but we'll talk more on Saturday. That's what I told my friend Amy just before I hung up from a very brief phone call on Friday morning.
I spent two days at the United Methodist Church Mission Initiative Summit last week. I went because our Volunteers In Mission (VIM)coordinator thought it would be helpful to have extra eyes and ears to attend more of the sessions. On the first day, I ate lunch with a couple who are missionaries to Vietnam. We discovered that I went to seminary with their son. We both graduated last May. It was a nice social conversation.
Then I asked the VIM coordinator which breakout session she wanted me to attend. She said Asia as she didn't know much about UM work there. So off I went. There were presentations on the misison work in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and others. I took notes so I would be able to share the information back at the office. Then the couple from Vietnam got up to speak. They too presented a power point on the church starts and the pastor training that is happening there. It was interesting. Then they started a second powerpoint presentation on Agent Orange. They showed pictures of children and young adults who have a variety of physical disabilities. Over and over again, they said he or she cannot walk and cannot talk. These children were pictured in their mother's arms or on the floor. There were no wheel chairs. There was no special seating that would support a body unable to support itself.
My heart cried. Here I am trying to help churches reach out to and welcome families of persons with disabilities. Families who have wheelchairs for their children but don't feel welcome in church. In Vietnam there are mothers who carry their children to church because they have no wheelchairs.
The church where we were meeting has a special needs Sunday School room. I took the woman missionary down there and showed her some of the special seating equipment that is available. I explained my background in teaching children with disabilities. I began discussing the best way to get equipment to them (buy and ship or send money for them to order...). I talked to them about ways children can communicate without speaking. Then her husband asked, "Can you come to Vietnam?" I told him it might be possible although I didn't have any idea how to make it come about.
Day 2: I had lunch with our VIM coordinator and told her "I think I have to go to Vietnam." I told her the rest of the story. She feels, like I do, that it was a God thing that I wound up in that particular presentation. About that time, a VIM coordinator from another conference walks up. The two of them begin to talk and he mentions that he attended the Asia session as his conference is planning to expand their mission work into Vietnam. They are in fact planning a trip in the next twelve months. My friend told him my story, so now it is a real possibility that I will go to Vietnam sometime soon to scope out the needs so I can come back and raise funds for equipment and medical care. Look out, I see a soapbox with my name on it.
I know one group I will ask. Our conference has several churches who offer respite care for children with disabilities. I'm thinking that the families who use these services might like an opportunity to help someone else. Part of healthy living with chronic illness or disability is feeling like you are contributing and not always needing.
This is soooooo far from preaching in a little church somewhere. God are you laughing at me?