Kathy Nofziger Yeakey is Executive Director for Anabaptist Disabilities Network.
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I came to ADN with experience in nonprofit administration and recent seminary studies in pastoral care and counseling. But I was relatively uninformed about issues related to church congregations and persons with disabilities. Or at least I thought so.
Since coming to know the work of ADN, I realize that I have engaged in advocacy for persons with disabilities at various points in my life.
Years ago, my husband and I were part of a congregational support group for a woman who lived with a mental illness (and her elderly parents). We did not call this a Circle of Love at the time, but that is what is was.
As the program coordinator for a bicycle-powered recycling pick-up service, I employed and assisted many people with mental illness, intellectual, or learning disabilities, which often led to substance abuse or chronic unemployment. Part of the mission was to provide part-time fair-wage employment opportunities to people who had a hard time keeping a regular job. We tried to help these folks get by as they worked toward self-sufficiency.
As a young adult, I volunteered at a shelter that offered long term housing to persons with chronic mental illnesses.
I was simply trying to follow the example of Jesus’s life and teaching to care for the poor and welcome the stranger and the outcast as brothers and sisters in the family of God.
Persons with disabilities can seem like scary strangers when we see them from afar. It’s easier to treat people who seem strange as outcasts. It’s easier to pretend that those who differ from us in some way aren’t like us at all— but they are like us.
In fact, like it or not, most of us will experience some sort of disability at some point in our lives. It may be as we get older; it may happen before that.
Following Jesus for me means acknowledging the presence of persons with disabilities in our midst, and welcoming them as full participants in all areas of church and society.
Please join us at ADN as we help congregations to extend the welcome to all those with disabilities in our midst.