Leaders Event today. Ps Shadrack said that the man lives in fear of his life because of the demand on his body parts and doesn't venture out much from his home especially around the time of governmental elections as this is when the demand is greatest for those with Albinism. Those who are of the opposition parties often promote this practice even though the practice is outlawed by law.
Churches Inc in Tanzania: Day 1
Janet, Abi, Katie, and Shaun are working in Tanzania from the 6th to 16th June, delivering and supporting Churches Inc leaders events and workshops. Our Churches Inc. programme equips the church with a Christian perspective on disability, helping them to be fully inclusive so everyone is valued. Here's their report on the first day - we'll keep you up to date on everything they're doing as regularly as possible.
Day 1 blog by Shaun Burrows:
Today was the first Leaders Event day. People began to arrive at about 12.20pm. By 2.30pm the room was almost full and we started with introductions. About 20 government and community leaders arrived and joined the pastors and church leaders. Altogether there were about 100 people.
Ps Shadrack had invited the head of the local Muslim mosque. He informed Pastor Shadrack at the end of the day that he was blessed by the teachings and the group discussions and that he was included.
It became apparent during a few of the group discussions that people with Albinism are are very common in Tanzania and are badly mistreated by people in their communities. It is very common for people to call them by the nickname 'dil'. This word means 'an opportunity to make money'. This refers to the cutting off and selling of body parts of these people as a means of earning an income.
Tomorrow's Leaders Event will be at a venue on the other side of the city and with a different group of delegates.
Churches Inc in Tanzania: 6th to 16th June
Janet, Abi, Katie, and Shaun are travelling to Tanzania to deliver and support Churches Inc leaders events and workshops. Our Churches Inc. programme equips the church with a Christian perspective on disability, helping them to be fully inclusive so everyone is valued. We'll keep you up to date on what they're doing as often as the team are able to send any details back to us. Please do pray for a safe trip, for a receptive audience, and for a real change to the lives of people in Tanzania.
(Photo shows part of a training event from the Churches Inc trip to Kenya early in 2018 - we'll update with a Tanzania pic as soon as we get one).
Additional Needs Friendly Children's Ministry
There is a growing range of resources available to help you tailor your children’s ministry for full inclusion of children with additional needs. Feel free to share this article with your children’s workers to encourage them with ideas to include all children.
St Saviour’s Church, Guildford has produced a website of resources, lesson plans, craft ideas and everything you need to run a successful children’s ministry that includes those with additional needs. Follow this link to their 'All Belong' website.
Tonbridge Baptist Church has done similar work - follow this link to find their resources website.
Trish Hahn, Messy Church SEND co-ordinator and wife of one of our trustees has put together a 'Maximising the Mess' guide for welcoming people with additional needs. You can read about it and download the PDF file by following this link.
Girls Brigade has also produced a resource in PDF format, which can be downloaded at this link.
The Church of England’s Going for Growth website has a section on special and additional needs available by following this link.
The Methodist Church has a resource on supporting children with additional needs which can be downloaded by following this link.
Urban Saints has advice and resources, including details of how you can book one of their All Inclusive or All Inclusive 2U workshops by following this link.
The Bible Reading Fellowship also provides a leaflet of suggested ways to make your children’s ministry more inclusive, follow this link to download the leaflet.
And of course, Through the Roof is ready and willing to come and do a workshop with your youth and children’s team, which we can tailor to the particular needs of your own young people. Follow this link for more details. We also have publications to help with your youth and children’s work, Parachute Bible Stories and A Welcoming Place which are £5 each. You can buy them through our online shop: follow this link to buy a copy of Parachute Bible Stories and follow this link to buy a copy of a Welcoming Place.