Disability ministry and mission is ordinarily treated as something niche or peripheral. And yet 1 in 5 people in the world have a disability of some kind. Many of us will be born with a disability, acquire disability through accident or illness, or else age into disability. If you are going into ministry and missions, disability should not be thought of something as peripheral or niche, but as a significant part of your given ministry and mission. Not merely in the sense of inclusive as tolerance, but belonging as valuing the disabled and what they bring to your assemblies and communities. If this is not part of your seminary courses on practical theology, introduction to ministry, and your fieldwork, then something has gone awry.
One of the deficits I corrected in my EvTh 2nd edition was writing something on disability and the imago of God. I wish I had had this book when I wrote it because David C. Deuel and (pseudonymn) Nathan G. John’s volume Disability in Mission: The Church’s Hidden Treasure outlines a radical change in approaches to missiology, missions, and praxis for the twenty-first-century global cultural context. It explores a pattern whereby God works powerfully in missions through disability and not in spite of it. No matter what our disability or vulnerability may be, God can use us; and if the body of Christ is supportive, people with disability can be effective agents of transformation in the mission field. Via a number of case studies of people with disabilities who are involved in missions, and with robust biblical and missiological justification, this book examines the role of those with disability in missions.
This book has essays from Christians from all over the world, from people with disabilities, children with disabilities, and those engaged in missions to those with disabilities in some very challenging contexts. The essays are mostly biographical rather than purely academic, but are punctuated with biblical reflections, insights from parenthood and ministry experience, and exhortations about how we treat the disabled in our own settings.
I thought the conclusion by Justin Reimer from Ukraine sums up the volume:
Life in a foreign country is hard. Having a child in the family with special needs in a culture that does not accept him as human is even harder. Watching the struggle of your child processing the harsh views towards disability is heart-wrenching. But God supplies grace and intimacy with the child that is greater than any obstacle we may face. Our desire is to see the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed by his people to those with disabilities, and proclaimed by those with disabilities. We want to see the ‘new song’ of God’s people (Psalm 67; 96) sung by a host of all races and all abilities. What a glorious song that will be when our children with disabilities sing forth perfect notes of praise and worship before the audience of One.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Foreword by Joni Eareckson Tada
Introduction by Nathan G. John
1. Disability and Biblical Weakness by David C. Deuel
2. Moses, Messenger of Weakness by David C. Deuel
3. Kingdom Impact through Weakness and Disability by Bonnie Baker Armistead
4. Unformed yet Ordained by J. M. Paul
5. Called and Equipped through Paraplegia by Barry Funnell
6. Paul the Leper and Olive the Servant by David C. Deuel
7. Being a Mission Partner with Disability in Kenya by Paul Lindoewood
8. People with Disabilities on Short-Term Mission by Jeff McNair
9. Weak to Weaker: For Children with Disabilities across the Globe by Natalie Flickner
10. Deciding to Go on Mission with Disability by Justin Reimer
11. Mission Possible: The Role of Member Care in Mobilizing Workers with Disabilities by Deanna Richey Conclusion: Disability and Mission: For His Glory by Nathan G. John