Online Event: Learning from Lockdown--Is Online Church the Answer for Disabled People?
Free Online Event
Saturday 4th July
10.30 to 12
Spaces are limited: Please register for the event
We are excited to invite you to our third free UK-wide online event:
Learning from lockdown - is online church the answer for disabled people?
We are pleased to be joined by Matt Lloyd, a church leader from Bromley.
Join us to...
- Think about what the church has learned from lockdown and how this should inform the future inclusion of disabled people
- Share your own feedback and thoughts with others
- Pray together
This event is slightly different from our last two – Matt has recorded his talk and will then be available to answer questions. Please book early to receive the link for Matt’s talk and to be able to send in any questions you have for Matt.
Please register for the event to receive the link and tell us about any access requirements. You will receive an email with full information.
This will be a great opportunity to think through these issues and learn together.
Reflecting on 'Shielding'
Fiona, our Deputy Church Inclusion Coordinator, has posted this great video on Facebook, about her experiences of shielding during the early days of lockdown. It's prompted a lot of comment and discussion--we'd love to hear your experiences and thoughts, follow this link to email us.
Re-imagining Church: Garden or Window Box? (Ros' Blog)
Today's blog post was originally featured on Ros' personal blog -- you can find the post by following this link.
There is an ongoing debate about the closure of church buildings during the pandemic. On one side are people who are concerned above all for public health and not wanting to prolong the crisis. On the other hand there are those who quote Hebrews 10. 25 (‘Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together’) and wish to see churches reopen and normality resume in their worship services as soon as possible. Here are my thoughts.
Firstly, let’s not forget the pastor in the DRC who encouraged his congregation to continue to meet during the Ebola outbreak, thereby contributing massively to the spread of Ebola in his region, resulting in his own death and that of many of his congregation. Do we really want people to be able to turn round and point their finger at the Church and say, you people made it worse?
Secondly, people like my daughter who lives in a care home and has been condemned by this pandemic to a separation from her family which causes her a great deal of anguish, and people like my lovely colleague who is having to shield and has not been able to leave her city flat for 3 months, will be the ones who suffer the longer this pandemic continues. People who feel safe to meet up in public because they are at low risk from this virus need to consider that if their action prolongs the pandemic, it also prolongs isolation and separation for those less fortunate than themselves.
But thirdly, here is something I’ve observed. Looking round my garden as May ends and June begins, I can see that it’s a season of rapid growth. The roses that I pruned right down have shot up and are covered in buds. The vegetable seeds which I sowed weeks ago are suddenly sprouting at a rapid rate. My strawberries are laden with fruit. And in my own church I’m seeing something parallel to that in a spiritual realm. People are growing spiritually at a rapid rate. When we communicate via the church WhatsApp group or hold our meetings on Zoom, people are sharing deeper spiritual insights than ever before, reporting deepening understanding of and relationship with God, and are sharing the many ways in which God is using them to bless their neighbours and share the Gospel in deed as well as word.
It is as if we have been uprooted from our window box where we were crammed in with little room for growth of roots or foliage, and transplanted into a wide garden with plenty of space to spread our stems and branches, put down deeper roots and produce abundant foliage, blooms, and eventually, fruit. Why would we want to be stuffed back into that cramped old window box again?
Yes, I miss people, especially living on my own. Yes there are days when I would give anything to be back in the church building just so I am in reach of an actual person who can give me a physical hug. But these things are less important than what God is doing. Looking at church history, growth has almost always come through scattering, usually as a result of persecution. It’s not persecution that is scattering us, but an invisible virus. Nevertheless, personal growth and Church growth are the results. Let’s not be in a hurry to shut that all down again and scramble back into our old window box where we can look how we used to look and do things the way we used to do them. God’s dreams for us are far bigger than that.
And when we do finally begin to meet again, let’s not forget that some of our disabled brothers and sisters have, for the first time, been able to participate on a level playing field with everyone else when church has been online. Let’s not retreat into our inaccessible buildings and close the door in their faces again, but let’s become a church that uses every conceivable tool at our disposal to ensure that every member is fully included, especially the disabled ones of whom Jesus said in Luke 14 that his house is not full when they are absent.
Online Event: 'Disabled People's Insights For The Church During Lockdown'
Saturday 20th June
10.30 - 12.00
Join us on Zoom
This event is free, but places are limited: Please follow this link to register
We are excited to invite you to our second UK-wide online event:
Disabled people's insights for the church during lockdown
The voice of those who live in isolation
Join us to:
- Think about what the church can learn from disabled people
- Consider how the church can respond
- Encourage each other
- Pray together
Fiona will be speaking about her experiences of lockdown and shielding, and looking at the message disabled people's experience can bring to the church. There will be time to discuss and feedback your own experience and thoughts.
My Disability Was No Limit For God (Ros' Blog)
This week we have a guest blog from Julia Mitchell. Julia is a longstanding supporter of Through the Roof who was born with cerebral palsy, which caused her to have difficulty in various aspects of life including speaking and walking. During the final year of her Open University degree she lost her sight and also became a wheelchair user. The events she describes here happened before she completely lost the ability to walk, and before she lost her sight. I love the story that she shares with us here because it is a powerful reminder that disability is no barrier to being used by God...
I’m going to tell you about the trip I went on in 1991. I could walk then and was not a wheelchair user like I am now. In August 1991 I went to Romania with two Christian friends of mine, Sylvia and Alan. Alan had a camper van and we brought some toys for the kids and a lot of baby clothes. First we went down to Folkestone where Sylvia’s mum and dad lived and we stayed overnight with them. We started our journey off from there the next morning. We got a ferry to Calais and then from Calais we went to Germany.
We stayed with two of their friends, and they had lots of Bibles there. Alan adapted the van; he put a metal platform down to make it look like he had a big step to climb on just so that he could hide a lot of Russian Bibles in there. I can’t remember how many Bibles he took but it was quite a few.
The journey was quite full of adventures. From Germany we went on to Czechoslovakia, as it was called in those days. And on the motorway we broke down and because we couldn’t get it repaired immediately, we had to stay overnight in a big parking bay in Czechoslovakia. Next morning, we got towed back to Austria where we had to hire a car, which meant we could only take the essentials and had to leave a lot of stuff behind. We took a few clothes, all the stuff for the kids and all the Bibles and some of the food.
We weren’t supposed to take the hire car to Russia but, because I’m disabled, they said yes you can take it. So we started our journey to Hungary and we had to get through the border which wasn’t very nice, it was a wonder that we got away with the Bibles. I don’t think it was quite as tough in that year but whatever you did, if you had any money you had to make sure it was on your body and not in the car and you had to take everything out of the car and lay it on the floor so that the army could come and have a look and check what you’d got and I’ve never seen anybody who goes through your stuff like they did. Then we had to get everything back in the car and go through to Hungary. So we spent a whole week in Hungary going backwards and forwards to Romania and then back to Hungary for a whole week. Then this is where it all happened.
In Hungary they’ve got special schools for people with cerebral palsy and I asked the girl I was staying with if I could go and have a look at one and she made me an appointment to go and see one. And I’d never seen anything like it. It’s a boarding school and it’s got a big gym where they do gym for about 8 hours a day and in between that they have to do their education. And I went round the bedrooms and they had pictures, music, guitars, keyboards, and they’d got animals and they’d got a cat.
In Romania we went to the accommodation, we were stopping at a hostel where people could go in and out. Before we started this holiday we got a lot of leaflets about the Lord and about God and we had to fold them up in half and half again to give them out. I think we did about a thousand of them altogether. My poor hands were getting fed up with folding them up all day. So when we got to Romania we handed a lot of these leaflets out and we were meeting people who were hungry to know about God. It was absolutely amazing. They don’t just drop them on the floor like we do over here, they really do read them and take it home with them.
I spent a week in Hungary and going backwards and forwards to Romania, giving out the Bibles. I had to keep my eye on the people who were taking the Bibles because they were coming back for another one, so I had to say to Alan and Sylvia, “Don’t give him one because he has already got one.” I don’t know what they did with the second Bible, they probably gave it to somebody else in the family or they might sell it, who knows?
From there we went to Ukraine and this border was even worse than the other one. But we managed to get through with the Bibles. In Ukraine, we went to an orphanage where they keep all the babies. Now what you have to do when you get there, you can’t just walk in like you do over here, you have to buy stuff and you have to lay it all out on the table, so we did all that, the baby powder, baby food and nappy cream, we laid it all out on the table. They all came and had a look at it to see what it was. If they like it they will take it, and then we were allowed to see the babies.
Now when I saw the babies they were all wrapped up and I didn’t realise why until they told one of the carers to undo the wrapping and then do it up again. Now I asked one of the staff why they did that, and the reason why they did that was to stop the babies biting their fingers or thumbs or toes and they had to stay like that all day and all night. I don’t know how often they used to undo it but I thought how terrible it was for that little baby. And I asked, “How do they get here?” and they said well sometimes the mother will leave it outside the door and the staff will come to the door and just take the baby in.
Next day we went to a children’s home where the children were about five or maybe a bit younger and they could walk around if they wanted to but they had these cots and I can always remember one little boy who was there. He was in a cot and he was standing up. And I went over to him to say hello and he couldn’t understand what I was saying because I can’t speak Russian and he got hold of me and he wouldn’t let me go so I put my arm round him and made a fuss of him and he didn’t want me to go but Sylvia said you’ve got to go so I had to say goodbye to him.
The next day we went to another place where the children really are a lot older, I’d say about 9,10 and 11. And we brought them a lot of toys, a lot of balls so they could play football, bats so they could play cricket, all that sort of stuff. They were quite happy there – well, I think they look happy, whether they are or not I don’t know.
There were some difficult aspects about the journey. The toilets were very dirty, and at one point I had to use a washing up bowl because the holes in the ground toilets were not designed for disabled people! We stayed there for a whole week in Ukraine, and on the last day they brought me a present. It was a Russian doll, and when you undo one you get another one inside it and when you undo that one you get another one inside that one. I’ve still got it.
Back in England Alan told me that my life was going to be turned upside down. I don’t know if God told him that, and I didn’t understand what he meant but now I think I do. In the year 1999 I lost most of my sight and I became a wheelchair user, so that turned my life upside down. When I got back to London I was so glad and I thanked them so much for letting me go and they invited me to go the year after, and I decided not to go.
But you know what, if I knew I was I was going to end up in a wheelchair I would have gone, and now I wish I had done it again the year after. I certainly did enjoy the trip and I certainly did learn a lot. But my advice would be to take the opportunities you are offered because you don’t know, do you, what’s going to happen in the future.
Challenging Times: A Message from Tim, Our Chief Executive
These are challenging and uncertain times for everyone, especially those who are disabled and vulnerable, and so Through the Roof’s mission is as important now as it has ever been. The people that you and all of us at Through the Roof are serving are more adversely affected by having to isolate as they are cut off from family, friends and church.
At this time we all need to look to “God (who) is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) That is why we are currently exploring different methods, activities and tools that can achieve our vital mission in new ways. One example is our new Roofbreaker Facebook group to share ideas, and connect and encourage one another as we seek to reach out to disabled people in the community who are most affected by this coronavirus. Sign-up to join our 270 Roofbreakers to be a part of this.
Naturally, some of our planned activities featured in Vital Link are having to be postponed. We are still fully committed to going ahead with these, God willing, but we are delaying them for now and finding new dates with partners, host venues, leaders and team-members. Our office will continue to function, so please do contact us, although please be patient if you don’t hear from us immediately as most staff will be working remotely.
We will continue to be good stewards of the financial support you and our committed supporters entrust us with. Please do pray that God will multiply our efforts to continue to Enable Faith, Bring Freedom and Encourage Friendship.
Stay safe, keep looking to Jesus, and let us know if there is anything we can do to serve you or disabled people well at this time.
Thanks and Blessings
In Jesus’ Name
Guided by the Shepherd’s Rod (Ros' Blog)
I am unashamedly a word nerd. The only subjects I was any good at when I was at school were the ones that involved the meanings of words – English language and literature and foreign languages. I am fascinated by the meanings, the spellings, the origins and derivation of words, and by the connections between words in different languages. So when I read the New Testament, I often go back to the Greek and ask the question, “What did it actually say and mean in the original?”
I was recently involved in a discussion in which someone was promoting war on the grounds that Jesus is war-like because in Revelation it says that He will rule the nations with a rod of iron. How, I asked myself, can the Prince of Peace be war-like? It makes no sense, and it also doesn’t accord with the character of Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels.
So I went back to the Greek and looked up what those passages in Revelation actually say in the original language. It was a very enlightening study. What, you may ask, does all this have to do with disability and the work of Through the Roof? Bear with me, I’m coming to that.
Firstly I noted that there are three words commonly used in the New Testament to denote “rule”. One means to lord it over someone, one means to govern and one means to lead or guide. However, none of those words is used in relation to ruling the nations with a rod of iron. The word used is ποίμήν (poimen). This word actually means to pastor or shepherd, and derives from an origin that has to do with feeding cattle.
The first two references (Revelation 2.27 and 12.5) therefore actually state that He will pastor or shepherd the nations with an iron rod – a very different image from that of an iron-fisted ruler subjugating his enemies by force. The third reference (Revelation 19.15) is very interesting. It says that He will smite the nations with the sword of His mouth – a picture used elsewhere as a metaphor for the Word of God – but also that He will shepherd them with an iron rod. The image is of a shepherd who leads His flock to safety, occasionally whacking them back into line either verbally or with His rod when they stray from where they should be.
It struck me that if Jesus’ style of leadership, even in respect of those who disregard or reject His rule, is to shepherd them rather than to use violence to destroy them, how tender must His heart be towards those who love Him, and those who are vulnerable and in need of His protection.
In Isaiah 40 the prophet announces some good news, so important that he must go up to a high place and announce it. The news is that God is coming to rule with a strong hand and arm. And then in verse 11 it describes what this rule looks like: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”
What a comfort for those of us who find ourselves in need of His rule. Maybe someone reading this is experiencing hardship because of a society that discriminates against disabled people, or a welfare system that leaves their finances in chaos. Maybe someone reading it is struggling to trust God while a physical, sensory or mental condition makes life a daily struggle. I don’t know about you, but at such times I long for someone to come and bring some order into my life, some governance that can be relied on and makes sense of what I’m going through. Isaiah’s good news is that there is One whose strong arm will take the chaos of life and bring it into order.
Now think about what it means to have a God whose heart even towards His enemies is to shepherd them, and whose heart towards you is to carry you through the troubles of life, to feed you and pastor you. What a wonderful thought with which to begin a New Year. At a time when the nations rage and the peoples imagine a vain thing, when the kings and the rulers of the earth take counsel together and set themselves against God’s rule (Psalm 2. 1-2) God can laugh at them (Psalm 2. 4) because He knows that His ways are not their ways. His ways are to shepherd and guide and bring a reign of righteousness, and His ways towards us are to heal and to bind up (Psalm 147.3).
So here at Through the Roof we wish you every blessing for 2020, whatever it brings, and we pray that your experience of God’s rule in your life will be one of guiding, feeding, protecting and all the other things the Great Shepherd does to care for His sheep.
The Government Is On Whose Shoulder? (Ros' Blog)
It’s a time of political turmoil. Refugees are on the move. People are divided in their views on whether the current government is working for the good of the nation – many believe it’s just in hock to a foreign leader and doing his bidding. One thing everyone agrees on though, the people at the top just don’t care about the lives of the poorest, many of whom go hungry. Disabled people are hit hardest, many even having to beg on the streets.
No, I’m not talking about the 2019 General Election. I’m talking about the situation in 1st century Israel, the political atmosphere into which Jesus was born. Before he was many months old he too was a refugee, fleeing for his life to a neighbouring country, his parents hoping they would be able to find enough work to feed their family.
It wasn’t what those looking and waiting for the Messiah had been expecting. Yet why wasn’t it? It was completely in keeping with God’s modus operandi. He could be expected to bring a different kind of government.
When God wanted someone to bless Jacob and ensure that the spiritual effects of that blessing passed down through the generations, He chose an old man, too blind and confused to distinguish between his two sons. When he wanted someone who could speak powerfully to Pharaoh he didn’t choose a mighty orator but a man who was afraid to try and speak in public, whether because of anxiety or a speech impediment is not clear. When He wanted once and for all to destroy the evil Philistine god Dagon he chose a man who had been blinded by his enemies. When he wanted a warrior-leader to bring victory he chose the youngest son of the least family in the smallest of all the tribes – Gideon. When he wanted to appoint Israel’s greatest king of all time, He passed over all the gifted and strong older brothers and chose David, the lad who had been relegated to looking after the sheep out in the field.
God doesn’t see things the way we see them. He doesn’t see us the way we see ourselves. God sees through all the hype, all the pride and arrogance, but also through all the insecurity and self-deprecation. He sees the potential He has placed in each one of us. Those who were expecting the Messiah to be a mighty, wealthy ruler who would crush his opponents under his feet simply didn’t understand the ways of God.
They saw a child who had been born, a son who had been given. But God saw in Him the wonderful Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.
As you rejoice in His coming once again this Christmas season, I invite you to reflect on what God sees in you when he looks beyond the outward appearance, the self-doubt, the limitations of disability, and sees the potential He has placed in you. Who knows what adventure He will lead you on in 2020!
Faith Stories We All Need To Hear -- The Spring 2020 Vital Link
The Spring 2020 Vital Link Newsletter is now available for download. Inside this issue, we've stories from our recent Disability Inclusion events, the Churches Inc and Wheels for the World Tanzania trip, details of upcoming holidays, and much more.
- Follow this link to download the Spring 2020 Vital Link (including a wheelchair sponsor form) - right-click and select 'save' to save the file for later. It's a 1.5 MB PDF.
The Vital Link went to press about a month ago, and since then, we've had to change several of our immediate plans. The Bristol Disability Inclusion in our Churches event was due to take place on Saturday 21st March, and has now been postponed. We're also postponing the Easter Retreat (due to run from the 6th to 10th April). We'll be rescheduling these events as soon as possible. At the moment, we are planning for our summer holidays to go ahead, but as the situation develops we'll let you know as we know more.
We've had to postpone the Maputo, Mozambique Wheels for the World distribution, and the Rwanda (new dates TBC) and India (new dates: 22nd Sept to 2nd Oct) Churches Inc trips. Please pray for all the people these trips would have reached--we'll let you know as soon as we have new dates set. Other Wheels and Churches Inc trips are currently going ahead as originally planned, but we'll be paying careful attention to Government advice, and letting you know if anything changes.
You can click on the cover image below to read the Vital Link online using Joomag - you can zoom in and swap between pages much more easily that by just using a PDF reader.
We know this is a worrying time for everyone, and here at Through the Roof, we're doing everything we can to look after the safety and health of the people we support, our staff, and our volunteers. Following government advice and all of the recent developments with the Coronavirus, we'll be altering plans for the next few months, and switching to mostly working remotely.
If you'd like to get hold of us, we'll still be monitoring our phone line -- 01372 449955, and we'll answer messages as often as possible. You can also email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or message us on Facebook.
The wheelchair warehouse will be closed until further notice, so unfortunately we won't be able to accept any wheelchairs and mobility aids for now.
We're currently postponing any events and holidays happening within the next few months. We'll update you as soon as new dates have been agreed.
Please bear with us as we adjust to a new way of working, and do get in touch on email@example.com to find out more, or just to keep in contact!