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A powerful pro-life approach

The Church can provide a strong witness by supporting parents of children with Down syndrome

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A powerful pro-life approach
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Over the last several decades, I’ve spoken to countless parents who are caring for children with Down syndrome. Each attest that parenting their child is deeply rewarding and yet, at times, exhausting. One mother recently shared with me that she often feels lonely. She treasures her son and his life. Without a doubt, she understands her son’s intrinsic value as an image-bearer of God.

While this knowledge is crucial, it doesn’t lighten the load of 24-hour caregiving. Furthermore, her duties in caring for an adult living with special needs include advocating for her son at endless doctor’s appointments and seeking financial support for her son’s specific needs, including a wheelchair and medical equipment.

When asked what does ease her responsibilities and provide the most help, she was quick to point out that the Church has come alongside her family in both transforming and practical ways. As encouraging as the testimony of this particular mom is, transparently, in far too many other cases, churches often fall short of the kind of meaningful help parents of children with special needs require.

Tragically, statistics reveal that 60 to 90 percent of pregnant women who learn their child will be born with Down syndrome choose abortion and end the life of their child. Therefore, it is imperative that we honor the brave women and families who provide life to these beloved image-bearers. The Church must take the lead in celebrating this new life by committing to help and support in the way we come alongside families and their children living with special needs. There is so much work to be done as we embrace a “whole life” pro-life perspective—from womb to tomb.

Worldly culture's answer to Down syndrome defaults to abortion. “Try again,” is what parents hear from doctors after learning, sometimes even in error, that their child will be born with a genetic abnormality. Tragically, the country of Iceland brags at the near eradication of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome.

As the body of Christ, we are more than a club that gathers on Sunday mornings. We are called to act, serve, empower, and advocate for vulnerable children and their families.

Christians must turn to action. I’ve seen churches establish Sunday small groups formed specifically for people with developmental delays, assign buddies to individuals with disabilities so they can attend age-appropriate events, and combine activities for the church to fellowship together with activities catered to include children and adults living with special needs. These seemingly small acts of inclusion may feel insignificant, but they make a world of difference.

1 Corinthians 12:18 reminds us that we all have a vital role as a part of the body of Christ, and this includes people with Down syndrome and other special needs. We need to not only provide a place of belonging to people with special needs, but also a place of meaningful service and participation. My dear brothers and sisters living with Down syndrome have the most inviting personalities and smiles. We need to allow them to serve as greeters, as members of the hospitality team, and, as they are able, even on teams that visit shut-ins and widows. Let’s make space for everyone to play their part.

Our work to honor and serve these individuals and their families doesn’t stop at the threshold of our churches. We can—and should—involve the entire community. One church I recently learned of decided to host monthly respite evenings for parents of children and adults with special needs and advertised it to their local community. They staffed their event with nurses, doctors, and volunteers to give these parents a much-needed night off. The gospel was shared at the event, and dozens of new families began coming to this church as a result of this outreach. This is pro-life ministry on display.

By God’s grace, at Lifeline Children’s Services we have a waiting list of families willing and longing to adopt children with Down syndrome and other special needs. They’ve said yes to embracing this beautiful, but sometimes overwhelming journey.

As the body of Christ, we are more than a club that gathers on Sunday mornings. We are called to act, serve, empower, and advocate for vulnerable children and their families. If every church around the globe, poured into even one, two, or three families caring for a child with a disability, the impact would force even the skeptics in our community to turn their heads and take notice.

Herbie Newell

Herbie Newell is the president & executive director of Lifeline Children’s Services.

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