Disability

Rusty Lewis is the first ever honorary deacon at Johnstown Reformed Church. The position was created to affirm Rusty’s gifts, honor his abilities, and enrich the church. 

This story first appeared in the winter 2015 issue of Breaking Barriers, the newsletter of CRC and RCA Disability Concerns: www.rca.org/breakingbarriers.

‘I’ll pray for you.” How many times I have said those words with good intentions, to comfort a friend or encourage an acquaintance going through a hard time. Maybe I said a quick prayer on my way out of church, or when I saw that person again.

Prayer took on an entirely new dimension when our son Andrew, a sophomore at Hope College, was in a car accident in August 2013. His friend, the driver, was killed, and Andrew sustained a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). As my husband, two daughters, and I raced to the hospital where he lay comatose, we had no idea what was ahead of us. We prayed in desperation on the long flights to Michigan.

In those early days at the hospital we gathered with countless friends and relatives in the family lounge, as TBI patients cannot tolerate stimulation. Two at a time, we crept into his frigid, dark, quiet room to pray for him. On the hospital dry-erase board in his room, the category “Goals” stood empty. He was so critical that there were no goals. We took the marker and wrote underneath, “God’s Miraculous Healing.”

In Grace’s bedroom in New York, her mother has placed several Bible verses on display.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” says one, a passage from Matthew.

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession,” reads another, from Deuteronomy.

These are important messages for any child to hear, but they have special meaning for Grace, who has autism and is nonverbal, and her mother, Janet Paduano Cardillo.

Five years ago, Larry Patow was paralyzed. He’d taken a fall; it happened quickly. Thanks to surgery, a month in a rehab hospital, and two years of physical therapy, Patow has mostly recovered. (He still has nerve damage in his hands.) For the last three years, he’s visited people who haven’t had the same results with their own recovery. 

The faces of Camp Sunrise campers light up as greeters hand them brightly colored welcome bags filled with personal care products. The welcome bags and the greeters are from Franklin Reformed Church in Nutley, New Jersey.

On Saturday morning, delegates overwhelmingly approved a recommendation to more deliberately support ministry to children with disabilities.