Wednesday, February 13, 2008

No Heart for Special Children - By Rev Michael DeVries

(This article was printed in my church’s bulletin on 20th January 2008. Reproduced here with permission).

Reprinted in full with permission from The Standard Bearer, vol. 84, no. 5, dated Dec 1, 2007; p. 110-1

Many of us have been privileged to see and experience the blessings of a child, or adult, with special needs—physical or mental disabilities. Very often such a child has a very special place within both the home and the congregation. Though there are challenges and sometimes very real hardships involved, the blessings of our covenant God abound.

But in the culture of death in which we live, increasingly such special children are not permitted to see the light of day. Medical technology, which is often a wonderful means for good, is increasingly used for evil. And prenatal testing frequently leads to abortion, which is used as a “disability prevention measure.” Joni Eareckson Tada explains in a poignant article in WORLD (September 15, 2007) entitled: “Down Syndrome Dangers”:

Every year we look forward to Doug volunteering at family retreats that we hold for disabled children and their moms and dads. He is young and athletic, a senior in college, handsome, articulate, and intelligent. The kids love him (and so do a few girl volunteers). When he first began volunteering, we assigned Doug to a little boy with Down syndrome. The two hit it off wonderfully. This energetic young man possessed a knack for relating to the boy; from that year onward, he always asked to be assigned to children with Down syndrome and their parents.

Recently Doug said, “Joni, when I get married, I hope that my wife and I will have a child with Down syndrome.” I was startled, but chalked it up to youthful idealism. Since then, I have come to see that Doug meant what he said. He observed a special joy in children and adults with Down syndrome, as well as a godliness that strengthened his faith. He could also tell these children blessed the lives of the moms and dads to whom he administered over the years.

I thought of Doug earlier this year when the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists began recommending broader prenatal testing for Down syndrome among younger pregnant women. Up until this year, they recommended that only older women who were pregnant be tested. But now, all mothers-to-be are routinely tested. The results? Over 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis choose to have an abortion.

This breaks my heart. I am deeply concerned about this trend. Abortion is now used as a “disability prevention measure.” The effort to eliminate Down syndrome translates into the worst kind of social engineering: the annihilation of an entire group of people who are precious. Our alternative: Accept the love and the God-blessed joys of raising a child—a life—that God has given. Jesus says, “Bless the little children, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Even children with Down syndrome.

A person with Down syndrome may never understand how to keep up with the Joneses or how to get over his head in debt. He or she may never be clever enough to sneak behind his spouse’s back and look for an illicit affair (yes, men and women with Down syndrome do marry, and some of those marriages are honest-to-goodness models to neighbors and friends). They won’t be cunning enough to know how to cheat, weave lies, or how to stab a friend in the back. People with Down syndrome may not have driver’s licenses, but then again, neither do I—and I get around quite well for a quadriplegic.

That new ruling by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is a sad reflection of the growing premise in our society that a person is “better off dead than disabled.” Human beings are no longer being treated as people, but as things that can be dispensed with, altered, aborted, or euthanized. The medically fragile—whether the elderly, the unborn, or the children Doug serves—are left exposed and vulnerable in a society that has lost its moral bearings, its heart.

The wish of “Doug,” in Joni’s article, that he and his wife might one day have a Down syndrome child, called to mind the following statement of Gertrude Hoeksema to her husband, “If any child other than our own could have been our daughter, it would have been Lori.” Lori was one of God’s special children with multiple, both mental and physical, handicaps that Mrs Hoeksema was able to mentor and instruct in Scripture for a few years. The beautiful story is told in her book Lori (Reformed Free Publishing Assoc., 1987). If it’s been a few years since you’ve read this book, pick it up and read it again. If you’ve never read Lori, purchase the book and have your heart touched.

Several weeks ago, in the Grand Rapids, MI area, many were able to attend the annual “Special Needs Program” held at Faith PRC in Jenison. I personally have not had the privilege of attending this program, due to the great distance involved, but I’ve heard much about it. I know that a requirement for attending is a handkerchief or a good supply of tissues. For to hear numerous saints, both children, young people, and adults, who have various “special needs” speak and sing God’s praises brings tears to the eyes of the most stolid of God’s people.

May the spirit of the age in which we live, which would avoid or dispense with those who are less than “perfect,” inspire us to wholeheartedly support the Society for Protestant Reformed Special Education, to volunteer our time to help out on the periodic outings of the special needs saints, to remember with prayer and acts of kindness families blessed, but also burdened, with special needs children. Take the time, make the effort, to greet and get to know these “special” fellow saints.

For our covenant-keeping God also has among His children these “special” children. As Gertrude Hoeksema related concerning Lori, “The Lord took her through the valley of death to be with Him so she could say her favorite words to all eternity: ‘I belong to Jesus.’” The words of Christ apply: “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mt 18:5, 6).

May God give us a heart for “special” children. ω

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