Peter has held out his hand to God’s people a few times before just to have them push it away. At least that is what it felt like when the last two churches asked Peter and his friends to leave and not return. Peter and his friends live with developmental disabilities. Some live with mental illness. It is not they find it difficult to connect relationally with others, it is that others find it difficult to connect relationally with them. What they need is a community of people to see that they are more than the sum total of their disabilities and illnesses. They too are people, dearly loved by God and made in His image. If there’s anything I’ve learned about God, everything He creates possesses a unique beauty and should be cherished and valued. Peter and his friends are of extraordinary intrinsic value and possess a unique beauty that when clearly seen, adds vibrant colors to the palette of life and community.
It was only a year ago when I received a call that the second church asked Peter and the rest of his friends to leave. I do not know why. I guess it hints at not being able to see beyond their disabilities and illness. Or maybe it is as I suggested before, a couple of assisted living homes housing men and women with developmental disabilities and mental illness make “doing church” difficult and uncomfortable. And as in Lisa’s story, the picture shows what they missed.
This wonderful young man in his thirty’s is a talented, thoughtful and kind man. He needed to know that he was wanted by God and His people. After a few months of experiencing this kind of love and embrace he decided he wanted to be a Christian. Now he is. I am honored to have him as my brother in this journey of following Jesus.
I’m grateful for a church that welcomes all with radical embrace. Now we must press on into the difficult work of trusting God to form us into His beloved community.
Oh, and Peter would want me to tell you that he is an artist and a rapper. He likes to draw pictures that express his love for Jesus. He is quite good at it. His favorite thing to do is write songs about a God who loves him. For real, Peter has skills. He hopes that one day we will hear his songs on the radio. Wouldn’t that be beautiful?