The Seventh-day Adventist Church throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD) celebrated thousands of its gifted members during a special online program to highlight Possibility Ministries Day, on Saturday, Apr. 24. The event was intended to give greater visibility to persons with disabilities, and reaffirm them that they are cherished, cared for, and important participants in the mission of church.
Thousands connected to the online festival themed “All are Gifted and All are Accepted” led by Inter-America’s Possibility Ministries. The ministry encompasses the blind and hearing impaired, orphans and vulnerable children, those with mental health and mobility challenges and those who have lost a spouse, in addition to caregivers of those with special needs.“We want you to have a place in the church and we want to accommodate you in all that you need in the church because the Seventh-day Adventist Church cares,” said Pastor Elie Henry, president of the church in Inter-America, as he addressed persons with disabilities and church leaders across the territory. “We all are God’s children and God loves us the same,” he said. Perhaps, some churches have been difficult to access for those with physical challenges, said Pastor Henry, but the church is moving forward in opening spaces for each one to be ministered to. “We see you and we love you,” Pastor Henry said.
Empowering persons with disabilities
Pastor Samuel Telemaque, possibility ministries director for the church in Inter-America and main organizer of the event, said the “festival was meant to empower and assist persons with disabilities throughout the IAD to use their abilities and acquire skills and spiritual gifts to give glory to God.”The festival included morning and afternoon programs with special music, testimonies, Sabbath school presentations, a worship service, tips for addressing those with special needs, as well as regional reports on the growing possibility ministries in the Inter-America. The live program featured interpreters from 20 different countries viewed for deaf individuals on the zoom platform and was carried on YouTube channels in English, Spanish and French.
Former Senator of Jamaica Dr. Floyd Morris, currently serving in the United Nations Committee for Persons with Disabilities, called on every member of the church to complete the task of reaching everyone in their churches and communities.Doing great things for God
“It doesn’t matter who you are and where you are from, God can use you to do anything that He wants you to do,” said Morris. “If you have a disability, you can do great things for God. If you do not have a disability, you can do great things for God for he can use your talents to help those with disabilities,” he added.
Morris, who became blind during his high school years, challenged church leaders to do more to reach and cater to those with disabilities. “There are over 1 billion individuals with disabilities across the world, and as an Adventist Church with 25 million members around the world, we have not begun to scratch the surface,” said Morris. “Over 80 percent of these individuals [with disabilities] in developing countries, are living below the poverty line and are also unemployed.”
It is not just about meeting the salvation needs of individuals, but the physical needs of persons have to be met, added Morris. “God is expecting us to cater to the needs of the oppressed so they can realize talents and abilities so they can also do what is required by the Lord to do.”More accessible churches
Senator Morris made a call to Adventist leaders to understand the significant role in preparing the talents and abilities of persons with disabilities. It’s about making churches accessible for persons with any form of disability, break down the negative stigma around them and let them participate in the life of the church.
Possibility ministries throughout Inter-America has blossomed since it was established in 2014, said Pastor Telemaque. All 24 unions, or major regions, have embraced and strengthened possibility ministries in their respective territories. With a task force in each union and conference field leading in the seven ministries encompassed in possibility ministries, the time has come for each congregation to fully engage in catering to each need, emphasized Telemaque.With over 10,000 identified persons with disabilities in the church across the IAD, it is time to strengthen local churches to be more intentional in caring, ministering, discipling and engaging persons with disabilities in the mission of sharing the gospel.
Participation during the program included from reaching hundreds of disabled persons and ministering to the elderly in North Mexico, to an Adventist pastor with mobility challenges in Honduras, to a group of deaf members and 28 trained interpreters in Costa Rica, to bereavement support group in Panama, to an Adventist couple fostering dozens of children in Puerto Rico, to two organized churches in Jamaica for the deaf, the autistic individuals in North Colombia, and more the church needs to continue doing more.Strengthening possibility ministries in each local church
Juliana Santos, who is visually impaired and is a leader of the blind in Brazil, spoke to union task force leaders during a consecration service during the afternoon program. She challenged leaders to keep intentional about providing for the physical needs of those with disabilities in each local church. Santos also volunteers as a team leader of the Adventist world church’s Adventist Possibility Ministries task force for the blind and low-vision.
“We need to do more as a church,” said Santos. “We cannot be silent, like we were not responsible to be inclusive with possibility ministries.” It’s about every single member of the church using his or her talents to share the gospel. She called on members to get personally involved in possibility ministries and invited others to join in the important efforts to connect with those with disabilities.One hundred sixty seven task force leaders from each union were commissioned during the online program. “Our goal is to continue strengthening possibility ministries at each of the more than 23,000 local churches and surrounding communities throughout Inter-America for the Kingdom,” Pastor Telemaque said.
To view Inter-America’s Possibility Ministries Day Festival Celebration of April 24, 2021, click on the following links:
English: IAD Connectivity YouTube Channel HERE
Spanish: Connectividad DIA HERE
French: DIA Connectivité HERE