Larry R Evans, DMin
Assistant to the President
Adventist Possibility Ministries
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
ADVENTIST POSSIBILITY MINISTRIES
What Is It? Why Is It Needed?
Adventist Possibility Ministries (APM) is a life-transforming ministry! It is sometimes referred to as “Special Needs Ministries.” The motto of this ministry states clearly an underlying principle on which its existence is based: “All are gifted, needed and treasured!” APM is about caring and inclusiveness. It involves education and acceptance for everyone and the development of plans that will help bring about opportunities for involvement and a sense of belonging for the special needs person. It is a ministry that calls all to a life of service.
Included in APM are seven broad ministry categories: The Deaf, the blind, the physically challenged, the emotionally and mentally challenged, orphans and vulnerable children, the widowed, and caregivers. The need for this ministry is clearly stated by Ellen White when she wrote,
“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. If we have the true religion of the Bible, we shall feel that a debt of love, kindness, and interest is due to Christ in behalf of His brethren; and we can do no less than to show our gratitude for His immeasurable love to us while we were sinners unworthy of His grace, by having a deep interest and unselfish love for those who are our brethren, and who are less fortunate than ourselves.”—Testimonies for the Church 3:511.
For decades, those who have not been able to see, hear, walk or communicate like others have often been referred to as being “disabled.” While it is important to recognize one’s limitations, being identified this way can have a demoralizing effect on the person’s own self-perception. Far too often, attention is given only to what a person cannot do or does not have rather than the possibilities that lie before her or him. Perceptions become empowering when the inherent dignity and abilities of each person are given priority. This can be seen in at least three ways:
First, the value and significance of each person is emphasized. In God’s sight, each person has a purpose. Each person is special. God has a plan for every individual (Jeremiah 29:11). As a result, when this understanding is comprehended, thinking and actions change. With God at the center and not one’s disabilities or what one lacks, hope is revived. Life becomes more about possibilities than impossibilities.
Secondly, when others see those with “disabilities” or who have suffered loss in multiple ways, they relate differently. A few decades ago, an important life-changing principle was stated about the impact others can have. “If we wish to do good to souls, our success with these souls will be in proportion to their belief in our belief in, and appreciation of, them.”1 Whatever the challenge, we should have more engaging conversations about hope and what is possible. The power of self-motivation comes more easily when it is understood that someone believes in and understands them!
Thirdly, to speak of others as being “disabled” or as being “incomplete” suggests that others don’t have their own limitations. This simply is not true. All are in need of wholeness. While Adventist Possibility Ministries does recognize an individual’s limitations, it doesn’t stop there. Nor does the ministry simply focus on trying to “fix” a perceived need. Simply put, the person matters. Regardless of what is perceived as a disability or as a loss, possibility thinking looks for opportunities and seeks to instill confidence. The focus of Possibility Ministries is less about what a person can’t do (the disability) and more about releasing the person from stigmas and marginalization so they and their community experience the possibilities God has placed within their reach.
Building relationships with these individuals is important. No one should ever be left to face life’s difficulties alone. Affirmation and acceptance are important. We need each other. This principle is made clear in Ecclesiastes 4:9,10,
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return
for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
This is a ministry about caring by promoting attitudes and practices of inclusiveness. It is a personal work that Jesus would have prioritized. It is about helping individuals, regardless of physical, emotional, or mental limitations, discover their untapped “possibilities.” It is about caring for those who have suffered a loss or separation whether it be parents (orphans/vulnerable children) or a spouse (the widowed and divorced). It is also about caring for the caregivers for they are often the ones caring for the hurting and disabled. Labels that depreciate a person’s sense of self-worth and exhaustion are replaced with confidence, hope and encouragement.
Adventist Possibility Ministries is a grassroots movement with organizational advocacy by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. This is a ministry prompted by God’s grace and, therefore, works out of a sense of gratitude for what He has done and is doing for each of us. We minister not out of a sense of duty but out of a sense of gratefulness. A hope rooted in the love of God will not disappoint nor will it shame (Romans 5:5). It is anchored in the restoration of the purpose and dignity that God has given to each life. This kind of compassion is nothing less than extending the ministry of Jesus to all.
1 White, Ellen G., Fundamentals of Christian Education, p.281.