Engaging in disability ministry makes life rich and rewarding. The people we meet create a colorful mosaic of inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking stories. But oh, the joy we can experience as we do life together! I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine who greatly blesses my life.
Kim is 26, and she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and a cognitive developmental delay. Her symptoms can include anxiety and aggression. Over the years, she has lived in a number of group homes, and her doctors have prescribed her many different medications. Thankfully, these medications now help keep her bipolar symptoms manageable. Kim was sent to her first group home when she was only eight years old leaving her seven siblings with their abusive mom. She still wishes she could have done something to help her siblings. “I had to save myself, I couldn’t save them” Kim laments. Even now, as one of her siblings is moving to a group home, Kim worries about her sister’s vulnerability. Kim describes her sister saying she is “sweet and has the mental age of a five-year-old although she’s 22.” Kim still hopes that one day she can help her siblings, “Maybe when I’m married. When my siblings are unhappy, I’m unhappy.”
In many ways Kim is like you and me. Some of her favorite things include riding her bike and watching movies. Her favorite movies include “comedies, action, no horror movies, sometimes old-fashioned movies like Shirley Temple.” She also enjoys watching Law and Order on TV, window shopping, and “shopping when I have money.” When describing herself, Kim says she’s the happiest when she’s “out and about,” when she’s at church with her boyfriend, and when the group home or day program staff are not “bugging her.” She does appreciate it when the group home staff show care and concern by “checking on her.”
On the other hand, Kim feels sad when the staff ignores her, when they don’t allow her to help one of the other clients, when they make false statements, or when one of the other clients takes something that belongs to her.
I would describe Kim as someone who radiates joy. She says her biggest help is the Lord. “When I’m upset I feel his presence,” she says, “He gives me ideas when I’m upset like go take a walk. Sometimes I go outside and stand in the sun and raise my arms knowing that Jesus is right there by my side. Christian music helps me feel better and uplifts my spirits. At Friendship Club (a Bible study for adults with developmental disabilities), I feel loved, people are kind, I get to visit with friends, and I’m prayed for. I know God answers prayers.”
This wise young lady is an inspiration to me and I gratefully call her my friend.
Please note that to preserve her privacy, Kim’s name has been changed within this blog.
Susan Hewer is co-leader, along with her husband Scott, of “In His Image” the special needs ministry at Calvary Chapel of Oxnard, CA. Scott & Susan have enjoyed many years as special education teachers, but feel very blessed to be part of the growing field of disability ministry in their “retirement” years. They have been married for thirty-eight years and have one wonderful daughter, Gina.