The World Health Organization claims that, over a billion people in the world or one in every seven persons, experience some kind of disability. The term disability, is a disadvantage or deficiency especially a physical or mental impairment that prevents or restricts normal achievement, says the American Heritage dictionary. These individuals with infirmities are among the most neglected group of people in society today. They receive only very limited or minimal attention. Often these folks are left out, forgotten and many of them are even abandoned. We see a sundry of them lie on city streets—uncared, rumpled, hungry and homeless. When it comes to programs, usually, they are not a priority in the community where they belong. In short, they are treated with less importance and contempt. This is a lamentable condition to witness in our civilization.
According to the disabled-world.com,
Currently around 10% of the world’s population, or roughly 650 million people, live with a disability. In most of the OECD countries, females have higher rates of disability than males.
as the population ages this figure is expected to increase. Eighty per cent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries, states the UN Development Program (UNDP). The World Bank estimates that 20 per cent of the world’s poorest people have some kind of disability, and tend to be regarded in their own communities as the most disadvantaged.
The Philippine Statistics Authority also points out that,
of the 92.1 million household population in the country, 1,443 thousand persons or 1.57 percent had disability, based on the 2010 Census of Population and Housing (2010 CPH). The recorded figure of persons with disability (PWD) in the 2000 CPH was 935,551 persons, which was 1.23 percent of the household population.
However, it is a good idea to note that our government in the Philippines is doing something to alleviate the suffering of these less advantaged individuals. Included in the Philippine law as, RA 7277-An Act Providing for The Rehabilitation, Self-Development, and Self-Reliance of Disabled Person and Their Integration Into The Mainstream of Society and For Other Purposes, are certain privileges and protection of these disadvantaged individuals. For example, in public transportation, they are given a discount of 20% and they get the most accessible and convenient seats in those transports as well. In places where there are long queues, they are served first. Like the Philippines, most countries of the world have also different laws for these types of people.
In Australia for example, they have the so-called, National Companion Card Scheme (NCCS). This is a system that enables an eligible person with a permanent disability, to participate at venues and activities without any additional cost for another ticket when the person takes with him a companion. Aside from that, Australia has also a National Relay Service (NRS) which is an Australia-wide telephone access system, specially designed for persons who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment. This can also be used by anyone who wants to call a person with a hearing or speech deficiency. This telephone method is available at no additional cost, to anyone who wishes to use it.
In Netherlands, they have specific organizations for persons with disabilities. These groups have a voice in their decision-making policies. These establishments are often consulted when laws and regulations related to disability are being framed. This occurs from the local to the national levels. Further, their Netherland government provides for these specialized groups, both monetary and counseling support.
In Japan, a country which is 70.4% Shintoist, 69.8% Buddhist and only 1.5% Christian, takes so much care by giving special privileges for disabled people. Charities in Japan, assist blind people in paying for the training of guide dogs, which costs between $20,000 and $80,000. With 160,000 people considered legally blind, they still cater to their special needs. Blind people in Japan can easily traverse their way around and prevent accidents because their sidewalks, road crossings, intersections, stairways and train, and subway station platforms, have yellow bands with raised dots and dashes which assist disabled individuals. These facilities have been in their country, since in the 1960s.
A lot of money has been spent on developing robots to assist handicapped people. SECOM company has developed Mr. Spoon, the first mass-produced robot to assist the feeding of the disabled. Helping quadriplegic eat on their own, each robot consists of a motorized arm that extends to the mouth of the user, who controls it with a small laser he or she nudges with her cheek with a laser and a laser-sensitive control panel. Researchers at Waseda University have developed a robot that can carry a person up and downstairs. Many handicapped people rely on ‘guide-helpers,’ provided free-of-charge by local government programs to go to the supermarket and run errands. The helpers have to be booked in advance and generally only work during the day.
How about in the Christian community? How far do Christians in particular, extend assistance for these persons? What are they doing specifically for these less privileged people? How do you as a Christian, feel towards them? Does your church have a program specifically designed for these persons? If there is a group of people who should be most concerned for this type of group, it should be the community of believers—the Christian family.
The Bible reminds us that as Christians, we are our brothers’ keepers. A responsibility rests on us to look after the welfare of others and do something to alleviate their suffering. Prophet Isaiah felt this burden when he said,
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; 2 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,” (Isaiah 61: 1-2, NASB).
Like Isaiah, each Christian is given the same anointment.
Thus, in the New Testament, it is interesting to note that the Gospel of Mark offers us some valuable concepts and practical tips on how to reach out to the marginalized folks in our society. Using the story of the paralytic, Apostle Mark outlines the details for how to minister with the PWD’s. Let us dig deeper into the story. Although this narrative is also noted by Matthew in Chapter 9:1-7 and Luke in Chapter 5:17-26, for this presentation, I would like to utilize the version recorded in Mark 2:1-12. The account reads,
1 When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. 4 Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. 5 And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’… He said to the paralytic, 11 ‘I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.’ 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this’ (NASB).
In this narrative, we see the setting to be at a certain home, though it does not mention if this was Jesus’ home or someone else’s. But it clearly depicts that, a crowd filled this house making it impossible for anyone to get in. With this situation, four men came into the scene as the crowd listened to Jesus. But, I would like us to focus on the characters of the story. There is: Jesus, the crowd, the paralytic, the scribes (mentioned in verses 6-7), and the four men who carried the paralytic.
The five characters played different roles. Jesus served as the messenger. I could imagine Jesus, still exhausted, having just arrived from His trip to Capernaum. Maybe, Jesus came home, longing for a break from work as many of us do at times. Yet, as He saw the mob, without question or complaint, He willingly gave the bread of life even from his exhausting trip. He must have felt the people’s need to hear God’s message of salvation. Do you have such pity for others who haven’t heard of God’s message?
The mob, however, though difficulty surged them because of their number, they sacrificed to press on, just to hear Jesus. This mob desired to see and hear Jesus to satisfy their hungering souls. What about you? Do you have that same desire to be at Jesus’ feet? The scribes, considered to be experts of the law, came too. But their presence never lightened Jesus’ load or work. Rather, it posed a challenge to it. Could it be you or I at times?
The paralyzed man, lay helpless. He couldn’t do anything for himself. His life entirely depended on others. Many times, you and I are helpless. On our own, we can’t do anything for ourselves. At times, we need others, our families, neighbors, friends, and relatives. Above all, we need Jesus to heal us from our many issues and diseases, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
More pointedly, let us focus on the four men who carried the paralytic. If you read again the story, it appears that these men are simply in the background. In fact, they had no names. But, looking deeply, we find out that the healing of this paralytic happened because of their effort. Let us find out the motivation of these four individuals involved before healing could take place. From this point, let us glean some practical implications for ministry. I would like to call them, the C Ministry.
- The first C which seems to be obvious is Concern
If you trace the etymology of that word, you would discover that the word comes from Latin origin, and it has the following meaning; a feeling of worry usually shared by many people, says the American Heritage dictionary. “It is to show pity for someone in trouble.” Yes. Pity. That’s the key. Had those four men no pity for the paralytic, they would never dare to carry him and his bed. Imagine the load and embarrassment of pressing on in a huge crowd bringing him with his bed in front. It wasn’t easy. Concern for others is the motivating factor that prompted the action of these men. Their Concern for their friend’s healing pushed them to do such an act. That concern for someone moved them to lug this paralyzed person to be at Jesus’ presence so he too could enjoy healing.
- The second letter C is Courage
The Merriam dictionary defines courage as the moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. The American Heritage Dictionary states it this way, the quality of mind that enables one to face danger with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; it is bravery. Imagine the courage of these four. Imagine who among the four took such courage to speak to the owner of the house to make a hole in his house roof for them to pass? What about the fear of being rejected by the owner since they had to get his permission to bore a hole on his house roof? I presume it was nothing but courage that must have gripped their hearts to have such. Had they not possessed such courage, I don’t think they could help their paralytic friend get cured.
- The third is Cooperation
Cooperation, is the process of groups of organisms working or acting together for common, mutual, or some underlying benefit, as opposed to working in competition for selfish benefit, declares the dictionary.com. The word is synonymous with collaboration, assistance, help, teamwork, support, and aid. This is exactly what the friends of the paralytic did. When they realized that the work could not be done by one or two persons only, four of them chose to accomplish the task. Thus, even if the work appeared difficult, by working together, it became easier and it resulted in the healing of their friend. The cooperation of the four friends is something noteworthy. It is worth reflecting and emulating. Often, tasks in the church or organization seem tough. But many of these challenging responsibilities can become easier and lighter by cooperation.
- The fourth is Compassion
The American Heritage Dictionary defines compassion as deep awareness of the suffering of others. Its etymology is from the Latin word compati which has the meaning to suffer with. Sometimes, when you are sick, you become helpless. You can’t do anything by yourself. You become dependent on others especially if you are physically incapable. In this way, you are reliant on others, especially their compassion for you. And this is what happened to the paralytic in our study. He lay helpless. He relied on the mercy of others and he badly needed their help. Without those four men, no healing could have occurred to him. Victoria Osteen aptly said,
We all have responsibilities that keep us busy, day in and day out. But we should never be so busy that we don’t notice the needs of others around us. Keep your heart of compassion open.
- The last and most important of the five C’s is, Christ
Christ who ruled in the hearts of these four individuals became the most significant motivating C. The presence of Christ in each of them who carried that disabled person drove them to do such a heroic act. Christ’s love in their hearts moved them with concern, courage, cooperation, and finally compassion to transport their friend. Christ in their lives spurred them to bring the helpless paralytic to Jesus’ feet. When Christ reigns in our hearts, all our actions will change in the light of the cross. When Christ dwell’s in every Christian’s heart, his mind, hands, and feet gladly work together to bring others to Jesus’ feet.
Like the wind, which is invisible, yet the effects of which are plainly seen and felt, is the Spirit of God in its work upon the human heart… If the heart has been renewed by the Spirit of God, the life will bear witness to the fact. While we cannot do anything to change our hearts or to bring ourselves into harmony with God; while we must not trust at all to ourselves or our good works, our lives will reveal whether the grace of God is dwelling within us. A change will be seen in the character, the habits, the pursuits (Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 57.2).