Joshua Dean lives in Camp Hill, Pa., where he works as a health insurance claims processor. In his free time he enjoys playing piano, cooking, reading, and playing card and board games.
Only as an adult did I fully realize I had a disability and what that would mean in broader terms of life and work. Living in the “big world” has challenged my beliefs, perception of self, and outlook on life. In this stage of life, I am grateful to have found a community of believers that welcomes me and helps me along life’s journey.
When I first arrived at Slate Hill in May, 2014, I was in a dry desert and I felt spiritually abandoned. I wanted to find restoration and hope through God’s people. I was seeking a tangible expression of the gospel. My fears and anxieties quickly subsided upon arriving at Slate Hill.
Being part of this church family has meant a lot to me, which in turn has enhanced my spiritual journey. Right from the get-go, people took notice of me, extended a warm hand, and offered assistance for various things. Church is one of the few community activities I can participate in without needing a helper around which is also very nice! This welcoming has sparked spiritual renewal, and I am so thankful for God’s leading. I am grateful to have found a community of believers that welcomes me and helps me along life’s journey. I have found restoration and hope through God’s people.
In college, I had visited many different churches of all denominations. I caught rides with anyone that had an extra seat or space for my wheelchair. But it felt like going to church was a huge chore and almost not worth my time and the effort it took. I would ponder whether or not it was necessary to go to church. At the same time, I longed for a church where I felt welcomed, loved and free.
I found that church here at Slate Hill, where our mission is to live out our faith. I firmly believe that this mission, rooted in the Gospel, is important when welcoming newcomers. All who enter, I believe, should experience a welcoming that restores their faith in humanity and, even better, creates faith in God. Living out our faith is not dependent on ability; faith transcends ability. This would imply that everyone has a responsibility to actively express their faith.
A disability-friendly church must be thoughtful in their approach. Offering a sort of friendliness that gives off false esteem may actually be a disservice and patronize the person involved. I have found at my new church a sincere group of people who are dedicated to welcoming and encouraging each member’s faith journey.
While I am truly grateful that I have this sense of belonging, many people are still outside the church walls. These persons may have questions, fears, and anxieties—fears that I, too, have faced in some way or another. These fears hinder them from entering, even though they may desire a respite from life’s difficult journey. I believe strongly that we must make it our goal to welcome those with physical ailments into our midst so that they too may know the good news of Jesus and experience healing that goes far deeper than the body.