March 1, 2015 | Montemorelos, Nuevo Leon, Mexico | North Mexican Union/IAD Staff
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North Mexico wants to make sure its special needs church members can better access its church facilities and be included in activities throughout its 10 local church regions. More than 120 church pastors, elders laypersons as well as persons with disabilities, convened during a recent summit in Montemorelos, Mexico, to discuss this need and to strategize about how to cater to dozens of its members with special needs.
Pastor Larry Evans, liaison for International Deaf Ministries for the Adventist world church, reminded the gathering of the clear mission to share the Gospel with all people, including persons with disabilities who in turn can share God with others.
“We all have a hope in Jesus, in a Jesus who never noticed the disabilities of others before loving them, and that same Jesus is coming soon for all of us,” said Pastor Evans.
Pastor Evans outlined the need for church leaders and members to think of persons with disabilities as a culture. He said doing so would help leaders be more effective when working with and catering to their needs in churches and communities.
Creating a culture to promote more inclusiveness is one of the objectives for organizing the first special needs summit, said Pastor Antulio Espinoza, personal ministries and Sabbath school director for the church in North Mexico.
“We want to prepare our leaders and members to assist and address this minority in a special way in our churches,” said Espinoza.
Although church leaders in North Mexico do not have an accurate number of all the disabled in their churches, they have a figure of more than 100 persons with disabilities among its more than 143,000 church membership in its 587 churches. Determining an accurate number of special needs people will be on the top of the list for pastors, elders and laypersons in attendance at the summit. They will then be tasked with overseeing the establishing a special needs ministry in each local church, said Espinoza.
Mexico’s Population and Housing Census of 2010 reported that there were some 5.7 million persons with a type of disability in the nation, which represents 5.1 percent of the total population in the country.
Plans are underway to ensure that church facilities have the proper entries and accommodations for persons with disabilities, according to Espinoza. In addition, the church will launch an evangelistic program to reach the disabled in the community.
The summit featured seminars and presentations on how to nurture a culture of persons with disabilities in the church, educated attendees on the characteristics of physical disabilities, visual disabilities, speech disability, autism and other forms of disabilities today.
About 35 persons with disabilities participated in the summit. They shared their experiences and testimonies and spoke to church leaders on the need for more awareness and activities tailored to them.
A special forum took place among the leaders and experts at the summit.
The summit was part of Inter-America’s initiative on special needs launched early in 2014, and one that will benefit the church immensely in North Mexico, said Pastor Samuel Telemaque, associate Sabbath School director for the church in Inter-America.
“This summit brought a new consciousness to leaders to be more inclusive,” said Telemaque, who is overseeing more than six special needs summits already throughout the Inter-American Division territory this year.
“Through the summit, people with special needs have a platform to voice their concerns, express their fears, and cast their vision for the implementation and sustainability of special needs ministries at all levels of the church,” said Pastor Telemaque.
“We must be advocates and innovators of God’s all inclusive Kingdom,” he added.
Church leaders in North Mexico will follow up on the special needs ministries throughout its region with activities and awareness training seminars.