Carrie and I just returned from two different conferences held in Loma Linda, California: The 3rd Global Health and Lifestyle Conference (July 9-13) and the 1st Global Deaf and Special Needs Ministries (SNM) Conference. SNM is now often called “Possibility Ministries” (July 14).
In an effort to model inclusion, the GC Health Ministries Department, under the direction of Dr. Peter Landless, invited those representing Special Needs to join and be partners in sponsoring the conference. Participants from around the world accepted the invitation. In the morning there were various health presentations during the plenary sessions. I was given the opportunity to speak during one plenary session and spoke about the history of discrimination towards those who have disabilities (“The Ugly Laws, the Good, and the Better”-- At this crucial time in history when discrimination towards the disabled was rampant, the young Adventist Church was not silent! See ONLINE REPORT: https://www.
The second conference was one full day (July 14). The keynote speaker was the General Conference president, Elder Ted Wilson, who challenged us with the message, “The Everlasting Gospel for All.”
The world has taught us that a person’s value is determined by what they can do and devalued by what they cannot do. That kind of thinking not only hinders the “disabled” but has limited the kingdom of God. Should the mission of the Church be limited by the way we look at each other? I don’t think so! We must seek to understand and not be molded by the values of the world. There should be no period after “disability.” Life should never be summarized as a “disability.” In Jesus there are possibilities that exceed any disability. This is why we call it Possibility Ministries rather than Disability Ministries.
These two conferences provided a unique opportunity for the global leaders for Deaf and Special Needs Ministries to learn from each other. A team spirit was evident throughout the whole time. All were learners. All were teachers. Indeed, when we learn to “Think Possibilities” our minds and our hearts see much more than disabilities. We see opportunities! This is what has been feeding the global movement and why it is changing so many lives. It is clear to me that this ministry is Heaven-guided.
Taken together, the two conferences addressed a broad spectrum of issues:
- The theological problem of pain, suffering, and disabilities.
- Having faith when faced with a lifelong disability
- A revolutionary SNM model that currently has 3,000 volunteers (90% of which are Adventists) serving in various compassionate ways 3,000 individuals (90% of which are not Adventists).
- Ministry for Children with Special Needs
- Ministry for the blind, “Seeing through the eyes of Jesus”
- Historical insights for Deaf ministry
- Deaf and health ministry
- Building relationships between deaf/hearing child with deaf/hearing parents.
- Parenting with an autistic child
- Starting and keeping a Deaf ministry
- Keys to motivating and empowering the Deaf
- Reports of SNM & Deaf ministries from around the world.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
Hebrews 12:1, NLT
(Below are images taken during the conferences. Each image below can be clicked on to view an enlargement in a new tab)