It’s hard to imagine all the ways our world has changed since Jesus walked among us. The cultures, nations, technologies, and ideologies that have risen and fallen in the past two thousand years are difficult to count, much less comprehend. “What,” one could rightfully ask, “could our world have in common with the world Jesus lived in?”
One constant is human nature. A part of that human nature I am especially interested in is how we treat people who have different levels of physical ability.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of the many miracles Jesus performed to heal people. (Did you know that the largest number of Jesus’s miracles mentioned in the New Testament were cures for diseases?)
Jesus healed eyes, bones, skin, blood, muscles, ears, and vocal cords throughout His ministry. In addition to demonstrating His holiness, these miracles show His compassion and willingness to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Jesus also showed a strong desire for society not to overlook children. Taken together, it is clear that God cares deeply for children with disabilities.
Although we certainly have tremendous room for improvement, Americans have made great advances in how we interact with, and improve the lives of, people with disabilities. Unfortunately, this is not true everywhere.
Across Africa and much of Asia, children born with a disability are often shunned by society, mocked at school, and/or literally locked in their homes. A sense of shame is the driving force behind these harmful actions. Many cultures (even among Christians) errantly believe that disability is the direct result of a parent’s sin or a curse by God on a family. Therefore, children with disabilities are frequently hidden away from the public eye.
The organization I am privileged to serve, CURE International, helps children heal from treatable disabilities (such as clubfoot, cleft lip/palate, knock knees, bowed legs, and hydrocephalus) in eight countries, from Niger to the Philippines. These children are among the most undervalued and overlooked humans on our planet. You could say that these precious children are treated like the lepers of our day.
This year, in an attempt to counter the cultural misunderstandings in the societies where we operate, CURE hospitals across the world partnered with hundreds of local churches to teach a biblical theology of disability. We teach that disabilities are nothing to be ashamed of and God loves people regardless of their level of ability. We also tell them about our high-quality, no-cost hospitals that serve their local communities.
This initiative has changed lives forever.
To date, over 30,000 people have attended our Theology of Disability seminars (including more than 2,000 church leaders). CURE has distributed 65,000 Bibles, while PraiseWorks has allowed us to share over 50,000 age-appropriate Gospel materials with children. Over 375 children suffering from a treatable disability have been referred to CURE hospitals, and 435 people with disabilities have joined local churches. We are also excited about a new partnership with One Hope to distribute additional Christian literature to our patients and their families.
Parents are getting their children the help they need. Churches are inviting children with all levels of ability to participate in worship. Schools are restricting bullying and encouraging parents to have their children medically evaluated. The stigma is fading, but not fast enough.
My purpose in sharing this with the readers of The Christian Post is to encourage you to do what you can to make the world more accessible to all of God’s children. I challenge you to see your world through the eyes of someone with a different level of ability than yourself. Be a catalyst for change to ensure your world is accessible to people of all levels of ability.
Human nature has not changed, but neither has God’s nature. He still wants us to “heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:2).
Justin Narducci serves as President & CEO of CURE International, a Christian nonprofit organization that operates the world’s largest network of surgical hospitals for children around the world. Based in Grand Rapids, MI, the nonprofit has integrated spiritual and medical care to treat children and minister to families living in poverty for 25 years.