“I Felt Like I Was Excluded from Church Due to My Autism” - A New Luke 5 Award
Our most recent Luke 5 Award for Christian Disability Inclusion goes to Rev Julie Lomas and her husband Steve Lomas at St Giles’ Church in Kilmington, Devon. They have been nominated for this award by Elana Blackmore who explains how the couple have transformed her experience of inclusion at church.
Previously, Elana said, “I felt like I was excluded from church due to my autism”. When she was younger, Elana says “I was looked at and told to shh. I couldn't help it. The pews in Church made me uncomfortable. I struggled to sit still… I struggled with the lighting too. I felt like I wasn't understood. I became a Christian and found out that people with disabilities are often marginalised.”
What has changed for Elana? The heart of inclusion of her new vicar, Rev Julie Lomas and her husband Steve. Elana says, “I am truly blessed for what they have done for me to help me feel included in Church.” This inclusion has had a real impact on Elana’s faith and is the reason that Elana felt this should be recognised by a Luke 5 Award.
In her nomination for the Award, Elana says: “Steve and Julie have incredible hearts; they are putting effort into helping me flourish in my calling as a leader; they are letting me do more in the Church; they see God has called me to help people with additional needs like myself. I feel very blessed because they see past my barrier with autism and help me feel included.”
Thank you Julie and Steve for the amazing difference you have made. We hope this will inspire others to have that same heart of inclusion which can be truly life-changing.
Have you experienced Christian disability inclusion? Let’s celebrate it through a Luke 5 Award. Follow this link for the nomination form, or contact the TTR office.
Blog 3: Wheels in Kumi, Uganda 2022
We've got a great team working hard in Kumi Uganda from the 10th to 20th Feb. We'll bring you their life-changing stories and pictures just as often as the internet connection allows. Here's Sam's report from day 3 -- pictures to follow soon.
Following what we had learned on Day 2, Day 3 began with organising a seating system in the waiting area, this made it far easier to keep track of where in the process the clients were: Registered, seen by therapists, fitted for wheelchairs and seen by the pastor. This made the whole system much smoother for the workers and seemed to keep the clients happier as they could see how soon they should be seen.
Throughout the day we met some lovely people, including one returning customer! Paul, a 15 year old who was born with cerebral palsy, had received a wheelchair from WftW a few years ago which sadly broke last year. Since then, his friends have carried him around and he has lost some of his freedom. It was lovely to see how bright Paul was, with amazing English, clearly the ability to transport himself to school with his wheelchair has given him an excellent education. We hope that this wheelchair will allow him to return to that freedom and transport himself to school once more.
Mary, a 70 year old woman rented her clothes to people in her village so that she could pay for the transportation to the distribution. Her children used to carry her and bring her water from the bore hole, however 8 years ago they had to move away to find work. This left Mary only able to crawl to retrieve water, carrying it back upon her back. Mary believes that it was witchcraft that left her unable to walk. It is a common belief that people are disabled because they have been cursed. Our pastor explained God’s love for Mary as he prayed for her and she left content and with a Bible.
It was excellent to see the community event this distribution has become, as we see everyone helping each other on and off trucks, assisting with the folding of wheelchairs. As groups from the neighbouring villages meet, it is not just staff doing the work but everyone lending a hand!
Today we saw 36 clients, 22 of whom took wheelchairs away with them and four people gave their lives to Jesus. While this is fewer than the previous day, the quality of service we were able to provide had increased massively, with every client leaving with a beaming smile.
- Follow this link to the first entry from the Uganda 2022 trip
- Follow this link to the next entry from the Uganda 2022 trip
Blog 2: Wheels in Kumi, Uganda 2022
We've got a great team working hard in Kumi Uganda from the 10th to 20th Feb. We'll bring you their life-changing stories and pictures just as often as the internet connection allows. Here's Sam's report from day 2 -- pictures to follow soon.
Day 2 began appearing more organised than the Saturday, with a more reasonable number of clients waiting to be seen under tent. The pastors, Davis and Simon, held their introduction which always seems to raise the mood amongst workers and clients alike. The staff assumed their positions and we began accepting the clients through the system once more.
The beginning of the work always seems the most stressful. With clients eager to be seen many shuffled closer to the registration desk, this proved to be more of a problem than on Saturday, without Paul’s organisational skills Lynne and Ellie Williams had no means of knowing which clients to prioritise and the system fell to a small frenzy.
In spite of this the workers kept their heads down and worked their way through everyone who passed through registration, meeting so many amazing people: Esther, an 8 year old girl, who can only move herself by crawling with flip flops on her hands, Esther’s mother carries her 2km every day, just to get her to school. Esther is the youngest of 7 leaving her mother very little time to transport her, this was Esther’s first wheelchair, and it was amazing seeing how intuitive she was, immediately utilising the self-propelled wheelchair. It was hear-warming seeing her finally have that freedom.
Ivan immediately caught our attention when he came in, such a happy boy with a clearly loving father who told me Ivan’s story. Ivan suffers from spastic movements and is unable to feed himself or crawl anymore than a short distance, Ivan used to be carried to school by his father but he is now too big. He has 5 brothers and 2 older sisters who look after him and he looks up to. Ivan’s sisters go to school, and he is eager to join them, so much so that he borrows their uniform so that he can be as smart as them. This wheelchair will allow him to be taken to school by his sisters.
However hard it was to send the non-registered visitors home, it was good to see they at least were served posho and beans and did not go home with empty stomachs. The fact that there were fewer clients today allowed more time to sit and learn their stories, it was distressing to hear of the hardship these people have, but it made the work we are doing even more emotionally rewarding.
We finished the day with high morale having seen 58 clients and 8 of them giving their lives to Jesus, making a total of 13 people over the two days. As we ended the team cleared and cleaned the site before returning to our accommodation.
- Follow this link to the first entry from the Uganda 2022 trip
- Follow this link to the next entry from the Uganda 2022 trip
Blog 1: Wheels in Kumi, Uganda 2022
We've got a great team working hard in Kumi Uganda from the 10th to 20th Feb. We'll bring you their life-changing stories and pictures just as often as the internet connection allows. Here's Sam's report from day 1.
There was great excitement for Day One of the distribution. The team began really early to get things set up ready for the day ahead. Many clients had gathered already, sitting under the shade of the trees. We made our introduction to the people and shared together gathered, team and clients, a time of worship. We were happy to be joined in the team by Simon, the Kumi hospital chaplain, who led the worship. After some singing and dancing and a reading we were ready to start.
This distribution is different from previous ones as with only four people in the WftW team; the partner, the Kumi Community Foundation (KCF), is covering the other roles with workers who have assisted us in past distributions and now are taking more leading roles.
Whilst the techies and therapists prepared the equipment, Lynne Williams and Ellie began registering the clients to identify the requirements of each. Once registered, they were given a ticket number corresponding to their form, allowing them to be easily identified and followed through the process. The therapists would call up a recipient one at a time to evaluate their needs and to identify what modifications would be necessary with the techies carrying out the changes.
Sadly, the distribution day was over-subscribed as people had heard of our work and had come with hopes of getting a chair. Elspeth, leading the KCF team, had the very tough task of asking the surplus of clients to go home and return later in the week. We were expecting 25-30 clients. In excess of 100 arrived and we worked really hard in the day into darkness to provided equipment to 58 people!
‘Break tea’ as it is known locally, was held at 12:00. It was intended to be earlier, we had lost track off time! This was a much needed sit down and a chance for the workers to discuss what they think was going well and what we should change for the remainder of the sessions.
After receiving a wheelchair or walking aid everyone was offered prayer with the pastors. We heard lovely stories such as that of Sarah, a walking stick recipient, who works in the local hospital and spoke of how she can share the Word of God to her patients.
A wheelchair recipient who stood out was Christine, a lovely blind girl with cerebral palsy. Her mother, Elizabeth, spoke about how she cannot eat or even sit by herself before she received the wheelchair. Now Christine can sit supported, giving her mother more freedom to help her daughter in other ways.
Another man, Patrick, who was paralysed following an attack by a bull, was issued with a reclining wheelchair and was moved to tears with the gift, quite something for a Ugandan man.
Lunch was at 16:00, deliberately late as the team were trying to focus on seeing the people who had come and already had waited so long. Anna and the girls had prepared us many dishes: beef, rice, diced cabbage, avocado and potatoes! This fuelled the workers perfectly for the rest of the day and we were on the home straight from there working to nightfall to see the last person who had patiently waited.
Although tired, we were emotionally rewarded by the day. Not one person in the team complaining of the long day or showing any less commitment to doing their best from the first to last person. In this we hope to demonstrate the love we have for these people with disabilities reflecting the love of God for them all.
'Disabled People Judged as Not Worth Listening To'
Becky, a 19-year-old with severe disabilities received a standing ovation for her preach to thousands of people at Greenbelt Festival. Yet often her experience is not so positive. Becky says, “Too often disabled people, particularly those with severe disabilities, are judged as not having an opinion that is worth listening to.”
Becky was part of a conversation between three young adults which is available to view on this video hosted by Christian disability charity Through the Roof: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or7CZjRIsfU&t=39s. They explored what the Bible says about the inclusion of disabled people and why they still find that this often doesn’t happen.
Fiona, Hannah and Becky are three young adults who have such a lot to give and a powerful message to share. All three experience disability and all know the challenges of not feeling included in Christian life. Becky may not be able to speak but, by using eye movements to activate eye-gaze technology she was able to preach at Greenbelt – to great effect.
Hannah urges churches to follow Christ’s calling. She says, “That’s what I want to see in churches. It’s for them to be what the Bible is telling us to be – to be counter-cultural and including disabled people and paving the way for the rest of society to see that this is a good thing to do.” A powerful message indeed.
Those who have seen the video certainly believe that disabled people are worth listening to, with one viewer commenting: “The interview has certainly challenged me to think about my understanding of the challenges faced by those with additional needs”.
Through the Roof makes it possible for churches and ministries to be able to respond to this message - providing free support and resources through its Roofbreaker project to enable Christian disability inclusion. As Becky says, “I would love to see a Roofbreaking champion in every church.” Follow this link to find out how we can support and resource your church.
'Disabled Identity and Interdependence' Online Event with Sally Whitney-Mitchell
Join us for our next free online event...
'Disabled Identity and Interdependence'
with Sally Whitney-Mitchell
on Saturday 12th February 10.30am - 12.00
Sally is a community academic researcher in the field of disability studies, with a particular interest in the lives of young disabled people as well as assistance animals - as she has a canine partner, Ethan, herself.
Sally is passionate about inclusion for all in the church and tries to promote disabled people playing an active part of church life, not just being ministered to but providing ministry themselves.
Please come along and invite others too. Open to everyone!