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2003 PE Report

Americans find comfort in ‘nesting,’ but connecting is another matter (December 22, 2002)

Viewer discretion advised: Reality-based programs stoop to new low (December 15, 2002)

A/G among fastest growing faith groups (December 8, 2002)

Christians play crucial role in foster care (November 24, 2002)

A/G churches remember with outreaches (November 17, 2002)

Elderly face added woes from credit card debt (November 10, 2002)

PE Kidz News from BGMC (October 27, 2002)

Cyber-evangelists find innovative ways to share gospel (October 20, 2002)

Risks, stigma accompany wearing of tattoos (October 13, 2002)

Women lead on-campus ministries (September 29, 2002)

Tobacco, alcohol, gambling industries find underage Internet client base (September 22, 2002)

Marijuana, cocaine have abusive company: Ecstasy, meth and prescription painkillers (September 15, 2002)

September 11: A day that changed American Christians forever (September 8, 2002)

Congress, courts clash over Internet filtering issue (August 25, 2002)

People with disabilities bless churches (August 18, 2002)

Short-term youth binges can result in long-term habit (August 11, 2002)

Christians aim to preserve traditional marriage (July 28, 2002)

Payback time: Christian volunteers motivated to give back to community (July 21, 2002)

Urban training centers minister
to ever-growing population
(July 14, 2002)

E-mail rumors dupe multitudes, hurt credibility (June 30, 2002)

Not so innocent: PG-13 films increasingly push sex, language limits (June 23, 2002)

Skipping church: Why are some Americans staying home on Sunday? (June 16, 2002)

Fudge fellowship: Pastor's wife treats tavern clientele (June 9, 2002)

Persevering nomadic church finally reaches promised land (May 26, 2002)

Tragedy brings A/G church, community closer to God (May 19, 2002)

Couples find God's calling in adopting, raising children (May 12, 2002)

A/G chaplain ministers to women in maximum-security prison (April 28, 2002)

Youth center offers alternative to teens (April 21, 2002)

A week without television (April 14, 2002)

Technological know-how aids San Jose church outreach (March 31, 2002)

Cincinnati racial reconciliation brings inner peace to inner city (March 24, 2002)

District's fund-raising efforts aid pastors planting churches (March 17, 2002)

GED program an effective ministry (March 10, 2002)

Building relationshipis at heart of women's ministries outreach (February 24, 2002)

Single-minded devotion: Unmarried ranks offer ministry opportunities (February 17, 2002)

Bethany College honors black minister pioneer (February 10, 2002)

A/G quarterback wins Unitas Award (January 27, 2002)

Camp Melody plants song of love in boys' hearts (January 20, 2002)

Pastor breaks giving record after 10 days atop billboard (January 13, 2002)

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

People with disabilities bless churches

(August 18, 2002)

By Isaac Olivarez

Debbie Green’s morning routine is like that of most other working Americans. She prepares breakfast and heads to her job. Green serves as Christian education director at Calvary Assembly of God in Elizabethtown, Ky. But in many ways her life is different. She is blind.

"My day is like every other day for every other person," says Green. "The difference is I have to make certain accommodations."

As a child, Green was diagnosed with uveitis, an inflammatory disease in the eyes that causes glaucoma. At age 8, she lost sight in one eye. By the time she was 20, vision in her other eye had completely deteriorated.

More than 30 years later, Green is one of 58 million American adults living with a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a disability as a substantial limitation in a major life activity. The act guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

ADA was signed into law a decade ago, and employment for those with severe disabilities has steadily risen. Despite the rise in employment for disabled Americans (23 percent in 1991 to 31 percent today), however, career opportunities remain an obstacle for many. Unfortunately, another fundamental activity in life, church attendance, also presents challenges.

While Green attends church regularly, many disabled people don’t go to church. For church participation to increase, experts say, efforts must be made to educate people without disabilities of the skills disabled persons have to offer and to dispel myths that have long been associated with the disabled.

"People with disabilities have gifts that can be used within the structure of the local church," says Charles Chivers, national director of Assemblies of God Special Touch Ministries. Yet, he adds, only 20 percent of disabled people attend church.

Paul Weingartner, director for the Assemblies of God National Center for the Blind, agrees. "Many of our blind people are highly educated and have time to teach because they are usually underemployed," he says. "Some had a tragic experience later in life that cost them their vision, so they had the chance to attend school."

Marlys Taege serves as executive director of Christian Council on Persons with Disabilities in Milwaukee. "When you add the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and spouses that are impacted by a disability," she says, "that’s close to 50 percent of the population that has some sort of need for accessibility. When we don’t reach out to those with disabilities, we’re cutting off a large number of other people as well."

"Bridge the distance between yourself and the individual with disability," Joni Eareckson Tada told PE Report. Tada is founder and president of Joni and Friends in Agoura Hills, Calif. "You’ll find," she says, "that your fear will dissipate, and you will see that this person is just that – a person, who happens to have a disability."

So why aren’t more people crossing that bridge? Taege says a lack of knowing what to say is to blame. "One of the challenges for everyone is feeling comfortable with people with disabilities," she says. "We’re afraid we’ll say or do the wrong thing."

Tada, a quadriplegic for 35 years, has written more than 30 books and speaks around the world as a disability advocate. She believes there are several myths about people with disabilities. "Many people [falsely] think [being disabled] is a result of sin or that the person doesn’t have enough faith to be healed," she says.

Taege emphasizes that believers must get past those misconceptions. "Just because someone uses a wheelchair or can’t see as well doesn’t mean their mind isn’t working," she says.

While some mistakenly assume people with disabilities seek pity, those who minister to them contend they need more than sympathy. Millions still need to be introduced to Jesus Christ, and their disabilities should not be an obstacle to sharing the gospel message with them.

"Families affected by disability can be great visual aids of God’s Word," Tada says, "showcasing how His power is best displayed in people who are yielded to Him. God always seems bigger to those who need Him most."


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