Gathering at the Manger

11.14.17 | Disability, Heartbeat | by Kyle Davison Bair

Gathering at the Manger

    Why was Jesus’ manger such a crowded place? Around this one baby gathered a vast crowd: smelly shepherds from the fields, lavish stargazers from Babylon, faithful yet exhausted Mary and Joseph, and simple townsfolk from Bethlehem. It was a truly diverse crowd. God called each of them to the presence of Jesus in unique ways.

    At New Hope Church, we draw near to Jesus and take others with us. Inescapably, this vision leads to holy diversity. We all come to the same God, but He calls us into His presence in unique ways. In Friendship Class, you find a beautiful crowd of diverse people, no two alike. Some walk, some use a walker and some a wheelchair. Some speak, some make noises and others are silent. Some digest every word of the teaching, some get the general idea and others struggle to retain the simplest piece.

    Because it involves such a diverse crowd, Disability Ministry began a new and extremely well-received small group approach in the Friendship Class. Three times a year, for one month, you’ll find the gym full of tables grouped into four quadrants. In the first quadrant there are coloring sheets that tell a Bible story. The second offers a craft activity reflecting the theme of that same story. The third provides a worksheet helping participants find life application. Finally, the fourth quadrant facilitates a more traditional Bible study that examines the passage more deeply.

    Each of these quadrants focuses on the same Bible passage, based on a short devotional given to the entire group. Participants are free to choose which quadrant they prefer as they dig deeper into the message. Not only are they more engaged, but they form deeper friendships with those who share their interests. We’re experiencing more of a family feel in the class as God builds bridges between people who approach life in the same way.

    Participants' Responses
    One member, Jenny, simply said the new approach is “awesome!” Jenny is higher functioning, so she may choose to assist in the Bible study quadrant. She also enjoys arts and crafts, so occasionally you’ll find her building something with her hands to be reminded of the God she loves.

    Barb thrives on diversity. She loves to sample everything, knowing whichever quadrant she chooses, she’ll be learning the same Bible lesson as the rest.

    Amber is particularly grateful for the Bible study. She brings her Braille Bible every week and is eager to study. Her blindness had often held her back, but no longer. For the first time, she is able to fully participate in a real study. She says, “I have been waiting all my life to be in a Bible study like this!”

    The manger of Jesus was so crowded because God wants every kind of person to come to Him. He excludes no one who chooses to show up. However we come to Him, with whatever level of ability we possess, He promises He will draw near to us.

    Ed Tollefson is Disability Ministry Director at New Hope Church. "We believe every person is created in the image of a sovereign and loving God. Every follower of Jesus has been uniquely gifted with abilities to help build up the church family and make a difference in the world."