Monday, February 6, 2012

My People

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.

More tears.

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.

19 comments:

  1. Hi Ellen,
    Thanks for this post. It reminded me of an eye opening Sunday we had not long ago at our church. You can read about it on my public blog here: http://silkiness-eli.blogspot.com/2012/01/they-call-them-invalids.html

    Elizabeth

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  2. Anonymous3:02 PM

    This was THE most powerful post I have read written by you. What an amazing dream - and how beautifully it's meaning has been showed to you. I wish I would find such a meaning in my life.

    (because of that last sentence of mine I choose to not show my name today)

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  3. This is such an absolutely beautiful post! I agree that you are definitely doing the work God called you to do. This just goes to show that the word "Missionary" doesn't necessarily mean going somewhere on the other side of the world; no, sometimes it means going somewhere very close to home.

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  4. Oh, that Parade of Nations brought back memories I'd forgotten all about! Yours was a huge one! In an arena!

    I do remember how in such an atmosphere how easy it was for me/(anybody?) to get grandiose ideas of far-flung places. What God has in mind might be quite different. I really do believe you've found His path for you. God bless it mightily!

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  5. this was just beautiful.

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  6. A wonderful testimony of God's work in your heart and the lives of others as you were obedient to Him.

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  7. Thanks for sharing your experience with God's call. It's a great reminder that God is eager to point us in the right direction. I appreciate your tender heart and passion for reaching the overlooked souls around you. May God continue to bless your journey!

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  8. What a beautiful true story--what a sweet calling. May God richly bless you!

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  9. I have enjoyed reading your blog for a really long time, this post however really captured me. I will be blogging about this post tomorrow and linking it to your full post. Thank You!!!

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  10. wow...really, lucky you! you understand. I love reading your story. Once I believed God was smarter than me and His plans were better than any I could come up with my life got a lot easier. God bless you!
    I am your newer follower..pls follow back if you can.

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  11. Wow...this is so aptly timed. Our pastor's wife...the Mommy of Caity who has Down's Syndrome...will be speaking for the first time at our ladies retreat on "When God Sends A Special Child"...I will be sharing this with her. Thanks!

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  12. The photo of your daughter is beautiful! What a gift, I imagine, she is to you as you are to this broken community. Thank you.

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  13. Amazing! What a calling. I am so glad you have listened to God's call. You are such a blessing to me and I know God is going to use you, your family and OVA to minister to the disabled. I feel so blessed to be a part of it.

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  14. i love this, it really makes it evident to me that people with disabilities have so much to teach us!

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  15. When I first felt God leading me to teach children with special needs, I heard a similar calling. Although I have stepped away from that ministry of education to raise my own family, I still greatly yearn for those with disabilities to be fully integrated and welcomed into the world.

    I love your post and your passion.

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  16. This is my favorite post you have ever written. :) I wish we lived where I could sit over coffee and discuss the "mission field" that God has called us to. I spent my young adult years praying, researching and waiting for God to tell me WHERE...I was ready to GO. I recently blogged about just this...thanks, Ellen! I think we would be great real-life friends! :)

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  17. Ellen, this post gave me goosebumps. What a beautiful heart you have--and the way you listen! What a blessing you must be to "your people". And how you bless me by sharing your story.

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  18. I love how you listened to God, sought Him out, and how He gave you such a specific calling...so beautiful...Thank you, Ellen, for blessing with your story :)

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  19. i lived in Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama for 17 years and all I can say is, You are going to be such a blessing. There are so many with disabilities and so little help for them. This touches me; that God would send YOU there, with YOUR burdens and passions. .

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