Why does it have to be just one night?
Back in February, we met John Grothjan, the Community Services Director at Area Residential Care (ARC) in Dubuque. John had invited us to visit ARC to learn more about what they do & how they serve the people in our community with special needs. Their mission is “Empowering people with intellectual disabilities to achieve their highest quality of life” & they’ve been doing that for 50 years right here in Dubuque. Toward the end of our time together, John innocently mentioned that the church where he used to live had hosted Night to Shine.
I remember standing in the parking lot at ARC with Ron & Ruth Graper, who lead our SHINE ministry, & thinking we should do this, but wondering if we could pull it off. There were so many questions! Who would help us? Do we even have enough space? How could we do it – we don’t know anything about it? We decided to apply to the Tim Tebow Foundation to see what happened. In June, they accepted Hope Church as a host church for Dubuque – and then the real worrying began! Now we had to pull it off somehow. Now, here we are a few months later with 300 people volunteering to help out & help form ARC, Hills & Dales & Goodwill to make it happen. God is good!
Since all this started, I’ve been on a learning journey that continues today. The more I learn, the more I see that we fall short of including people with disabilities. I don’t have all the answers, but how can we move beyond a one-night event to better include people with disabilities at Hope Church? We’re starting to take some baby-steps & I’m continuing to question my own understanding & attitude toward people with disabilities.
Did you know that 1 in 5 households in our community includes someone with a disability & people with disabilities are:
2 times more likely to be unemployed & 4 times more likely to be underemployed
More likely to be victims of crimes including crimes directed at them because of their disability
More likely to live below the poverty line, in part because of medical costs
Less likely to attend church partly because they don’t feel welcome
We need to change our attitudes about people with disabilities or these statistics will never change. That change starts with you & me – each of us individually. Where does your attitude fall on the chart below? What stage are you in? What does it look like to move from Ignorance & Pity to Friendship & Co-Laborer? I’m wrestling with those questions personally & I hope you will too.