Vital Link No 76 Autumn 2019

vital link The Newsletter for Through the Roof Is Disability Good For Us? Institution Or Inclusion? Stories from the 2019 Churches Inc Ukraine Trip A Changed Man In At The Deep End Disability Inclusion In Our Churches Zechariah was born with Cerebral Palsy 14 years ago to Pastor Volodymyr and his wife, Oksana, in Ternopil, Western Ukraine. Doctors put great pressure on the couple to give Zechariah up to an institution because ‘they would have no quality of life.’ The couple disagreed, choosing to accept their son as a precious gift, created in God’s image. Life is hard – the couple receive only enough financial support from the government to pay for incontinence pads, and Zechariah is educated at home, due to the lack of state provision for disabled children. However, his parents and church love Zechariah and many people have been touched by his life, as the family strive to support and encourage others who choose to keep their children, despite great pressure to do otherwise. “We took the opportunity to pray with residents that they would know God whatever their circumstances. ” Volodymyr Kostyshyn, Pastor of Grace Baptist Church, hosted our Churches Inc team of Kerry, Phil, Mike, Edith and Trevor, who were visiting Ternopil for the first time to meet with, and train as many disabled people and church leaders as they could. Mike – Chair of Through the Roof – shared about the global picture of disability. He explained the medical and social models of disability but recommended a relational model, which says that we all have limitations and gifts, and are designed to live interdependently. It’s a positive thing that we need each other! Mike also encouraged listeners not to give up or despair but to keep moving forward. Trevor – an ordained minister, gave a Biblical perspective on disability, suggesting that disability can be used by God to show His grace and mercy. We can know God in our weaknesses, for example Ellen, his daughter has cerebral palsy. She is full of joy despite her physical challenges. The group responded enthusiastically to our message, and many shared their own stories, with a common theme of feeling extreme despair and depression about their disabilities but finding hope in the love of other people and God. We were very encouraged by the work Volodymyr and another local Pastor, Ihor, were doing to reach out to disabled people in their communities. We visited a centre that supports families who have children with learning disabilities. Local churches have provided funds to employ two staff – alongside two staff employed the government – to help these families with a range of challenges such as poverty, education and emotional support. We visited the only hospice in Ternopil, which is run by the state and supports about 30 people. Typically, if someone is dying, they are alone and don’t receive palliative care, unless they have family support. The old manor home looked grand, but was extremely run down with many parts uninhabitable. We took the opportunity to pray (Continued on page 2) No: No: 60 Summer 76 AUTUMN 2014 2019