Whenever I think about the Great Commission, the first thoughts that come to mind are missionary journeys to the ends of the earth – preaching the gospel to the unreached, encouraging foreign believers to keep following Jesus.
The unreached people groups that come to mind are geographically far away from this tiny red dot. Yet, within our humble nation, there seems to be one unreached people group that has particularly limited access to the Gospel. This is not because they have not been exposed to it – rather, they cannot cognitively comprehend it.
They are the special needs community, which I closely work with as a special needs teacher.
THE GOSPEL IS FOR ALL
I once encountered an incident at work where my pupil re-enacted the parable of the wise man and the foolish man (Matthew 7:24-27). This was pivotal in helping me recognise the difficulties that people with special needs face in having access to the gospel.
After speaking to his mother about what had transpired in class, I realised she shared a similar goal as I did – to bring the Gospel to all peoples, especially those like her son.
Knowing that I too am a Christian, she expressed that it was often difficult for her and her husband to engage their son in Bible stories or the Gospel message, given his condition. They would wait for him to re-enact biblical accounts before they leveraged on the opportunity to engage him further about the re-enacted narrative and the Gospel.
Despite their son’s disability, they recognised he had the same ultimate needs as anyone else – to be cleansed from sin and reconciled to God.
You might wonder why can’t we just leave them be; after all, if they are cognitively unable to understand most things in life – aren’t they innocent of sin?
But Romans 3:9 tells us that everyone is under sin. Paul quotes from Psalm 14:3 and Psalm 53:3 when he says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12).
As long as someone has made anyone or anything their “king” apart from God, he or she has sinned against God.
One thing that still seems lacking in the general climate in Singapore is the understanding that people with special needs are sinful too – a person’s cognitive deficit does not excuse him or her to be innocent of sin.
As long as someone has made anyone or anything their “king” apart from God, he or she has sinned against God and will be subject to His righteous and holy anger. People with special needs need the gospel too!
All the more, there is a pressing need for churches in Singapore to recognise the importance of preaching the message of salvation and repentance to our friends with special needs – they desperately need a Saviour, as much as we do.
But the resoundingly good news is this: Through faith in Jesus, all have been justified and have peace with God through Jesus our Lord (Romans 5:1). This means that people with special needs, likewise, are able to be reconciled to God – as we have – with proper awareness and understanding of their need for a Saviour.
THE CHURCH FOR THE WORLD
It is heartening that things are changing – we now see more churches in Singapore including people with special needs in their community and loving them. A number of churches and parachurches also run programmes that aim to cater to this group of people.
Among others, these include The Lord’s Garden Sunday School, held at Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church, and SHINE, a special needs ministry from Hope Church Singapore.
I hope to see even more churches persevere in teaching the Good News faithfully and accurately to members of the special needs community – so that in His time, He will meet their greatest need.