Resources and Advocates for Persons with Disabilities (PWD’s) and Their Families

If you or anyone you know is affected by disability, here are some resources that might be of help to you:

  1. DZAS 702 AM Radiorecently launched the program, God Is Able Radio Program, named after the international organization with a Philippine chapter. Hosted by Pastor Jesse Dedel and author of Embracing God’s Purpose for My Child With Special Needs, Malu Ortiz. Tune in every Saturday from 5:30-6:30pm. [Watch the November 4 pilot episode HERE.]
God Is Able Radio Program
L-R: Pastor Jesse Dedel, (God Is Able Administrator) Peggy Lotho, (Disability Advocate) Malu Ortiz, with (guest) Jo Alabastro at God is Able radio program on people affected by disability at DZAS 702 AM Radio. Tune in every Saturday from 5:30-6:30pm. “Disability with Possibility!”

2. Joni and Friends–  Founded by quadriplegic, Joni Eareckson Tada, Christian, author, radio host. You can find a lot of encouraging messages on her website.

The Joni and Friends International Disability Center (IDC) serves as the administrative center for ministries which provide outreach to thousands of families affected by disability around the globe.

Joni and Friends

Among its ministries:

a) Wheels for the World (Donation of wheelchairs) : Sending the gift of mobility and the Gospel message worldwide

b) Family Retreats – US and international retreats for families that live with disability

c) Television Program: Each episode highlights God’s goodness in a world shattered by suffering

d) Radio Programs: Joni Eareckson Tada shares encouragement and Biblical insights

3. God Is Able International Philippine affiliate of Joni and Friends

God Is Able Philippines

“Mission Possible : We speak with and in behalf of differently-abled people to make everyone aware of their strengths and unique abilities; their hopes and dreams; as well as their difficulties and struggles as they fully integrate with society –  where ALL people contribute significantly towards development and transformation.”

Some of God Is Able’s several ministries are:

a) The Gift of Mobility (Generating resources that facilitate mobility of People Affected with Disabilities (PADs) (e.g. donating wheelchairs); identifying beneficiaries; custom-fitting; and training of partners for sustainable and wholistic support);

b) Family Retreats  (Holding an annual family gathering of (PADs) where care-givers and PADs are provided with a safe, restful, and engaging venue where varying activities cater to their wholistic needs. This once-a-year event focuses on renewing the spirit of PADs to strengthen their commitment to God and to each other, sustaining their inner lives as they journey together.)

c) Advocacy and Awareness Raising (Speaking in behalf of PADs to increase awareness among the general public of the PADs’ desire to assimilate into society. They go to churches, organizations, LGUs, private companies and other groups to be the PADs’ voice – sharing their stories of hope, and engaging people towards active involvement.)

4) Life Without Limbs –  Affected by a condition that results in being born without arms or legs, Nick Vujicic founded this organization to cross boundaries and break down barriers, to build bridges that bring people to the love and hope found in Jesus Christ,” giving hope to children, teens, adults across the globe to show that “God can use a life without limbs to show the world how to live a life without limits!

Life Without Limbs

5) Christ’s Commission Fellowship’s Unique Ministry  –  We believe God created everyone in His image, UNIQUE.  We believe God has a purpose for each individual.  But it can be very difficult growing up or having a family member with special needs.  That’s why in His wisdom, God created us to live with others in a community that will help, support, care and love one another – to help us achieve the unique purpose he created us for.  God uses each of us to show His infinite and amazing love for all.  CCF Unique is a ministry focused on serving and loving those who have special needs.  You are not alone!”

Betty Sy who assists her husband, Wisdom, in heading this new ministry said that once a year, they have the Night to Shine event (sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation) to celebrate people with disability.

There is also a weekly Sunday School program available for children with special needs where they can benefit from age-appropriate worship. They are still praying for a pool of Christ-committed volunteers who will help the core group put the regular support framework in place to integrate, include, and care for families with disabilities within the church.  Until more volunteers come up, for now, members of families with disabilities can seek to be plugged in to a Discipleship Group to get to know God’s Word/ Jesus, learn how to find joy and worship amidst challenges, how to live victoriously, how to not get weary nor discouraged.

The reason that the committee looks for “Christ-committed volunteers” is that ministry work can take a lot from a person and if a volunteer’s commitment is conditional and not as unto Christ, it can lead to easy burnout. In addition, if the end goal is for glory of people or a program or church or anything other than Christ, then it would be temporal.

CCF Unique Special Needs Ministry

6)  Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine – provides a prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs ages 14 and older).  Christ’s Commission Fellowship through its UNIQUE Ministry is one of the international locations for Night to Shine.

Tim Tebow Night to Shine Foundation

6) Malu Tiongson-Ortiz – Author; Speaker; Radio Host for DZAS Radio Program, God Is Able; Artist; Disability Advocate.

Previous Post: “Embracing God’s Purpose for Your Child with Special Needs – Malu Tiongson- Ortiz
Her book of the same title is available on Amazon, OMF Literature, bookstores nationwide or by contacting the author HERE.

Malu Ortiz Embracing God's Purpose for Your Child with Special Needs

7)  Young Life Capernaum “a program that provides “young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the chance to experience fun and adventure, to develop fulfilling friendships, and to challenge their limits while building self-esteem through club, camp, and other exciting activities.

In Mark 2, the Bible records the story of four able-bodied men and their friend with a disability. Eager for their friend to see Jesus, the talk of the town in Capernaum, the men carried him on a mat to a home where Jesus was teaching. When the friends arrived, crowds already there prevented the men from getting their friend anywhere close to Jesus. Undaunted, they carried him to the roof where they cut a hole through layers of straw and hardened mud, and lowered the man to Jesus’ feet.

Moved by their bold faith, Jesus restored the man with a disability to wholeness and health. The lives of all five men — and the crowd who witnessed the event — were never the same. We call Young Life’s ministry with adolescents with disabilities “Capernaum,” because we don’t think intellectual or developmental limitations should keep an adolescent from the presence of the One who promises fullness of life. Like the friends in the story, we move through barriers, including the isolation and marginalization that can accompany having special needs, believing that the lives of teens with disabilities, as well as their able-bodied friends, are transformed by the shared experience of Young Life.”

young life capernaum

Nick Palermo – founder of Young Life’s Capernaum Ministries, came to the Philippines for a Disability Conference last October to reignite the hearts of people to feel the need to care for families with disabilities and increase awareness of their plight.  This is what Nick shared in an interview:

785M people across the world, millions here in the Philippines, have disabilities. The church has been by and large vacant when it comes to this.  Jesus Christ really loves (Persons with Disabilities) PWD’s. Seventy per cent of the gospels have reference to someone with a disability. Our churches need to open up and embrace the families and  children; and the really beautiful surprise in that is that we’re all changed. It affects all of us in an incredibly positive way with the gifts that they bring.

For churches to see people with disabilities, be more aware of them.  When the question comes up about them entering the church, a lot of times what happens is that they think they have no way or means to embrace the PWD’s or meeting their needs. Prejudices come up. ‘Do they understand the sacraments?’ We need to adopt a different posture. Instead of “We can’t,” if we use “How?” it leads to creative opportunities to embrace different people in our congregations.  For example, one of the things we find out is that  PWD’s understand with their spirit if not with their intellects as much.  They have the right to hear about Jesus Christ just like anybody else.  When they come in to the congregations, they bring these incredible gifts of love, dance to worship, joy, the ability to connect people.  Instead of competition, they make cooperation happen between people because we have to help each other.  They have huge gifts.  

The families are burdened. 85% of families are single parent families because of the strain of having a PWD. Parents are just crying out in a really weary state. We need as a church to embrace that and give them a support system that allows them to thrive and to tell them they’re not alone, they’ve not been abandoned by God but that God has seen them; He has heard their cries which is proven through the support of people around them that come together from the church.

For families with PWD’s, they might immediately understand what you’re trying to say. But for those who don’t... understand the family dynamic? Yes, how do you break down prejudices and barriers?

The key to breaking down barriers is our own willingness to listen.  I would encourage anyone who knows a PWD family to come close to them. Ask them, “Can you tell me about your family? Can you tell me what you deal with? What your needs and joys are?” Once we get near like that and find out, it’s shocking. I believe that’s where compassion comes in; we’re mobilized.

For the family with a PWD, just dealing with rejection of their child, misunderstanding, [feeling like there’s] no place for their child… the pain a parent feels… Those of us who are parents know that there is no greater suffering in our lives than when our children suffer. As these are families who are suffering from the way their children are treated, they’re wondering what future is there for them. They’re wondering where they will find genuine friendships for their children. Some of them are on round-the-clock physical care… that’s exhausting. Parents don’t have breaks to go out. Those are some of the obstacles.

The church has tremendous resources that can help with that but it starts with listening and finding out what’s going on with these families. A lot of times, these families don’t feel heard or that anybody cares. I think we have to take the initiative to say. “I really care. I wanna hear. I really wanna do something with your family. I will take your son out once a week for ice cream.  Will you teach me what things I need to know?”  It’s taking that type of initiative to help a family on a personal level.

One-one-one empowering of each person on how they can help in their own way and maybe it will catch on because from their experience, they can speak on behalf of the family with disability?

One of the beautiful things about the disability ministry is that it doesn’t have to be 50 people all at once. It just starts with one child, one family. A lot of times the parents are networked with other parents with Children with Special Needs and so when you begin to pay attention to one child, people will hear of what you’re doing. Maybe there’s a second child, a second family. It’s personal, one-on-on— small— and eventually grows.

The ministry that I worked for thirty-four years— Young Life Capernaum— we started with one club for kids with disabilities in 1986. It’s now in 300 places in the US and 40 countries. It’s a ministry  that began out of nothing  that has completely blossomed around the world.

How do you reach out to the families? Coming in cold, tapping people around a place?
We had a conference. Moses [Chiong] who leads God is Able. His goal is to have champions, people who represent different churches who can stir that up and initiate conversations and find people in those little congregations where there is a family with PWD’s. to be able to mobilize people within the congregation on how to help.

That just takes one person who feels a calling to do this and wants to reach out. In a church setting, one of the things that can be done is that whoever is in the church who has a family member who’s a PWD, the network,.. the parents all know one another. they might be able to bring some more people in.

Just having a round table form of discussion, “We’re here to understand what your needs are in the church.” It’s important that there’s someone representing church leadership. We’re here to understand what you deal with on a daily basis. There are parents who stop going to church because either they’re asked not to come because their child is distracting or they give up because they feel they don’t have a place in their church.  Again that goes back to the “How?” question when a family comes up… There’s no place in the youth group. Let’s talk about “How?” How could we serve your son?  What needs to happen ? How can we get them involved in a youth group? And then there’s training that can go on for the person who has some knowledge of it… to help the youth group or college group to integrate them in.

If you’re a family that’s involved in a church and you’re struggling or you’re a family that used to go to church and no longer do so because it’s just impossible, I would encourage you to take a very bold step. There might have been a lot of misunderstanding, disappointment. But I would approach a pastor and church leaders and say that I would  like to tell you what it’s like to have a family situation with disability. I want to attend here but these are the things that are working against me to be able to attend. How could we together work something out wherein my child can prosper and thrive and I can also be at church where everybody can win in the situation?

I think that when a family truly tells the story of what they’re facing, what their challenges are, you have a good chance at that point to work something out.

What if the church or the person being approached has no personal experience with people with disability and if they have meager resources, they have other more urgent ministries, what would you say to a family who feels the door is closed? What you just expressed… those attitudes are very prevalent in churches.  It takes someone in that church who’s a champion to advocate for people with disabilities. My own background when we started our ministry with kids with disabilities, it was the very first ministry in Younglife.  It existed nowhere. For fourteen years, it was very resisted.  We had five ministries going on. Younglife did not understand nor embrace us. There came a certain point, as we stayed the course, where some people began to come behind us. They said, “We want to start this in our city.” That’s how it grew from nothing to three hundred ministries in the US. 

I would say to the family, “The hard thing is staying the course. Continue to knock on the door. I would really look for advocates that would come alongside you that would continue to knock on the door of the church to say, ‘We want a rightful place.'”

On the other side of this, I would like to say to the leadership of the church to some of the objections, Luke 14 passage [12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”]

is a mandate. It’s not an option. Jesus made it clear.

Can you give me more biblical references to this?

In seventy per cent of the gospels, Jesus is encountering someone with a disability.  John 9:3 Jesus said, “No one sinned. This happened… for the glory of God.” 

Mark 2:1-12 ( The paralytic healed);

 Leviticus 19:14 (You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the Lord..);

Micah 4:6-7  “In that day,” declares the Lord, “I will assemble the lame And gather the outcasts, Even those whom I have afflicted. 7 “I will make the lame a remnant And the outcasts a strong nation, And the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion From now on and forever.

People with disabilities because they are created in the image of God which is true for all of us, have the same rights to be in the family of God. The church should be the very first at the forefront of our culture that embraces them and says there’s acceptance in Jesus Christ because everyone is created in the image of God. I would challenge any church leaders that disagree with that to really reexamine the Scriptures and their faith because these are people made in the image of God. Christ died for them. They have the same hopes, dreams, fears as any of us in this world.

Nick has also written a book written specifically for churches and people in churches who think that they can’t do this or wouldn’t even know how. It’s called Missing Stars and  Fallen Sparrows available on Amazon.

missing stars fallen sparrows

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