I have a dear friend who has been kind enough to share her son with me. JP has multiple disabilities stemming from a congenital disorder. He doesn’t read or write or communicate with fluid language but he is loving and loved and when we pray, it is more than obvious that his spirit engages with mine as well as God’s. He reminds us that our relationship with God has far less to do with getting our theology right than we might want to think and everything to do with opening our hearts to the Spirit of God.
Recently, JP moved to a home nearby where he is cared for together with others who have various disabilities. His mom and I decided that it would be really fun to “have church” with these precious ones. So we, along with our husbands and friends, decided to do just that. And despite the fact that we are a group of untrained, ill equipped and musically challenged nobodies, we set out to obey the Great Commission in a most unconventional mission field.
The room was filled with wheelchairs. Many had hearing aids, at least one was blind, many were nonverbal and all of them had multiple disabilities. JP’s mom Lisa passed around bells and rhythm instruments and started singing Jesus Loves Me. We followed along. Then, when we were sort of stuck for material, Lisa asked our congregants what they wanted to sing. “Jingle Bells!!” was the exuberant response. We looked at each other then said, “Ok!” We sang Jingle Bells and the Alphabet Song and I know God smiled at out joyful noise!
Ryan and I made a point to speak and pray with each one of our new friends. Many of them could not speak and tell us their names but we could find their names written on their clothes or wheelchairs. We noticed that even our most severely impaired friends responded positively when we spoke to them by name. So that became our message. “Jesus knows your name,” we told them, “He has it written on the palms of His hands.” It is easy to love them because their hearts are so receptive. More than once we choked back tears, not because we were sad, but because sometimes the love of Jesus is overwhelming. It’s overwhelming at times to experience His compassion and mercy and love for people, knowing fully that He feels the same for us.
When we left, one of our friends asked if we’d be back and we assured him that we would. Then he asked, “Will you miss me?”
Yes, Carlos. More than you know.