The first module of the Certificate of Christian Disability Ministry (CCDM), organised in collaboration between Scripture Union Singapore and the Koinonia Inclusion Network (KIN), saw more than 40 participants from 25 churches zooming in for this 2-day event. In the first teaching session on 8 August 2020, entitled “Introduction to Disability”, KIN President Leow Wen Pin dished out food for thought by challenging the participants to imagine a different world where people with disabilities were the majority, and how that world would be different for the so-called “able-bodied”. He then led the participants through a tour of key Scriptural passages that challenged the Church to see itself through an inclusive-gospel lens, namely, that “We, the Citizens of God’s Kingdom, have been commanded to love, care, and be inclusive, making disciples of all peoples.”
After a morning of teaching, the afternoon followed with a dialogue session with three Christians who had children or parents with disabilities. In this way, the participants gained firsthand insights from the panelists on how to support a family member with disabilities. Registered social worker, Timothy Teoh, then concluded the first day’s teaching with an overview of the social support networks for people with disabilities in Singapore. This enabled the participants to better understand the disability ecosystem.
The second session held on 15 August 2020 was interactive and engaging. Pediatric psychologist Eliza Leong used the analogy of an iceberg – where only 10% of the iceberg was visible with the remaining 90% being invisible underwater – to remind the participants that disability is often hidden, and that there are many things we do not know about persons with disabilities simply by looking at them. She then debunked myths about a variety of neurodevelopmental disorders, while highlighting some research-backed truths about how to help people with such disabilities.
Thereafter, Khoo Jit Kuan, a pediatric occupational therapist, brought his wealth of experience and an element of fun to the class by bringing the participants through a series of disability simulations, e.g. requesting participants to sit on the floor to simulate a person on wheelchair talking to a person standing. Through these simulations, he underscored the importance of disability etiquette and the need to respect the personal agency and space of persons with disabilities.
In the afternoon, another dialogue session was conducted, but this time with people with disabilities. The dialogue saw many heartwarming stories from the panelists. Despite their challenges, the panelists repeatedly gave thanks to God for accompanying them and for shaping their faith journey. One panelist, Peter Lim, recalled his adventures of riding pillion on a motorbike and of climbing mountains with a grateful heart: “I would like to thank God I am blind. Because I cannot see, I do not fear, and it allows me to live life to the fullest!”
Rounding up the module was psychologist Yvonne Lee who introduced the participants to issues that were specific to adulthood and disability, and provided practical insight about how the church could support adults with disabilities. To further concretise her teaching, she shared about the practical approach taken by Jesus Club Singapore, a fortnightly ministry that seeks to befriend adults with intellectual disabilities through Word-based ministry.
As the module came to an end, the participants provided encouraging and enthusiastic feedback. One church staff member observed that “[CCDM] gives ministry workers greater insights and inspiration into God's work.” Other participants observed that CCDM “gives a broad and in-depth overview on disability,” and that “it is by far the most comprehensive training program conducted.” Finally, one participant summed up the module well by noting that “[The course is] very helpful for people who would like to better support those with special needs in their church and to be inclusive like how Jesus would be. There is a holistic approach in understanding individuals and families with special needs, [including the] theological, health aspects (psychology and occupational therapy), and social services.”