(Photo: Joni and Friends)
Joni and Friends International Disability Center plans to hold the first-of-its-kind Global Access Conference, inviting individuals from across the U.S. and around the world to be trained and to network in the area of ministry to those with disabilities.
Organizers intend to bring together disability leaders, ministers, educators and practitioners to share experiences, forge relationships and learn how to practically and effectively promote disability ministry in the Christian community. The event is scheduled for Feb. 17-20, 2015, in Southern California.
Conference speakers include Joni Eareckson Tada, founder and CEO of Joni and Friends; Doug Mazza, president and Chief Operating Officer of Joni and Friends; Dr. Charles Ware, president of Crossroads Bible College; Dr. Joseph D'Souza, international president of the Dalit Freedom Network; Dr. Eddy Bazin, pastor of Delmas Christian Church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Lon Solomon, senior pastor at McLean Bible Church; international missionary and speaker Bernadette Todd; and full-time painter and speaker Hyatt Moore, former president of Wycliffe Bible Translators.
"We are so excited about this world-class lineup of speakers whose life experiences have uniquely qualified them to understand the challenges facing individuals with disabilities, as well as what it takes to successfully reach out and minister to the disability community," conference organizer and Joni and Friends Vice President Steve Bundy said. "They will be sharing from their wisdom and their hearts as we all learn together how to better respond to God's command to bring the poor, crippled, blind and lame into His house."
Organizers plan to offer four thought-provoking tracks during the conference. They are:
• Leadership development and biblical counseling
• Ministry in sensitive cultural contexts
• Mission and disability ministry
• Technology and disability
In order to achieve its three objects of equipping, engaging and encouraging attendees in the area of disability ministry, Global Access will explore three central themes to "create a more unified understanding of the goal of global disability ministry." These are:
• Christ: understanding His person and work in historical context, considering the implications of His ministry as it applies to evangelizing people affected by disability.
• Church: exploring its responsibilities in this area
• Community: understanding the Church's role as a leader in disability advocacy and empowerment in the wider cultural and social community
"We know these are weighty topics, but there is no doubt this is an area in which we need much more discussion, study and understanding, as well as getting people on the ground doing the work of ministry," Tada said. "I am so excited that we've been able to see this conference come to life around our theme – 'Where disabilities and possibilities meet' – and I can't wait to see how God is going to use this."
The conference is scheduled to be held at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village. More information is available online at www.globalaccessconference.org.
For 35 years, event organizers say, Joni and Friends has worked to accelerate ministry to the disability community around the world, offering a wide array of life-affirming ministries, including the Christian Institute on Disability; the International Disability Center; international radio and television programs filled with inspirational stories; Wheels for the World, which every year gives thousands of individuals wheelchairs and the life-giving message of the Gospel; and Family Retreats, where families affected by disability learn they are not alone.