By Larissa sheimbom
The Program Officer for the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (SEEPD) of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services (CBCHS), Mr. Lohshie Eugene has enlightened Ministers of the Gospel on the importance to reach out to people with disabilities as Christ did. In his presentation during an annual Pastor’s Conference on August 6, 2021 at the Full Gospel Mission Mile 3 Nkwen, the SEEPD Program Officer challenged the Ministers of God to promote disability inclusion in the house of God because, “A Church without the Disabled is a Disabled Church”. According to Mr. Lohshie, it takes a lot to include persons with disabilities into the house of God. On this score, he uncovered aspects such as disability and its biblical background, barriers to inclusion, models of disability and communicating with impaired persons. On disability and its biblical background, he mentioned that the church is a place for the impaired to find refuge when the society denies them. Disability in the church is not new, taking from the Bible in Exodus 4 with the life of Moses who had a speech impairment, Judges 14 with Samson who had visual impairment, Mephibosheth was born crippled according to 2 Samuel. Mr. Loshie digested to the ministers that the impaired (the blind, mobility impaired, persons with leprosy, deaf, etc) were a key part of Jesus’s Ministry and continue to be a precious set of people in the sight of the Lord and should be treated as such. The SEEPD Program Officer enumerated some of the barriers that hinder impaired persons from being included into the church. The seven barriers include: Policy, Physical Structures, Attitude, Inaccessible Communication, Limited Services, Lack of Assistive Devices and Lack of Disability Disaggregated Data Information. He mentioned that if all these barriers are cleared, the church will be comfortable for persons with impairment.
Talking on the models of disability, Mr. Lohshie said there are four models of disability that have evolved over the years; the Medical, the Charity, Social and the Right-Based models. This has been the thought of people over the years regarding the impaired in the society. The Medical Model gave the impression that it was the duty of the medical personnel to take care of them, the Charity Model as well gave the impression that they just needed acts of charity to make them included, the Social Model held that persons with disability just needed people around them and the last and most important the Right-Based Model that states that the impaired have their rights. The presentation equally cautioned the ministers of God on what language to use in addressing the impaired persons in their churches. He advised they use courteous words in delineating them that makes them feel cherished. He highlighted that a good attitude should be manifested to the impaired. The over two-hour presentation left the ministers with a lot of joy and plan to take actions when they get back to their stations of ministry. ‘’ The presentation has left me speechless, I will go back to my congregation and make sure the impaired feel comfortable. I will equally talk to other churches to do same. I will like more opportunities as this,’’ Rev. Dr. Muma Stephen expressed. Seventeen ministers together with six families of persons with disabilities attended the workshop. They also left the workshop with some Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material from the Empowerment and Disability Inclusive Development (EDID) Program and the SEEPD program to use in enlightening their congregations on Children’s Rights, Child Abuse etc.