Congratulations to Mike Beates for his nomination by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association as Best New Author of 2013 for Disability and the Gospel! Here’s the first part of a two-part interview with us last fall in which he discusses the book.
As part of our Fall series exposing you to some of the very diverse and gifted people God is using to provide leadership to the movement among churches to welcome and serve persons with disabilities and their families, it is my honor to introduce Mike Beates.
Mike is a parent of a 30 year old who lives with profound disabilities related to a chromosomal anomaly. He has served since 2000 on the International Board of Directors at Joni and Friends and is author of an excellent new book Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace I plan to review for you in the coming weeks.
On his blog, Mike describes himself as the husband of one (Mary); the father of seven (Jessica, Jameson, Abraham, Abbie, Shoshanah, Eli, and Joe); and, in God’s kind providence, a teacher of many. Over the years, he has been privileged to teach students at Biblical Seminary near Philadelphia, through Ligonier Ministries, at Reformed Theological Seminary and Florida Southern College in Orlando. In addition, he has taught in mission capacities with Joni and Friends around the U.S., in Ghana and Ukraine; and preached and taught in churches too numerous to list. Presently his teaching is restricted to students at The Geneva School in Winter Park, Fla. and at Belhaven University in Orlando.
Mike will be a faculty member for Inclusion Fusion 2012, speaking on the topic A Brief Theology of Disabilities. He graciously answered some questions I shared after having read Disability and the Gospel. I’ll share the remainder of his answers tomorrow.
C4EC: You discussed your experience when your daughter (Jessica) was diagnosed with a chromosomal abnormality. How has your experience as Jessica’s father impacted your spiritual development? How has having Jessica impacted your family’s church participation and spiritual development? Is there any advice you’d offer to other couples after raising a child with disabilities?
MB: I often tell people that Jessica has had an earth-shaking impact on me, Mary and our children. Our appreciation for the rich grace of the Gospel deepened significantly and our faith in Christ (that is trusting, leaning heavily upon and surrendering to the goodness of God for us) was experienced at a whole new level. Jessica was born while we were serving on Young Life staff, reaching out to high school kids in Buffalo, N.Y. I was working on the presumption that God was lucky to have me “on His team.” Without realizing it, my life of faith was based largely on being good and pleasing God. Then . . . our first child is born with profound disabilities . . . and life was never the same.
Looking back, Mary and I went into a free fall spiritually. “How could God do this to us?” we asked without necessarily saying it out loud. But over the years, her quiet – indeed wordless – life spoke volumes to us about trusting God more fully. I wrote about her continuing impact recently here: http://mikebeates.wordpress.com/2012/07/15/silent-impact/
As far as church went, our church at the time (The Wesleyan Church of Hamburg) was a wonderful community – despite some people asking awkward questions like “Have you confessed the sinned that lead to this tragic situation?” Since then, as we moved from Buffalo to Philadelphia (Lansdale Presbyterian Church), and then to Florida (with a couple of churches over 20-something years), Jessica’s participation in our family life determined in strong ways where we would worship. I remember visiting a church when we dropped her off in her oversized “stroller chair” the children’s worker asked, “You’re not leaving her with us, are you?” Needless to say, we did not go back. But then at another church, someone approached us, got down on a knee and introduced herself to Jessica, and volunteered to take her to a children’s program – we had a found a church home!
So I would give this advice to young families with children who live with disability: Ask God to lead you to an accepting church. When you visit a church, offer whatever simple instructions might be necessary to care for your child in the nursery or Children’s program and see how they respond. Are the teachable and accepting? Do they show the love of Christ to your child as much as to you? Are they willing to find ways to accommodate your family and enfold you into the congregational life? If so, thank God and settle in. Your child will have a ministry of “presence” that is hard to quantify.
Revised March 12, 2013
Key Ministry is pleased to invite you to make use of our website. Over 180 FREE, downloadable resources are available to pastors, church staff and volunteers seeking to serve kids with disabilities and their families. Please check out keyministry.org today and share the link with anyone who can benefit!