On this day it is as though we are miles away from petitions, institutions, and all out public abuse. Although there are curious faces that try not to stare at Todd there are also more smiles than scowls, more compassion than ignorance, and in the turn of the century farmhouse Todd’s sister is playing a familiar song. Todd begins the verse in low and soft tones. As is his custom, however, he takes it up an octave to the top of his lungs: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Guests visiting the farm house come into the parlor to hear the impromptu vespers. “Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong.” The piano is out of tune. Todd doesn’t notice but no one who is in the house doubts his sincerity or the fact when he sings, “Yes Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me, Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.”
While ultrasound and other technical medical breakthroughs have saved lives since their development in the past twenty years, technology has also been the instrument of inhalation of a percentage of “the least of these.” A pregnant woman calls her husband in tears saying that test results that her OBYN has done, indicates that the chances are high that her baby will have Down syndrome.” The news is even more devastating when the Doctor recommends abortion as the only viable option. Everyday in Doctor’s offices across the country the above scenario plays out, but the studies are not always accurate.
Many parents who declare that their commitment to the faith and the life of their baby is full term, and the short term solution the Doctor is recommending is not an option for them. While new technology has improved, the methods of detection of fetal abnormalities, including Down syndrome, is often the motive for doing the testing. By obtaining fetal tissue samples by amniocentesis, methods carry an amount of risk to the fetus and so screening tests try to identify those pregnancies at “high risk.” Many doctors use this as a screening to deliver only healthy babies and “weed out” the chances of delivering a baby who is in their opinion “less than perfect.”
There is an organization that takes the cases of parents who don’t have the fortitude or the finances to raise a mentally challenged child. Christian Homes and Kids and Nathhan ministries maintain and support the birth parents, the adoptive parents and medical professionals in the process. Tom and Sherry Bushnell started CHASK to encourage mothers to deliver special needs babies, and CHASK finds qualified families and adoptive homes. With 3-D Ultrasound, special needs can be pinpointed and diagnosed more accurately than before. The challenge is that families are often blindsided with the diagnosis and are unaware of the options or that there are alternatives to abortion.
Tom and Sherry Bushnell of CHASK have dozens of families who have the financial, spiritual, and psychological wherewithal to adopt special needs children. “Some of these kids will not live long,” Tom says. “There are the cases that a child is born with severe handicaps, or without life sustaining organs. They can live for a week or as long as three months-but you can see that these children are here for a reason and God has a purpose for their lives no matter how long or short it may be.” The Home School program for kids with special needs is another ministry that both Tom and Sherry lead. They provide resources ongoing support to these adoptive families. “We are called to go beyond the adoption process. CHASK and Nathhan are founded for the long run and to provide constant support in the day to day caring for special needs kids and families,” says Sherry.
Another ministry that serves the Mentally Retarded citizen and their families is an organization called simply “Friendship.” Friendship actually partners with churches providing resources and curriculum for special needs church services. Many mentally retarded citizens have special needs when it comes to music and worship. Over stimulating, and loud amplification can cause seizures and so an unplugged, interactive, and shorter worship service is in order. Friendship tries to provide guidelines, suggestions and actual resources designed for special needs church. Executive Director, Nella Uitvlugt (pronounced Ite-vlugt)
is seeing more young families dealing with one or more children with disabilities. The soccer mom who has the child with autism, down syndrome or fragile X syndrome is looking for help. What is the hope for their emotional, spiritual and physical care? How can the church include them in worship and Sunday school? There are stories from both parents and siblings of praying that the church will open their doors to this population. Jesus said, “Let the Children come to me,” In any Gospel version of The Great Commission he never said “except for.”
“When we see a profoundly mentally retarded adult with a 3 year old mental capacity, we fail to realize that this person has adult life experiences” Nella says. Throughout the Bible there are examples of people disabilities. Their role in Bible are examples of the “least of these” who understand and who realize
that placing total reliance on Christ is the only way possible for them.” And for the church as well, it will be held accountable when God asks “How and where did you use their gifts?” “Did you even recognize their gifts?” “Did you see the purpose of their lives in your community?” And “did you miss the blessing of the role I had for them in your life?” These are questions that get to the very core of the quality of life issues that we all must answer.