Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What Would God do for Down Syndrome Awareness?

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life[b] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?"
Mark 8:34-37 NIV

This is the time of year families like mine gear up for advocacy. Down syndrome awareness walks are planned. Articles are written. Other special events are held during this month to celebrate, educate, and raise awareness for Down syndrome. 

In all of this advocating, I have to stop for a moment and reflect on what I'm doing in the context of my Christianity. It leads me to wonder: What would God do for Down syndrome awareness?

Before that question is answered, there needs to be clarity on a similar subject. Does God care about people with Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is not mentioned specifically in the Bible. It wasn't officially labeled until well after the Bible was written. There are other scriptures that discuss the mute, deaf, lame, orphans, and widows — all people who need provision and mercy from God and other believers. God cares about people who, through no fault of their own, may not be able to provide for themselves. But, there are other facts about God that show He would care about people with Down syndrome.

God loves people. He created them after all! He also desires for all people to choose to follow Him, so they can have their home in Heaven. If Heaven and being with God is the end goal, then it's important for each and every person's soul to be saved. That includes people with Down syndrome.

People with Down syndrome, like anyone else, need to develop a relationship with God. I think that's the part that God would want to focus on for Down syndrome awareness month, because there are certainly barriers for people with Down syndrome (and other developmental disabilities) for growing in their relationship with God. Some of these barriers may be:

-Transportation: Not everyone with Down syndrome can drive. How can they know God if they can't attend church? If church attendance isn't an option, how can we come to them?

-Access: Some churches are modern and accessible, but some were built long ago with no thought to people with disabilities needing to enter inside. Is the church building accessible for those who may find steps difficult? What changes need to be made so that anyone with a disability could easily attend church?

-Lack of Accommodations: Perhaps, some people with Down syndrome are too old for Children's Church but not cognitively able to process information given to adults from the pulpit. How does the church make accommodations for people like this? Who is making sure people with Down syndrome feel like they belong in the church and with God?

-Materials that are too Hard: While there are some with Down syndrome who may be able to listen to sermons or read their Bible, there may be some who cannot. Does the church have materials or easier literature that can develop a person's understanding of the Bible in some capacity? Is music an avenue that has been encouraged? How are these things made available in the church?

-Prejudice: You may think that people with Down syndrome would be more accepted in the church, but sometimes that is not the case. Do church members view people with Down syndrome as a prayer project only (someone who needs healing)? Are church members engaging those with Down syndrome, encouraging peers to build positive relationships with them, and praying with them as they request?

Yes, I do believe God could come down to Earth and find many ways to advocate for those with Down syndrome. God's home is not on the Earth, but ours is. We need to make sure we are helping all souls come to know God! I believe that would be God's goal for Down syndrome awareness month.

Let's pray:

Your love is amazing! I know you love my child with Down syndrome more than I can comprehend. I also know you desire for her to know you more intimately. Lord, I pray that you use me to advocate for people with Down syndrome in a way that they can know you better. Give me ideas, insight, and wisdom to make you real to those with Down syndrome. Help me to help my church serve those with Down syndrome better too. Let us all see the potential that You see, so their souls can be saved and protected. Amen!

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