Being in solidarity with the disabled

Fanny Lee
Pastor, The Ark Community
MDiv 2011

 

Stepping into the Ark Community, an inclusive faith community, is a self-awakening journey for me. I believe that God is healing, renewing and re-defining the “person” in me through The Art Community.

The Disabled Revealing My Innermost Fear

I began serving at the Ark Community two years ago. It did not take long for me to realize that I often would not be able to comprehend what the disabled would say or express, no matter how hard I might try to listen, see or make a guess. After all, I had very little experience interacting with people with disabilities. I was such a newbie in pastoral ministry. There were times when I would feel very awkward when I encountered such situations in the Ark Community.

At the beginning, I thought such feeling of discomfort was out of embarrassment, impatience and fatigue. However, during a devotional time, God showed me that I actually had great fear and resistance towards my own limitations, which I have always wanted to conceal. I would subconsciously suppress them instead of facing the fact that “I do have such limitations” or “I also have my weak moments”.

Whenever I encountered closely with the disabled brothers and sisters in Christ, their outward limitations act like a mirror to reflect the concealed limitations, disabilities and poverty within me. That was the real reason for my discomfort! This in turn prompted a lot of self-reflections: Who is more burdened with obstacles, the disabled or people who are able-bodied? Who is less willing to accept the limitations and poverty of being a “person”? Can I see and accept the fact that I am also a poor, disabled, lame and blind person?

As a “person”, I have been hurt by others and by my own sins. These are my disabilities. As a “person”, I have yearnings deep inside my heart – a yearning to be accepted and loved, to be considered worth waiting for and worth listening to, and not to be despised or ignored – these are exactly the same feelings as the disabled. Therefore, whenever I could not understand what I heard or saw from them, and they patiently repeated and tried so hard to explain to me again by words or actions, that itself had a healing effect on me, giving me the courage to admit and even embrace my own inabilities.

The Disabled Correcting My Ministry Orientation

Before serving at the Ark Community, I had served in mainstream churches for a few years. Time was spent not only on teaching and pastoring, but also on taking care of the ministry work of various departments, planning, meetings and other tasks. The fast pace life has been well understood by a pastor like me who was born and brought up in Hong Kong which taught us about the pursuit of efficiency and results. “Too many irons in the fire” is a situation that is perfectly manageable. The “Be quick but not hurry” mentality applies not just to handling tasks but also to people.

Having served at the Ark Community, I have often been asked by those who are physically and mentally challenged to slow down, to accompany them, to listen to them, to be with them and to walk with them. What caught me in surprise was that they would also want to listen to my needs, my life, my worries, and my funny experiences. They would pray for me, encourage me, laugh with me and cry with me. I then began to realize that they value more on relationships. And one cannot rush to build up a relationship. Relationship-building cannot be quick and specific results cannot be measured.

That has led me to re - assess the orientation of my ministry, which has always seemed to come to completion as soon as a visible problem had been solved. For instance, when I brought the wheelchair to its destination, when a person has been fully fed or went to the washroom. Of course such task was meaningful, and was much needed, but that could not be equated with serving others holistically or accompanying others. Did I treat them as “problems that are needed to be solved” or “persons” just like me, with opinions, wishes, feelings and with the need to struggle and grow in a faith community as well as to establish oneself in a relationship? Was I willing to enter their lives and let them enter mine too? Have I met them on their spiritual journey?

The Disabled Challenging My Ideology

The Ark Community challenges me to look at the ways in which I always thought I have been following Christ in my ministry and my thoughts: Have I already been influenced by the instant culture, the pragmatism and the competitive atmosphere of this world, so much so that I even “objectify” every individual person created by the Lord? Have I been earnestly learning from the example set by Christ’s service and following in His footsteps? Being in a community of people with disabilities allows me to understand why Christ Jesus, though He has the highest power and glory, never assumes His place as the strong one, nor control the people He met. Not only did Christ serve the poor, He first became poor and identify with the poor and needy in the world so that the low can be raised and lifted up because of Him (1 Samuel 2:8) and can resume the honour of being a “person”.

If Christ is my teacher, then the disabled friends are my assistant teachers. They gave me a deeper understanding of the intrinsic value and basis of being a “person,” while accepting the weakness and honour of a “person.” If I would like to be in solidarity with the disabled, then I am really learning from them and becoming a real “person” with them before our Creator God.

 

Took part in a charity walk with the disabled sister in Christ

Visited the Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo with the disabled brother in Christ

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