“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Saving people in groups

I have talked elsewhere about the John 9 story of Jesus healing the blindman (see April 26, 2004 blog entry for one). However, I was touched recently by a passage further on in chapter 9. The blind man who was healed was being questioned by the church leaders.

24A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory to God,[b]" they said. "We know this man is a sinner."
25He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"

This is really powerful to me. The blind man apparently did not know who Jesus was, but he is ready to come to his defense. Not because he had come to faith, or because he was convinced by some spiritual argument, but because he was blind and now could see. It strikes me that we as the church have missed a lot of such opportunities in the lives of disabled people. Not that they will necessarily be healed, but that we can be loving and caring to them. I can hear the following conversation...

"You know those Christians are judgemental and intolerant. They are
religious zealots and dangerous. They believe in a nonexistent god."
He replied, "Whether they are what you say or not, I don't know. One
thing I do know is that I was alone and now I have friends. I was excluded
and now I am included. No one loved me and now people love me."

That is the type of opportunity we are missing. Like my posting in 2004, the Glory of God is seen in what we do. "I don't know who their God is, but I am willing to find out because of what they have done for me."

Later, Jesus finds the man. Look at his response to Jesus.

35Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do
you believe in the Son of Man?"
36"Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him."
37Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you."
38Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.

I have known people with disabilities who have been accepted instead of being rejected. They have actually responded something to the effect, "Who is he so that I may believe in him?" That is the power of what we do when we reach out to rejected people. We help them to see the Glory of God in the way they are loved and accepted.

One other thing I note about this story is some of the things mentioned about the parents. It doesn't say that the blind man was begging. It just says that Jesus saw a blind man. Jesus says that the parents' sin was not the reason for the man's blindness. The parents tell the leaders,
"Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews.
I find these three facts/quotations interesting. At least according to this account, the man must have been cared for somehow if he wasn't begging. Perhaps it was his parents. They were not the reason for his blindness due to sin, perhaps in the form of lack of attending to him as a boy, or abuse, or something else they may have done. Also, they say that he can speak for himself. Actually, he speaks very well for himself. I suspect this blind man when he was a blind boy was well cared for and taught well to be able to interact with the church leaders in the way he did. I also note, however, he knows what a prophet is (thats what he says Jesus is), and his response to the church leaders is very telling about his upbringing.

27He answered, "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you
want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?"
28Then they hurled insults at him and said, "You are this fellow's
disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29We know that God spoke to Moses, but as
for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from."
30The man answered, "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."
The church leaders didn't believe he had been born blind so apparently for whatever reason he was not really known to them. But he knows how to exactly hit their buttons by asking if they want to be his disciple and by the statements he makes about who God is. His confidence as a blind man must be from his upbringing. The limited knowlege he has about God must have come from his family. When confronted about their son, the parents are scared, however, it appears they did a pretty good job in taking care of their disabled son. He is cared for, intelligent, and self-confident.

Additionally, he was waiting, on some level, to be told who the Son of Man is so that he might believe in him. First, someone needed to get his attention by addressing the thing that had separated him from the rest of the community, his disability. Jesus heals him, but we can at the least, accept people and refuse to make disability their defining characteristic. We can love and accept people. One other thing, what do you want to bet that as a result of Jesus' intervention into the man's life that his parents who appeared to care for him also became his followers. That is something that we must remember. It could be that when you love and accept people with disabilities, people get saved in groups, as families who are desperate for acceptance for their children and themselves.

PS Happy Birthday Kathi!!


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Teaching with pictures

In the movie Amistad, the story is told of how the African slave receives a Bible, and through studying the pictures learns the basics of the story of the life of Jesus (pictures from Hollywood Jesus website). Although there was a language barrier and a cultural barrier, the message could be shared via pictures.

I suspect this is perhaps one reason for pictures being placed in Bibles...they assist the reader to visualize the subjects of the text.

But what if you couldn't read at all? How might you be able to study the Bible? It occurs to me that the use of good pictures might be very helpful. Carefully selected pictures, be they photographs, or paintings could be taught as Christian study tools for people with learning disabilities to cognitive disabilities. Those who can't read, or perhaps can't even understand Bible passages being read, might be taught to study pictures.

Should a teacher choose to use such a strategy to teach Biblical content, it strikes me that there are several important points to consider. First, the picture will be THE Bible to the person studying the picture. If the picture is not Biblically as accurate as possible, people will misunderstand in the same manner as people would misunderstand if they read a poor translation of a passage. Biblical correctness must be ensured as much as is possible. Second, the picture should be detailed to teach subtleties of a particular part of the Bible. Henri Nouwen authored Return of the Prodigal Son, which is basically about what he learned from studying Rembrandt's painting, Return of the Prodigal Son. It is fascinating the depth of meaning he learned just from studying the painting. Third, the picture should be appropriate for the age of the individual using the picture as a Biblical study aide. We should avoid cartoons, or unrealstic representations because the unrealistic nature of the pictures will communicate that the story is perhaps unreal. Persons with cognitive disabilities are very much realists and therefore must be confronted with realistic images. They can be very sensitive to the age inappropriateness of materials used with them instructionally. Fourth, an engaging picture will bring in those in the enviornment to assist the person understand the meaning within the picture. If I am studying a cartoon while sitting at Starbucks drinking my coffee, people will think me juvenile. However, if I am studying a famous painting, people will be engaged by my interest, perhaps ask questions, or perhaps provide interpretations which might help me in my understanding, my study of theological concepts via the picture. Fifth, in the same way we help people to pray through scripture, we can help people to pray through the pictures, so again using the example of the Prodigal son, we pray to be forgiving like the father or we pray to be humble, or asking for forgiveness like the son. People's memory's are prompted with such pictures. Sixth, is the potential universal design benefits of the pictures. It is often the case that accommodations made for people with disabilities don't just benefit them. An example is curb cuts for wheelchairs. Curb cuts are also great for bicycles, or people who just have trouble stepping down from the height of a curb. Designed for wheelchairs, they benefit others. Teaching students to study pictures has the potential of benefitting everyone's understanding of the Bible in the way that it assisted a priest and scholar such as Henri Nouwen. (Return of the Prodigal Son picture from 123 posters.com).

I have actually used Return of the Prodigal Son with adults with cognitive disabilities with some success. I used the picture and taught them the story. I would then ask questions about what they learned using the picture as a prompt. People in the class would view the pictures and be able to relate various points I was attempting to communicate.

So I am hoping to see curriculum developed (not necessarily by me) that uses these and other principles to teach spiritual truth to those who would perhaps like to study to some degree, but are unable to do so because of their inability to read or listen to Scripture. Well chosen, carefully chosen, pictures chosen with consultation from someone like a church pastor to ensure they properly represent the passage being taught could prove very useful in teaching persons with cognitive disabilities.


Monday, September 24, 2007

"I don't pass to girls"

When my daughter was younger, she played basketball, and me being a father who wanted her to play and enjoyed her playing, would often coach her teams. I remember when she was maybe 9, I was coaching her team at the YMCA. It was the first game of the league. Amy was the only girl on the team. I remember that at the start of the game, she would often be open, waving her hands, but the boy playing guard on the team would not throw the ball to her. This happened several times, Amy open, but no pass. I finally called a time out, and brought the team over. I asked the little guy playing guard,

"Did you see that Amy was open under the basket?"
He said, "Yeah."
I asked, "Then why didn't you throw the ball to her?"
He replied very matter-of-factly, "I don't pass to girls."
"You don't pass to girls?"
"No, I don't pass to girls."
I responded, "Well we have a place for players who don't pass to girls.
It's called the bench."

Shortly after that interaction, probably before the end of the first half, he went back in the game and started to pass to the one girl on our team.

I believe there is a lesson here for us. In the game of YMCA basketball, you can pass to girls, or you can sit on the bench.

Fast forward 10 years. I had a conversation with a pastor who related that some of the people in leadership in the church, particularly people in leadership of small Bible study groups felt uncomfortable with people in their Bible study groups who were disabled, or didn't have perfect social skills. He wondered what he should do? I think the question was perhaps related to how he might limit the numbers of disabled people in a group, or change disabled person involvement in such a way that the leader didn't feel so uncomfortable. My response was that basically if you are a leader who can't handle disabled people, you probably shouldn't be a leader. You don't pass to girls, you get benched from the basketball game. You don't accept people with disabilities, you are disqualified from the leadership, you are benched.

Here is a further example.

OK, pick an ethnic/racial group, any ethnic/racial group. Imagine your leader coming to you and saying, "I don't like people from this particular ethnic/racial group in my Bible study." Your response would be:

a. "Yeah, I don't like those kinds of people either"
b. "You are benched"

Sure we could add another potential answer, like, we will provide you training before we put you in a position of leadership, or help you to get to know people, or whatever. That could be another option. But basically, the only responses are "a" or "b."

You might say, "But it is different if the people are disabled." I might even agree somewhat. There is no reason for people with profound mental retardation to be in the Bible study group. But anyone who has the potential to understand even minimal levels of the content should be there. Anyone who would benefit from the social aspects of the interactions could be there as well. But social skill deficits are not a reason for excluding involvement. Particularly if they are minor.

Unfortunately, the Christian church's response has too often been "a." Look at the involvement of people with disabilities in churches, look at the involvement of people with disabilities in Chrisitan schools, look at the lack of information shared about disability on Christian colleges, in departments of Christian ministry, in seminaries, look at the lack of sermons on disability that have been shared from the pulpit, look at the number of ministries to persons with disabilties at churches.

Matthew 23:23 says, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."

"Yeah, I don't like those kinds of people either"
Apparently, that is a statement some church leaders would attribute to Jesus Christ...

I think he would tell the leaders,

"Well, we have a place for leaders like you. It's called the bench."


Friday, September 21, 2007

Being shrewd

The pastor of my church, Dr. Gary Inrig, gave a very interesting sermon last week about being shrewd (based upon Luke Chapter 16). I must admit that it was probably the first one I have ever heard on the topic, but it is something that more people should think about. One thing I have noted about Jesus himself is that he was shrewd in that he was never predictable. Just when someone thought they had him, he would come up with an answer or response that would totally surprise them. But he was not just clever in his answers, he was also shrewd.

We occasionally see Christians being shrewd. I remember when there was to be a huge Promise Keepers meeting in Washington D.C. one of the organizers was asked by an interviewer why Christian men should be trusted by women, be they Christian or not. His response was something to the effect, "You shouldn't trust us." The interviewers were surprised. "You should test what we say by what we do, by our actions." They were expecting some self righteous justification, he agreed with them and as a result, he scored points with them and the audience listening.

As I listened to the sermon, though, I must admit I got caught up in verse 15 of the passage. It says,

You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows
your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.

Its true. We justify ourselves in the eyes of people, we look to the community for our approval too often, and at the very least, we look to the community for the methods we use in churches. There are too many business principles being applied to churches for my liking. Church growth can be come a formula. Finance campaigns can be slick. People are judged and valued on the basis of what they can contribute to the church. Jesus says that what is valued among men is detestable in God's sight.

So I should step back and look at my church to see the things that are valued by men as they might actually be detestable things. I might also reverse the proposition and step back and look at the things which we think are "detestable" or at least less desirable, or problem causing, or whatever our negative feelings are, and ask whether they might be something that God delights in.

Is the exclusion of people with minor social skill deficits (or major ones for that matter) something that is valued by men? Is is something that people typically do? Do churches, and pastors, and adults, and teens, and children reject people on the basis of social skills? Is this accepted practice in the church setting? It is definately accepted practice in the world of business or women's groups, or colleges, or high schools, or junior high schools, or elementary schools, or any other group. Social skills are definately something that is highly valued by people in the world.

But I want to be shrewd, by God's standards.

You know I have related this before in this blog, but I often wonder why I see the things that I do relative to people with disabilities and the church. I am not the sharpest tool in the shed as the saying goes, and I also guarantee you that I am not a particularly shrewd person. I amaze myself quite often with how clueless I often am. But I feel like I am an investor in the 1970's who has heard about this thing called Microsoft (I might have my years wrong, but stick with me). So I see this amazing opportunity. In this case it is not an opportunity to make money. It is an amazing opportunity to correct the course of a Christian church which has not been going in the right direction. It has been "off course" in many ways. I see this opportunity to be obedient to God in ways that the Church percieves as entirely new ways. I see this opportunity to really learn what love means through loving people who some consider difficult to love. I see this opportunity to serve people who haven't been served, and provide wonderful opportunities for service.

If you are shrewd perhaps you will see it too.



Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Making their cry my own

Jean Vanier makes the following comment in his book, Community & Growth: Our Pilgrimage Together :

Often a community stops crying out to God when it has itself stopped
hearing the cry of the poor, when it has become well satisfied and found a way
of life which is not too insecure. It is when we are aware of the distress
and misery of our people and of their oppression and suffering, when we see them
starving and sense our own inability to do anything about it that we will cry
loudly to God: "Lord, you cannot turn a deaf ear to the cry of your people;
listen then to our prayer." When the community makes a convenant with poor
people, their cry becomes its own. (1979, Paulist Press, p. 124)

Obviously all people have problems of a greater or lesser degree. I find, however, that the problems of persons with disabilities are at times very difficult to solve. They can be difficult to solve for me personally, because to solve their problems implies a time committment on my part. I have to change my priorities to include them when I would rather take my ease, watch tv, or read a book. But I don't think I am called to take my ease as much as I would like when my brother or sister is in need. It truly is not about me. At least it is not about me, or should NOT be all about me, if I am a Christian.

But another aspect of this is that when I see human need, I also seen the insolvable nature of human need. Don't believe what the politicians or anyone else tells you...we will not be able to solve the problems of a fallen world because it is well, fallen. Sure I can help and I can lessen the pain of those around me by God's grace, however, I have come to believe that one of the reasons that there are people in need in the world is so that we will cry out to God. That we will seek God's wisdom, God's help for seemingly unsolvable problems. In my own little perfect life, with a good marriage, good children, good job, good income, good place to live and so on, I may loose the desperation of my need for God. I have become intoxicated by my blessings, and rather than look to the source of my blessings, or look to see if others have blessings or need blessings, I go home and watch the football game on tv. But bringing myself into contact with those in need, those who are alone, those who may even be suffering, reconnects me to my helplessness without God in this world.

This is yet another reason why the church needs people with disabilities. They have challenges in their lives and the lives of their families which can only be addressed by a cry out to God. We truly do "sense our own inability to do anything about it that we will cry loudly to God" if we are aware at all. We are brought to a point where we sit without the answers, in deep distress, calling out together to God. I think that is a place God wants to take me, to take us. He wants to challenge our securities with insecurities so that we will be forced to rely on Him rather than our own resources. He wants us to step back and look at our resources, be they emotional, intellectual or monetary and physical, and be a part of the solution for others.

When I am in an uncomfortable situation with a person with a disability because I don't have the answers, or can't communicate clearly, or am reduced to simply praying because I don't know what to do, I inwardly smile a bit as I recognize God is challenging me to cry out to him on behalf of this person. God is wanting to grow MY faith and the faith of the person I am attempting to support. Once again God has connected me to a hurting person and given me the honor to share in that person's frustrations.

But remember, the solution is not to reject those who make us feel uncomfortable. The solution is to get in there with them and share their experience, share their struggles, and perhaps make others uncomfortable through our allignmentment with a disenfranchised person. The typical response is to reject, to exclude because involvement requires change on my part or the part of the institutions I am a part of. The answer, however, is to work through the uncomfortable feelings, to reflect on them and understand them and to change with them as appropriate.



Monday, September 10, 2007

Child find

Perhaps the most pivotal law in special education in the United States, is PL 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. There are several important precedents that were set by the legislation, however, in order to serve the children with disabilities, they first needed to be found. One critical component of the law, therefore, was called "child find." I can remember posters that were placed around the community that said something to the effect, "Do you know a child with a disability who would benefit from a public school education. Please refer them to ..." and so on. So as the government got into the business of providing special education services it had to first find the children to be served.

Fast forward 30+ years. The church should be in the "child find" business when it comes to children with disabilities. There should be signs around our communities saying something to the effect, "Do you know of a child with a disability, or of a family with a child with a disability would enjoy worshipping at a Christian church? Come to --- church where you will be welcomed and embraced. We want you and your family member with a disability to feel welcomed, and loved. You have a church home!" How about that for child find? Better yet, lets just call it person find... "Do you know a person with a disability looking for a church home?" I plan to approach people at my church for permission to put such signs in my community.

You see, there are churches with disabled members. Some have become disabled during their tenure attending a particular church. Some people with disabilities will arrive at a church, and the church hopefully tries to figure out how to include those people.
I want my church to be one that recruits people that other churches do
not want to recruit.
I want my church to be the "child find" or "adult find" or just simply "person find" church. Let people start with us. We can then not only serve them at our church, should that be their desire, but we can also talk to other churches to get the other churches to serve those individuals as well. So if a person from the Catholic, or Baptist or whatever faith comes to my church, I can say, "You are welcome here!" If they respond, "I wish there were a Baptist church locally that would serve us" we can respond, "Let us help you to become involved in that church." We could then contact that church. If they are open, great. If not, the people are welcome to stay at our church untill the Baptist church in the community is more open.

Why did the state have to find children under PL 94-142?

Because the state hadn't been serving the disabled population in the public schools.

Why does the church need to find children, adults, people with disabilities now?

Because the church has not been serving people with disabilities.

People with disabilities and their families probably as a group think that they are not welcome in churches. For us to sit back and say that we would accept them if they came is insufficient. We need to demonstrate to them our change of heart through our efforts to ask them to come. We have to go to them. We have to ask them to come.


Friday, September 07, 2007

More on social skills

I was doing some more thinking on social skills today (see Tuesday August 21). So last night I went with a friend to see the California Angels play. He had been wanting to go for a long time and once we got there, he almost immediately wanted to go home. I convinced him to stay till midway through the 5th inning, and of course after we left, the Angels exploded and scored 9 runs...oh well. At least he got the free blanket, an Angels baseball, and other free paraphenalia.

My point, however, was this friend of mine, a man with severe mental retardation, walked around greeting people the whole time we were at the game. In his somewhat difficult to understand speech, he would say, "Hello, how are you?" to just about everyone he passed. I must admit that I found that kinda refreshing, and most of the people he addressed were very kind to him as well, responding to his greetings.

By all accounts, he was evidencing a social skill problem, to use technical terminology, to darn much greeting. Obviously when you go somewhere, especially at a pro sporting event, you get in and get to your seat. You don't take the time to greet everyone you pass in the arena, it takes too long. Besides no one else is greeting everyone else that they pass. So my friend's friendliness was an example of poor social skills, according to societal standards, not mine, on his part. Instead of greeting and being friendly, he should have kept to himself and shut up. But his friendliness brought a smile to nearly everyone that he came into contact with. Sure they gave him the benefit of the doubt because he has a cognitive disability, but nevertheless, he didn't follow the rules with the result being that he softened those around him.

Think about it.


Forms of faith expression

I have been thinking about the ways in which faith can be expressed by an individual. I was once an elder in a church, and when we would interview potential members, we would look for key phrases both positively and negatively. For example, if we asked the question, "If you arrived in heaven, why should you be let in?" we would look for responses like, "I believe that Jesus saved me from my sins" or "Only because of faith in Christ would I be allowed in" things of that sort from the positive side. Negatively, if someone said, "I have tried real hard" or "I have been a good person" these would indicate that the person didn't really understand the work of Christ, and at the very least needed some instruction on those aspects of the faith.

But what of the person who cannot communicate via words, spoken or written (see Jamie video below for written expression). What if they lack the cognitive ability to understand the work of Christ even to the point of saying that "I have done bad things and Jesus has forgiven me." How does one with that level of disability express faith?

Well, we don't allow anything to count as faith, but I think we should look for indications of faith amongst those people. First of all, God can be trusted in this whole discussion. He will love the people I am trying to love more than I can even imagine, so he is out for their best. I think I am wanting to affirm people at their level that they are expressing faith when they are expressing faith. This can get a bit wierd where we are projecting things on people. Where, for example, people make random statements, or speak incoherantly, or other random behaviors which those of us without disabilities take for expressions of something totally apart from what they might actuallty be doing. But there is a level of awareness that might be achieved by those who are helping people with disabilities in their faith, which can encourage and guide them.

I remember for example trying to teach a man with cognitive disabilities the Lord's prayer. In the beginning I would have him repeat the phrases after me. Each time the things that he said were unrecognizable to me as the statement I had just made. But then I began to realize that each of the statements was consistent and unique. So if I said, "Our Father" he would respond with an unintelligible, yet unique phrase which he would always repeat when that was the phrase he was to produce. "Who lives in heaven" same thing thing, unique and consistent phrase. I came to the conclusion that he was repeating the Lord's prayer, however, he was repeating it in a way that I could not understand due to his speech impediment, but I am sure was understandable to God. I have know others, however, who produced random statements in response to learing a Bible verse who I am sure had no idea about what they were saying.

Another aspect of this is the ability to respond to the degree you are able, or to the degree you have been given the opportunity to respond. So I know people who have grown to love coming to church. Sure there are social components to church attendance (which is obviously NOT the reason for many attending church who are not disabled), however, the desire to come to church, to be with other Christians, even to be in "God's house" are all evidences on some level of a faith committment. I have mentioned at other times in this blog Fowler's book on the Stages of Faith. There are stages I will probably never attain myself, however, there is a stage at which I am currently functioning, and hopefully I will grow in my faith. That is the same for persons with cognitive disabilities. We help them at the stage where they currently function and attempt to assist them to grow in faith. A critical aspect of this is I need to look for expressions of faith, not so I can judge, but so that I can reinforce and facilitate the spiritual development of those with disabilities.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Report from European Society on Theology and Disability

This is my report on the first meeting of the European Society on Theology and Disability held at Schoorl, Netherlands this past week(8/29-3/31/07). The conference organizers were Dr. Hans Reinders and Dr. John Swinton, however, Dr. Reinders and his family were the wonderful hosts who made this a memorable event. Accommodations were provided at an organic beef and dairy farm where we stayed in tents, enjoyed breakfast together as well as evening discussions about the events of each conference day. The conference itself was held at a place called Scorelewald, a residential/vocational setting for adults with cognitive disabilities.

The first evening opened with a few comments from Dr. Reinders, followed by a skit performed by members of the L'Arche community of Amsterdam about the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). This was followed by the viewing of a film about the life of Henri Nouwen. Throughout the performance and the film, I sat by Willy, a beautiful gal from L'Arche who knew of Henri Nouwen and became excited whenever Jean Vanier was mentioned, and her friend Ferd. Both folks only spoke Dutch and I speak English, but we were reasonably able to communicate. After the film, another woman from L'Arche was interviewed about the impact the Nouwen film had made on her the first time she saw it with Dr. Reinders interpretting Dutch to English. The evening ended and we went back to the campground/farm.

The following morning, we awoke, had breakfast and walked the 1 1/2 miles to Scorelewald for the beginning of the conference. Dr. Reinders introduced the day and Dr. Swinton and others acted as moderators. We learned that attendees were from England, Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, Nigeria, India, Russia, America and of course Holland. It was a friendly, lively group of 32 attendees 12 of which presented. The day's schedule was two 1/2 hour sessions followed by questions, coffee break, 2 more sessions then lunch, 2 more sessions then coffee break and then 2 more sessions and then dinner. I had the opportunity to present after the morning coffee break after Dr. Herman Meininger. My topic was, "The essential nature of persons with mental retardation to the church."

After dinner, there was a short break and then a dramatic presentation put on by the residents of Scorlewald. About 200 people were in attendance. The play was entitled, "Happy Hans" from Grims fairy tales which included a great musical accompaniment provided by residents. Earlier in the day, we were given the opportunity to forgo a portion of our lunch time to tour a workshop that made musical instruments. I must say that these instruments (flute, lyre, drums, xylophone) were beautifully made and produced lovely tones. Similar instruments were for sale and were sold for as much as a thousand dollars. The workmanship was very impressive as was the fact that that people with severe cognitive disabilities were involved in making the instruments. Anyway, Happy Hans was well done and great fun, and many jokes were made later as Dr. Reinders name is also Hans!

The final day of the conference included morning presentations and a business meeting after lunch led by Dr. Swinton. Some good discussion and decisions were made. The next meeting of the society will be held in 2 years with the location tentatively planned to be Switzerland.

Friday evening ended with a delicious barbecue prepared by Dr. Reinders' son Jasper. There was much great discussion. Dr. Reinders and his family were lovely hosts. Through their efforts, the standard has been set very high.

My immediate reflections about the conference was that there were very different ways of approaching the notion of disability although there was a unity of heart. I was very interested to hear about Nigeria and the presenters' contention that the church is the answer to disability issues there. There was unanimity about the desperate need for the church to change. I was approached on several occasions for ideas about how to actually facilitate change. It seems there is much resistance in the countries represented.

The good news is that God is gathering change agents world wide. It is a small thing that 32 people gathered from 4 continents, but God uses small things. I am excited about the possibilities this society has for the future. I also know now that I have two years to work on my German!

May God bless and direct the Eurpoean Society on Theology and Disability

(The Jordan Shelter,
Amsterdam, The Netherlands)