Disability in Mission = Mission Possible

27 Oct 2021

“I’m sorry, I don’t think it will be possible for us to send you to the mission field due to your disability”.  Perhaps a common response by mission agencies (historically at least).  Can this be right response to a person who has a heart to serve in missions?  Doesn’t the Bible say “People look at the outward appearance but the LORD looks at the heart’’ (1 Samuel 16:7b).

What else does the Bible say? All of us are familiar with Matthew 28:20, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.” And aren’t we all praying for more workers? So why would we turn people down who are called by the Lord of the harvest and are willing to go? There are no ‘asterisks’ to this command, like *except for people with disabilities.[1]

The Bible actually speaks more about disability than we may think. For example, Moses in Exodus 4: 10-17. The Lord had called him, but Moses replies I am “slow of speech and tongue’’.  But in the Lord’s eyes, this weakness did not disqualify him from service.  Moreover, the Lord provided the support Moses needed by sending Aron his way. They worked as a team.

And what about Paul? We often portray him as someone who could do just about anything. But Paul actually boasts in weakness or ‘thorn’.  Weaknesses could be considered as ‘disqualifying’ factors for mission, yet Paul boasts in them. Because when we are weak, God’s power becomes more visible.

After my own experience of disability and mission through my daughter who has a profound disability, I became aware of many such stories.  We documented many examples of people with disabilities in mission in ‘Disability in Mission: The Church’s Hidden Treasure. The authors Nathan John and David Deuel document the story of Barry Funnell, a quadriplegic, who faithfully served for many years in Bible translation work in Malawi and Zambia.  And it empowers him by keeping him dependent on God. 

People with disabilities are called by the Lord of the harvest into His harvest field.  And the Lord uses them in various and amazing ways. 

Disability in Mission = Mission Possible as God continues to choose the weak to shame the strong. Let’s face it, if He chooses to use you and me, He sure can use anyone.

Pioneers is committed to disability inclusion in its mission.  Not only is it Biblical. Its effective for His gospel purposes.   If you have a lived experience of disability and God has called you, then speak to your local mission mobiliser…

Nathan John


[1] Eric Carter uses this term in an article on disability inclusion in faith communities. See Erik W. Carter, “The Absence of Asterisks: The Inclusive Church and Children with Disabilities,” Journal of Catholic Education 23, no.

  • – Nathan J., Marlies, SIM, Simon L., Pioneers.

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