Special Olympics is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary and June 21st, 2018 will be the “Global Day of Inclusion”. Through the power of sports – people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities,skills and success.The power and joy of sport, shifts focus to what the athletes CAN do, not what they can’t. Attention to disabilities fades away.
“When a society misunderstands and underestimates the capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities, opportunities are lost. Jobs that might be done go undone. chances for friendships that might be sparked pass by. And respect that might be won is lost.” (quote from Special Olympics website)
The Special Olympics organization understands the odds their athletes must overcome and the barriers they face everyday. They have done much to fight negative stereotypes and misconceptions by raising awareness and providing educational experiences. They have also been focusing on Unified Teams – which gets people with and without ID to play on team sports.
Oddly enough many churches do not include people with intellectual disabilities in their services and programs. There may be limited access and accommodations to even attend the church building. People fear “odd” behavior and may not feel comfortable around those who don’t fit in with the “norm”. But through telling a parable, Jesus taught that is incorrect thinking.
…Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.’” Luke 14:21-24 (NLT)
There is plenty of room in God’s house for ALL and they are welcome. Our family has participated in Special Olympics for over 20 years. Our 30 yr.old son Jeremy has cerebral palsy and participates in three seasons of sport and my husband is a coach. But we have learned about God’s unconditional love for us and for all people through an organization called “Joni and Friends”. They have educational programs for churches and family retreats for families affected by disability.
At Family Retreat, there is no can’t. WE sing, worship, do activities – boating, crafts, dancing, even rock-wall climbing – with people of all abilities. Volunteers go out of their way to make a way for all to participate.
This is where I have witnessed unconditional love and acceptance. People who love God and see others through His eyes are truly blessed. Does it make the circumstances of life easier or go away? No. We encourage, support and pray for each other. There is a true JOY that fills the heart.
As THE CHURCH – we need to choose to include!