The chances are that if your church is evangelical you spend some time praying for “people groups” who have never heard the Gospel, perhaps a tribe in a remote part of India or a nation far across the world. I doubt that you will ever have considered people with disabilities as a “unique people group” forgotten or missed out for the gospel but for very different reasons.
In India there may be as many as 2.1 crore people with disabilities and we as Christians have the perfect environment to welcome them in. We have a Lord and master who came alongside people with disabilities as a routine. We have a gospel of love which is to reach to the ends of the earth and to all creation…remember what Jesus says?
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 16:15
I guess that means people with disabilities and their families and loved ones too. So how can we do that? I mean a missionary can head off somewhere “unreached”; a young pastor can relocate in order to plant a new church but where are people with disabilities, especially the ones who have not heard the gospel? Maybe you’ve never really thought about that.
Engage Disability’s Disability Inclusion ToolKit states
People with disabilities might often be hidden in the church neighbourhood and therefore not receiving any services. Churches and Christians need to be in the community actively reaching out to those with disability and linking them in to health, rehabilitation, education, employment and government services. They need to be included in social events, festivities and church music and drama presentations.
I have recently heard of one approach which I thought was worth sharing. Christians in Chittor District in Andhra Pradesh visited one of many Bhavitha centres in the district that provide integrated education. They went to meet the children and special education teachers to find out their struggles. When they heard they needed some activity materials, mats chairs and a cupboard they found a way to donate a second-hand cupboard and buy play materials, mats and chairs. They handed them over at a little function with a lunch and they encouraged parents to send the children to school regularly.
This is not social work, it is Christians witnessing God’s love and if the school is near a church it is one way to find out about families living with disabilities in your neighbourhood who may not have ever thought of entering your church. Those are people who may appreciate encouragement, love and friendship and who can be invited to to join in special religious and social events organised by the church.