Every human being is made in the image of God. That means that each of us has great value and worth, and God has a purpose for each of us.
Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t always recognize this God-given potential in people with disabilities. Its often hard for society to see passed a person’s limitations, to the amazing things that person can do.
But there is a unique coalition in Tennessee that is trying to change that!
Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee is teaming up with local churches to help people with disabilities find jobs that match their specific gifts and skill set! Their program “Putting Faith to Work” is using local church congregations to engage men and women with disabilities and helping them find employment that best fits them.
The Tennessean explains:
This program is amazing! What better way for a church to be the hands and feet of Christ than showing society just how valuable even “the least of these” are to our communities.
Erik Carter, a Kennedy Center investigator and special education professor, said churches and other places of worship are ideal places to begin expanding support for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.
“Congregations do a lot of disability ministries increasingly, but often that is really focused on Sunday morning or Saturday or whenever people worship,” Carter said. “What we’re really trying to do is get them to think about the other six days of the week and helping people flourish beyond that time of worship.”
Data show the significant challenge ahead. According to the U.S. Department of Labor,the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 10.5 percent, more than double the 4.6 percent rate for people without disabilities.
So far, seven people with disabilities have found jobs in the area through the Putting Faith to Work project. Kessler Foundation also is funding projects in Kentucky, Texas and Minnesota. Across the other states, 29 people have been matched with jobs.
I love that this program is flipping the normal way of finding a job for those with disabilities on its head.
In the past, service workers would look at available jobs and find people with disabilities who could do those jobs. Under Putting Faith to Work, church members have started by talking with each individual about his or her skills and interests.
“All of us have been in jobs that were perhaps not a really strong fit for us, that really didn’t tap into what our strengths were,” Carter said. “Instead of trying to fit people into jobs we’re trying to fit jobs to people and be more concerned about finding really strong matches that people can get excited about.”
Our world is a better place because of people like my little brother Trig, and I am so glad that there are programs like these out there that give people with disabilities the dignity they deserve. Having a brother like Trig is the biggest blessing! He has taught us all so much about joy and perseverance. I know that when he grows up God has big plans in store for him.
I hope that programs like this catch on across the country so that others will have the joy of learning from and working next to people like my brother.
Buy my Mom’s new devotional, Sweet Freedom, in bookstores everywhere!