In my last post, I introduced you to two types of people—Barrier Builders and Friend Carriers. When my friend Jessica told me about these two types, she used the story of the paralytic to point out the differences between the four men who carried their friend to Jesus and the crowd that, knowingly or not, blocked the way for the man who was paralyzed to access Jesus.
Sad to say, most people today find themselves in the camp of the Barrier Builders. But Jessica encouraged me that it’s never too late to transform into a Friend Carrier—someone determined to overcome any obstacle to bring people to Jesus. Almost seven years ago, she experienced this transformation herself.
For years, Jessica walked through life as a Barrier Builder. Untouched by disability, she had no understanding of the struggles and difficulties associated with it. Not until her one-year-old daughter, Abbie, was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome. Suddenly, Jessica’s eyes were opened to the ignorance most people show toward disability.
Since then, she has worked tirelessly to make people aware of the barriers they put up unintentionally. She’s seen and heard of churches keeping adults and children with disabilities separate from the rest of the congregation simply because of their disabilities. Well-meaning people show sympathy when a child is first diagnosed, but often disappear when those parents need help the most, contributing to their isolation. When Christians label others by their diagnoses or find excuses to not assist families with disabilities, what they’re really doing is creating obstacles for that family to overcome in their efforts to access Jesus.
Allow me to encourage you, and myself, to follow the example of those four friends. Through faith and persistence, we can bridge the gap and help bring people affected by disability to the feet of Jesus. Jessica shared with me stories of people who saw a need and stepped up to help—people like an eleven-year-old girl who volunteers every Sunday in her church to be a buddy to a child with disabilities. People like a lady who volunteers her time one day a week to help students with disabilities remain included at a Christian school. While sharing these stories with me, Jessica was on her way to take a friend with Down syndrome to youth group!
But the best part is what happens for everyone when Friend Carriers show up. Go back to that happy ending with the man who was paralyzed. Not only did that man experience healing of both soul and body, but the Bible says that the entire crowd was in awe as they witnessed the glory of God. What a blessing! And they would have missed it because of the barriers they built, if it were not for the faith and persistence of those four Friend Carriers.
Jessica witnesses this same miracle everywhere she takes her daughter, Abbie. At church and at her Christian school, so many agree that people like little Abbie bring something special into the world that “typical” people can’t.
“I’ve been privileged to experience environments where everyone is included, worshipping God together, serving one another, and sharing gifts with each other, no matter their abilities or disabilities,” Jessica said. “Those environments are so glorious, and I have to say, like the crowd that day, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it!’”
If you’ve ever had the privilege of experiencing this for yourself, you know the tears that flood your eyes, the joy that makes you sing, and the awe that makes your heart beat faster. If this experience is foreign to you, you can join thousands of other Friend Carriers who daily do what they can to bring people to Jesus.
One person can’t change everything, Jessica admitted. We can’t change the diagnosis, but we can each take risks. We can each fill the role that God has for us…pick up a corner of the blanket, climb those stairs, tear off a roof tile, and lay a friend at Jesus’ feet so we can all experience true healing.
Danielle Ledoux is a former intern with Joni and Friends’ Cause 4 Life program who enjoys writing about God’s work in people’s lives. She is a graduate of Pensacola Christian College and is currently getting her Master of Fine Arts in Dramatics.