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Cindy Dennis

Executive Director

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN - PART 3“Inner Pockets”By Paula Golladay

I hope you have followed my Individuals with Disabilities (IWD) Elephant theme in the fabric woven

through parts 1 and 2. Now comes the time to ask the Elephant, “what is inside of the suitcase, even in

the innermost pockets?”

The first pocket is placed inside the top of the suitcase, the thoughts that we carry in the mind. This is

the largest pocket, where you will see carefully placed labels that have been accumulated over the

years. Some are given to us by others and a few we generate on our own, because of how we are

treated. These bear the scars of a church wanderer looking for identity.

Some of these labels might read:
“lost,” “unwanted,” “inconvenience,” “unworthy,” all of which sum up in the mind with the most pain ridden label - “abandoned by God.” These labels are heavy-laden and etched in the stone of our minds.
Why does this happen? I could write a book on the why factor, but in short, there is a palpable
awkwardness from non-IWD’s.

Yes, even Christian brothers and sisters simply do not know how to

engage, connect, or know the latest appropriate buzzword to use. So instead, they look away and avoid

the opportunity altogether. Hoping perhaps the person will go away and fade into the back of the

church, easing our awkwardness along with them.

The two side pockets, smaller in size and depth are the elephant’s deferred hopes and dreams, along

with their love of God and desires to know the bible. They feel deeply and believe strongly just as any

other elephant in the world. But perhaps that is overlooked as the inside of an elephant is neglected due

to the awkwardness the outer disability presents.

Well, good gosh you might now say to yourself, “see

IWD elephant you have it all!” In part this is true, yet, until my elephant can safely bring these heartfelt

items out of the suitcase, they are simply pent-up ideas and dormant emotions longing to be seen and


The last pocket is the little one under the bottom of the suitcase, the secret compartment. Here is the

true gift that my elephant carries, there is just one word written in big bold font - AWARENESS! The IWD

elephants has insight and perspective to the world that non-IWD’s cannot see. What would happen if we

began to allow what they see to shape our vision for an integrated and inspired church, vibrant with all

peoples? What could happen if we allowed their perspective to train our eyesight to see the world

anew? Let me once again state, no church can meet all needs for all IWD accommodations. Trust me if

your church does try to climb this “Mt. Sinai” it will fail again and again and again. Yet, there is hope

when we take awareness training and begin to practice what we preach. Here are a few steps to


  • 1. Pray – for a heart posture that is willing to learn; for insight on how to grow, and for an opportunity to take a baby step of faith.

  • 2. Seek wise counsel – learn from those who live, eat, drink, and fully accept being part of the IWD community; no matter what part of the community they align with. Healthy engagement makes all the differences toward understanding.

  • 3. Read, read, and read some more – there are plenty of articles from reliable sources about how the church disenfranchises IWD Christians and ways to become aware of it. Follow up with additional

  • reading as to how to fully integrate IWD’s into the church body, heart, and soul!

4. Consider training opportunities – Sometimes fresh perspective is all you need. Go to where you

can learn how to be a church that engages IWD’s genuinely and practically.

Once these actions take hold in our daily lives, we then begin to see fully inclusive-integration of all

people created by God!

Closing verses:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring the good news to the

poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening

of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor, and the day of

vengeance our God to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion——Isaiah 61: 1-3a

(English Standard Version)


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