I sat at the edge of my seat in the large arena. Of all the sessions we had attended during the conference, this was the event I had been looking forward to. The black stage at the center stood high, shining lights with hues of red, blue, yellow and white. Music played softly. The president of the Missionary Alliance Church invited the international workers to come forward, and begin the “Parade of the Nations.”
From around the arena, men, women, and children began to walk around the stage and through the aisles. They gracefully held on to the flags that represented the countries they had come to call their home, and they wore clothes that identified them with those nations. Dozens and dozens of flags and people marched around amongst the rest of us. Such a large arena. So many aisles. It seemed dozens were not enough. Yet, it was humbling to see the people who had given their lives and followed the call to go to the ends of the world.
The music stopped and so did the workers. Then Gary Benedict, from the stage, teased, “Come on, that was unimpressive! Let’s see a real parade!”
The flags, along with the music, continued to move. Mexico, Brazil, China, Ukraine, Uganda. Country after country walked by. Retired missionaries, new missionaries, those waiting to go; all of them taking up their flags. More dozens, then a hundred, two hundred. Families marching around with their small children and babies in their arms. More and more international workers joining the parade. The arena, large and airy, was full. There were no open spaces, only people, only flags.
I was overwhelmed, in awe, watching intently as flags danced before me. I could not contain my tears.
Will you go?
The words startled me.
Will you go?
Tears ran freely.
Yes, Lord. If you send me, I will go.
I will send you to the ones the world sees as less than perfect. I will send you to a people group that has been unloved. I will send you to your own people. Will you go?
I was weeping.
Yes Lord, here I am. Send me.
Shortly after returning home from the conference, Andy and I began the process of becoming missionaries. We both received God’s message and we were convinced that meant Mexico: my home, my own people. We would be involved with ministry to the poor, the unlovable ones, those that the world sees as less than perfect.
That summer, Andy led a short-term missions trip to Ensenada. I was greatly pregnant with Nichole but I came along anyway as a great opportunity to dip my toes in what our future would be like. We served the poor, building them homes, working with their kids, offering hope. My own people, the ones I had seen as less than me. Those I never cared to look at in the eye or acknowledge as people. This time, I came to them with humility, recognizing that we were all the same, and we all had much to offer one another. I fell in love with the Mexicans for the first time, and recognized that I had been one of them all along. While that experience was beautiful and redeeming to my heart, I was frustrated.
Lord, I can’t hear you. I am questioning if this is what you really want for our family. I do not feel a burning passion for missions, my heart is not overflowing, I do not feel as if this is it. Why won’t you speak to me?
When Nichole was born, we stepped back from the missionary process. The fact that Nichole had Down syndrome and so did the Children’s Pastor’s daughter was clearly not a coincidence. It was God ordained. I began to look at the “job description” God had given me, and recognized that God had not affirmed my thoughts of Mexico because that was not what He meant. I realized the “call” was to a different people group, the Down syndrome community. The world does look at people with Down syndrome as less than perfect, and through my own daughter, they had become my people.
We have a small little church, about 50 people. When Andy was asked to come here, we were told they needed someone to preach, lead worship, and someone comfortable around people with disabilities. It amazes me that in such a small church, at least 25% of our people have special needs, some disabilities are very “mild” and you would not know about it, while others are obvious.
I sat on the pew, listening to my husband preach about becoming a “Healing Community.”
Then I heard His voice once more.
These are your people.
Slowly, I looked around our church.
These are the ones the world sees as less than perfect. This is a people group that has been unloved. Because of the children I have given to you, these are your own people.
Nichole’s beautiful life led us to adopt Nina, and for reasons only God knew at the time, we adopted a child with Cerebral palsy, although I really wanted to adopt a little boy with Down syndrome. Yet, for the first time, the significance of the events that took place at the Conference became so clear that I fought the tears that threatened to burst from deep inside of me. Almost 5 years ago I had The Dream, where God made it known to me that Nichole would be born with Down syndrome. Two days after "The Dream," God called me to go to those that the world sees as less than perfect , to my own people, during the Parade of the Nations. Then 2 years ago, we adopted Nina.
Oh Lord, you called me to go to those that the world sees as less than perfect, the broken ones. Now I hear you again. This is the mission I have from you. So here I am Lord, use me!
I have a burning passion to see the church embrace people with disabilities. Although they might seem broken, they instead show us the brokenness of our own hearts. Our churches need them, we all need them. There is great freedom and beauty when we find ourselves surrounded by a group of people that loves unconditionally, gives freely, and worships with no restrain. It allows the rest of us to do the same as we look at them and learn from them how to come before the Lord. We can come as we are, with no pretense, no holding back, just us, with all our brokenness and garbage. What a beautiful Healing Community we can become, what great beauty is found in the middle of those with disabilities, among my people.