Lawrence moved two weeks ago. His court-appointed guardian had signed the forms we send each year saying that as his pastor I would get all information regarding his health and safety. Yet, it wasn’t until I called the guardian’s office that she remembered to tell me that he had been moved 30 miles from his hometown.
One of the saddest things about ministry within the mentally challenged community is the disappearance of our members. There have been at least ten or fifteen of Special Gathering attendees who have been moved to other cities or towns by the State; and we have no idea where they were sent. Our ministry doesn’t do social work but our mission is evangelism and discipleship.
When Lawrence missed two Sunday in a row this month, I called his guardian. Lawrence isn’t a casual participant of our ministry. He is a member of our choir. Additionally, only four times in 22 years has Lawrence missed Special Gathering.
The guardian explained to me that the caregiver where he was currently living had tried to isolate him from her and her staff. There had been other warning signs. Finally, Lawrence was pulled from her home, moved to another city, and put into an Adult Living Facility.
Our most vulnerable citizens are not only used as political pawns, they are pushed, pulled, moved and disregarded. While President Obama tried to erase the derogatory and degrading term “retard,” it is growing in the popular vernacular as an insult.
People who are mentally challenged were born with their disability. Their condition is not their fault. It wasn’t their bad habits or their addictions which led to their disability.
I made the trip to visit Lawrence two days ago. A mutual friend and I took him to lunch. We wanted to let him know that he has not been forgotten. Several years ago, in an ministry-wide exercise, Lawrence indicated that he only had two friends. I was one of them. I feel this gives me a greater responsibility to strive to insure that Lawrence is not lost in the maze of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo that can envelop the lives of our population.
I also understand that Lawrence is in the Lord’s hands. God is more concerned about his vulnerable child than I am. Additionally, God has all the resources of heaven at his disposal to keep Lawrence safe. It is a great assurance to me that none of our members are lost to the Lord. While I may not be able to physically insure their safety, I can pray and be consoled with the knowledge that God answers prayer.