by Larry Evans
The heart of Jesus was drawn to those who were deaf, blind, and others who were less fortunate. In every person, He saw possibilities. He ministered to restore God’s plan for each one. In doing so, He brought compassion, hope, and purpose. Adventist Possibility Ministries was formed as a means of extending the ministry of Jesus. In 2010 an emphasis was given to reaching out to the Deaf, but it has grown to include six additional ministries as well. Each of these ministries has a task force of experienced and dedicated members working to develop ways of working from God’s agenda for those who often feel marginalized.
Each of the thirteen world divisions is part of this expanding ministry. At the 2022 General Conference Session, a major step was taken. A nearly unanimous vote of approval was given for the inclusion of Adventist Possibility Ministries in the next Church Manual. The ministry is now to be represented at the local church. The action represents more than a recognition of a disability or a loss. It represents a call to these same individuals to also minister to others. Included in the action taken was the inclusion of the local church leader for this ministry to serve on the local church board. This is an exciting and far-reaching development of inclusion and recognition that “all are gifted, needed, and treasured.” The following is the action that was voted.
430-22GSa ADVENTIST POSSIBILITY MINISTRIES – CHURCH MANUAL ADDITION
“RATIONALE: This addition to the Church Manual emphasizes the importance of including all church members in ministry.
VOTED, To add a new section, Adventist Possibility Ministries, to the Church Manual, Chapter 8, Local Church Officers and Organizations, following Departments and Other Organizations, on page 87, to read as follows:
Adventist Possibility Ministries
The Adventist Possibility Ministries initiative was established to extend the compassionate and inclusive ministry of Jesus and seeks to inspire, equip, and mobilize those with special needs and those who are deaf. These opportunities are defined as deafness, blindness, physical mobility limitations, and mental/social development. It also includes ministry for orphans and vulnerable children, widows and widowers, and caregivers. The goal is to foster understanding with the exploration of ministry possibilities for those with special needs and the Deaf.
All are in search of wholeness. All are gifted, needed, and treasured. All are created in the image of God with an inherent dignity regardless of any limitation they may have. This global initiative encompasses a ministry for those with special needs and the Deaf, along with seeking opportunities to minister with them. While some disadvantages may be present, greater emphasis is placed upon their possibilities. This educational mission of the Church strategically gives focus to three main values: awareness of needs; acceptance of the individuals who are deaf or who have special needs; and the development of specific action plans to be implemented to provide opportunities for these individuals to find purpose and fulfillment in life and ministry.
The following statement by Ellen G. White underscores the importance of this work, “I saw that it is in the providence of God that widows and orphans, the blind, the Deaf, the lame, and persons afflicted in a variety of ways, have been placed in close Christian relationship to His church; it is to prove His people and develop their true character. Angels of God are watching to see how we treat these persons who need our sympathy, love, and disinterested benevolence. This is God’s test of our character.”—3T 511.
The Deaf as a Unique Culture—The Deaf are internationally recognized as having their own set of social beliefs, behaviors, art, history, literary traditions, values, and languages just as other cultures. While they are often considered as having “special needs,” the Church recognizes their deafness as more of a cultural characteristic than of a disability.
Adventist Possibility Ministries Leader—It is recommended that the board appoint a local possibility ministries leader. While it is preferable for the leader to have direct experience or education with possibility ministries, it is not mandatory. It is best if the leadership for this ministry is chosen from within the groups they represent. While working together with other leaders, it is critical that planning be done by the groups themselves. This is done so they may serve God and the community as expressed in the mission statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is imperative for the leader to be compassionate, and to serve with an approach that fosters empowerment and participation.
Adventist Possibility Ministries Committee—The church board should establish a committee for possibility ministries to encourage members with special needs and to learn how to effectively communicate with them. It should create witnessing programs, recommend how to make church facilities more accessible, help solve transportation problems, and recommend ways to assist in the discovery of roles or ministries that bring a sense of meaning and fulfillment. The committee is chaired by the possibility ministries leader(s). If not serving as the chairperson, the pastor should be an ex officio member.”
To assist with the local training for this ministry, an online course has been developed. It is part of Adventist Learning Community and can be found at: https://www.adventistlearningcommunity.com/courses/adventist-possibility-ministries
Here is a video clip of the action and voting by delegates of the inclusion of Adventist Possibility Ministries to the Church Manual, Chapter 8, on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, at the 61st GC Session in St. Louis, Missouri.