Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Emmanuel is still here -- Diane Mettam

And so it is Christmas.  Emmanuel.  God is still with us.  Amidst the fear and chaos and hatred God is here.  I had to remember back to the time when my daughter and grandsons were trapped in their home during a shooting situation, to the wise words of my six-year-old grandson David, “God has this.” 
I am tired and hurting, and my energy level is close to zero.  I wonder what ministry I can do in this situation, but then I remember, “God has this.” 
As I got my van back from the repair shop, and completed some long-overdue errands, I received some answers.  I dropped off some small gifts - Christmas pencils and stickers for the children in the classroom where I volunteer.  I had some unexpected gifts waiting for me, with cards telling me the children were blessed to have me in their lives.  I was overwhelmed.  I consider it all joy that I can be with them.  Seeing them improve in reading and arithmetic is my pay, hugs are a sweet bonus. 
I dropped off a charity sweater at church and a woman approached me.  We have seen each other at church but didn’t know each others name.  We introduced ourselves and chatted for a bit as she waited for her appointment with the pastor.  She was curious about my wheelchair, and surprised how quickly I got around in it.  She is facing some health issues of her own.  We will be meeting again so we can have a longer talk.
Our weather has turned cold and wet.  We have many people without shelter.  And our city council, in its wisdom, voted to postpone a vote to declare a shelter emergency until January 5th despite a public call for a vote now.  They wanted a certain person to be there for the discussion.  And so many people are spending their nights in the cold and wet instead of in public buildings which could be opened to house them, or in tents or temporary shelter on land which the city has already designated for homeless housing.  One member of our church is very involved in the homeless community, running a feeding program and contending with the powers that be.  She recently ran a campaign for tent and sleeping bag donations.  Our church has always been a welcoming presence and keeps a food pantry. 
My husband and I were tired of driving by people and feeling helpless, so we put together a “homeless bag” project which the church adopted.  The sewing group make the bags, and we fill them with useful items, like a flashlight, tissues, bandages, Tylenol, socks, water, granola bars, a bandanna, space blanket, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.  There’s also a list of places that can help with meals, (limited) beds for the night, job placement, etc. and a map to locate those places.  It’s not much, but it’s better than handing someone a dollar or ignoring them.  And of course we pray. 
It seems this year, more than before, it’s easier to look at other people as less than people.  It’s easier to label them and consider them less than worthy.  But tonight we went to the Live Nativity put on by one of our local churches.  Our son is visiting from out of town (the high desert) and hubby and son weren’t sure it would go on in the pouring rain, but this is Eureka.  We went, and there were the seven scenes, and people handing out CDs with narration to accompany the scenes, and volunteer police cars to direct the traffic.  And to my delight, Isaiah was played by a man in a wheelchair!  Yes!!  No big deal made about it, he just sat there at his table with his parchments, listening and writing.  It gave me great joy to see a disabled figure associated with Christmas that wasn’t an object of pity.  Praise the Lord! 
“Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16
purple Advent candle in church nave

Dear God, Thank you for reminding us that even when we feel useless, there is always something we can do, that others still see your light and life in us.  Help us to remember that as long as we breathe the breath of life, we are yours, and radiate your gift of Jesus’s love and salvation.  We are so blessed.  Amen.
May your holidays be blessed.  I hope to be back to a regular schedule very soon.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Review of Leo Yates Jr., Deaf Ministry: Ministry Models for Expanding the Kingdom of God

Leo Yates Jr., Deaf Ministry: Ministry Models for Expanding the Kingdom of God. Create Space, 2015. ISBN 978-151689993-7

Leo Yates Jr has put together a book that is a comprehensive guide to ministry with Deaf populations. It also contains information for ministry in groups that fall under the hard-of-hearing umbrella. And while we’re at it, the principles in this book apply to ministry with any group of people who live with disabilities. 

To start at the beginning, we learn the difference of Deaf and deaf, and the history of these groups in relation to the church, always with an eye toward inclusion at all levels and with all kind of differences. Here is also an example of how this book can apply to a variety of disabilities. There’s an excellent section on the nature of Deaf cultures—an inclination toward a visually-oriented culture, and how this differs from what we’ll call “mainstream” culture as a term of reference. Having worked through this, there is then a section on “audism,” which is a mainstream judgment of the Deaf-visual culture. This line of thought brings out many parallels to disability studies principles, and helps extend them to a wider use. The cultures of physical disability often focus to a great extent on structural layout of facilities (ramps, for example) in a way that many people do not understand. But when we understand visual culture or ramp culture, our perception is expanded and we begin to think in new ways. These new ways of thought critique both audism and ableism (the term used to refer to mainstream judgment of physical disability culture) so that those within the group understand better what has been happening to them, and those on the outside understand better what “the other” is dealing with. Perhaps allies are gained, or understanding furthered, toward the goal of inclusion as this process works out. 

There are, of course, many differences and problems. For one, Deaf culture is largely invisible, placing it in an often-misunderstood and often-challenged group. Those who live with invisible disabilities are often challenged by others as “not disabled”—especially when they park (even with appropriate credentials) in those spaces near the front of a lot that are reserved with the wheelchair symbol. For better or for worse, that wheelchair figure is a symbol for anyone who needs an accommodation, whatever device (or none) may be required. But a bigger problem is that to be out of sight is to be out of mind. Several times I have asked at places of worship or public assembly about assistive sound systems or the lack of ASL interpretation. The answer is generally along the lines of “I never thought about that.” It’s remarkably similar in process to the “no one who uses a wheelchair has ever been here” defense that I receive when asking about ramps. Raising visibility is necessary, but it’s difficult when we lack role models, or when some focus on medical cures rather than an abundant life.

An important point along the way through this book include the nature of using a minority language. In such a culture, storytelling takes on increased importance. Today, many don’t think of the power of stories to bring us together and form groups, but Deaf communities still bind together in this manner. As they do, it is important to understand the ethics of these groups. For one example, an interpreter is not a judge, nor is she a translator. Confidentiality is expected when interpreting, and so is clear expression. Sloppy speakers should not expect an interpreter to clarify for them! These kind of details are examples of the thoroughness of the book’s coverage. 

As the author notes, in reaching out to others, we must be sensitive to the receiving culture. Far too often, mission has been an exercise in extending authority and conformity, not in expanding the reach of divine justice, whose expectations and implementation were so confounding to the audience of the Gospels, as well as today. 

Where does that leave us? The book concludes with answers to what seems to be the most-asked question in our e-mail: how do we get started? We all know about prayer, teams, and so on, but are reminded to start small and build well. A solid foundation built on rock will last! Beyond that, we are reminded that a ministry with requires inclusion on all sides, an inclusiveness which requires education as well as change. 

With that very Wesleyan observation, Yates reminds us that the goal of all this is more than inclusion, as important as that is. The goal is to bring all of us together into the kingdom of God. Everyone has a place, everyone has a different gift, and we all remain individuals. The kingdom of God does not subsume differences, but celebrates them as examples of God’s creativity and love. As we encourage, welcome, and set examples to follow, we advocate for the day when the true meaning of God’s rule comes, on the earth as in the heavens.

Tim Vermande

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Law, the ADA, and Compliance -- Tim Vermande

Originally posted to the political science class blog at the Art Institute of Indianapolis, a short essay from the history and anthropology instructor, as background to the ADA and a challenge to consider how law and heart work together. 

Guest Post!

A few quarters ago, I asked a fellow AI instructor Tim Vermande, to write a guest post for the blog.  It worked so well, I've asked him to do it again (thank you, Tim!) It's always nice to get a fresh perspective on things, and Tim has some really good insight and firsthand experience.  So without further ado:

Discrimination – that is, treating people differently based on factors that are not relevant to a decision – has long been considered unjust in our society. We have a variety of laws that seek to end discriminatory actions. You can’t refuse to do business with a person just because of their skin color, or refuse to hire someone because of their gender, and so on.

In World Civilization class, many people are surprised to find out how recent some of these laws are. The right of women to vote is less than one hundred years old. The rights of people of color seemed to be guaranteed in 1868, but it was only in the 1960s that any sort of effective enforcement began to be accomplished.

These are provisions we’ve become accustomed to. Over time, we learn that other measures are discriminatory. Thus we have recent interest in equal pay for equal work, equal opportunity for advancement, and even the effects of long-term debt such as student loans.  

Among the recent laws is the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990, amended 2008). It was intended to relieve both systemic discrimination, such as people being unable to physically get into a building, as well as to end unequal choices. One of the goals of this law was to get what is one of the largest groups of unemployed people into the work force. But as this article reports, a recent test has shown that people who reported a disability were rejected for jobs at a much higher rate than others. This test is similar to others from the past, such as those using people with similar bank and family backgrounds but different skin colors or names to identify discrimination. 
A lot of questions swirl through my mind on reading this. Why do we seem to not want to judge each other as equals? Can a law really change things?  

It’s understandable that some changes take time. When a building does not have an elevator, or there are anywhere from one to thirty steps at the entrance, that’s often a difficult thing to change. But just last week I was in a newly-renovated building that had a ramp that was way too steep to get up. It’s difficult to sit by quietly while some people say that all you need is motivation or willpower when such an obstacle confronts you—especially when those people know nothing of what you’re up against.

And then I think of the wider world we live in. Generations grow up in refugee camps, and have no hope. As I finish writing this, we have word that the Paris branch of my family are safe. But what of others? Does the bell toll for all? So this question to you this week is, “What can each of us do to end discrimination, when the world is so large and there are so many differences?”

Friday, December 4, 2015

News from AMD, 12/4/15

A Matter of Dignity: Minneapolis Star-Tribune series on disability

From South Africa, on the "charity mindset"

Satire: making a blind person's day

CNN: a Deaf family in America

UM Disability blog: Thanksgiving

Starbucks video (although not captioned)

Still, small voice

Featherless Bipeds or Friends of God?

UM Disability blog: Advent and Heartbreak

Advent and Heartbreak -- Diane Mettam

single candle against dark background, with a text from Isaiah 2.4-5: neither shall they learn war any more / O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

It has been a difficult week in which to write.  So many troubling things are occurring, so much hatred and evil.  Attacks in Paris.  A gunman in Colorado Springs.  Acknowledgement that another innocent young black man was gunned down in Chicago.  Congressmen vowing not to support environmental legislation, but to repeal it.  A presidential candidate mocking a disabled reporter.  The same candidate vowing to require all Muslims to wear an identifying emblem and be registered (shades of Nazi Germany). Politicians vowing to deny entrance to Syrian refugees.  I wonder if it was this way when Jesus was born. 

Yesterday there was a shooting in San Bernardino, near where our Annual Conferences are held.  It took place at a center for the developmentally disabled.  Try as I might, I can’t understand why someone would shoot up a center serving the disabled.  Then I wonder if it has to do with the politician mocking the disabled.  Have we really sunk so low that “less than perfect” people are expendable?  A cold shiver runs through me.

Later I heard the intended victims were people attending a training session (or a holiday party) in a room rented out for such purposes, and I wonder if it is “just another random workplace episode.”  Why are these  incidents becoming so commonplace that we can call them “just another”?  What is wrong with us?  In an e-mail I opened today I read that the favorite Black Friday sale item was a handgun.  The Associated Press reported that on November 27, the FBI processed a record-breaking 185,345 background checks for gun owners, or about one every two seconds. Its the most firearms sold in a single day since background checks were instituted in 1998.”*

When I hear that the suspects, who were killed in a shootout with police, had Arabic surnames, I wonder if this will be judged a “terrorist” action and there will be reprisals against innocent Muslims. 

I read that their weapons were legally purchased, and I wonder, once again, who needs such weapons, that are capable of firing multiple rounds at high speeds?  There is only one use for this type of weapon, and that is to kill people. 

And then I read that at the same time violence was erupting in San Bernardino, a gunman in Savannah, GA shot four people early Wednesday, killing a woman and injuring three men.  No suspect has been arrested yet. 

I am sorry if I offend anyone with these thoughts, but enough is enough.  There have been 355 mass shootings in 336 days.  In this season of Advent, of anticipation of the birth of the Prince of Peace, it breaks my heart to see that voices of reason are still shouted down when it comes to thoughtful training and licensing of firearms and their users, as well as limits on the types and numbers of firearms owned by any one person.  Each new incident results in more precious lives lost, more lives changed forever due to trauma and disability. How many lives will be enough? 

In this season of Advent, let us work for peace, let us pray for peace, let our lives radiate peace, just as the prophet Isaiah foretold:

  Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war any more.  Isaiah 2:3-5

Dear Lord, Our hearts break with each new shooting incident.  Keep us outraged.  Keep us offended.   Don’t let them become commonplace, everyday incidents for us.  Help us find a way to stop the madness, and let us reach out in meaningful ways to the victims.  Help us to be the people and nation we know we can be.  Amen