Upon discovering my son had special needs, I remember struggling to embrace my new reality. I didn’t feel like I had the character to be the parent my son needed me to be. At this pivotal time for my family, an empathetic parent reached out to me and shared a life-changing truth I’ve never forgotten: “The testing and difficulties you’re going through are because God has a great destiny and dream for your son.”
At that moment, my perspective changed. My son’s diagnosis became an essential part of the dream God had in store not only for my son, but also for my entire family.
“Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.”
– Psalm 105:19 NLT
In Genesis 37-50, we learn that God built Joseph’s life and character through many uncertain and unpredictable moments. My journey has not been nearly as difficult as Joseph’s, but this verse helped me understand that God was setting me on a pathway to build and strengthen my character in preparation for his dream of inclusion to come true for my son, my family, and so many others in the special needs community.
Why inclusion matters
Inclusion is “the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.” It’s about involving another life in our lives—regardless of that person’s abilities, age, background, or differences— so that together we change the world.
Individuals with disabilities are a population that experiences many barriers to inclusion, which can have a significant adverse effect on their lives. They experience poverty at a much higher rate than individuals without disabilities. In California, adults with disabilities are much more likely to experience depression and other health challenges than their neurotypical peers. Children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to experience violence than children without disabilities.
In light of this, I’m grateful to be part of a church and community that is passionate about championing inclusion both locally and globally.
However, inclusion is not just about helping those with disabilities. The pandemic has given us all a taste of the exclusion and isolation those with disabilities often experience, helping us understand that everyone needs accommodation and inclusion, not just those with special needs.
Without having a son with special needs and friends in the special needs community around me, I would never have been able to see my need to develop empathy, awareness, understanding, and compassion. My son opened my eyes to greater opportunities to connect with other families and understand their unique needs. This gave us a desire to make an impact in the community through inclusive programs such as E-Sports and especially E-Hoops in San Francisco. As we have served in these programs, we have been able to inspire and change lives I would have never encountered had it not been for my family’s needs.
How we’re building inclusion
How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!
– Ephesians 3:18b TPT
Inclusivity is an enduring and exceptional hallmark of God’s love and heart for people. For every Christian, inclusion is a lifestyle of embracing God’s loving heart. One of the most inspiring and personal ways we can do this is by bringing together individuals who are neurotypical and those who have special needs, changing the world through inclusion.
This is why we are so compelled as a church to support Exceptional Sports (E-Sports). The “E” in E-Sports stands for “exceptional,” which reflects our belief that all people, both with typical and special needs, are exceptional. The “E” also implies “education,” reflecting our mission to keep learning and growing as we serve this community of families.
The incredible volunteer base of the Bay Area Christian Church helped launch E-Sports in 2000, and the BACC is currently an official sponsor of E-Sports programs in the Bay Area. BACC and E-Sports have worked together as close partners over the years in serving and championing inclusion for families of children with both typical and special needs. Every week, over 600 children participate in E-Sports, along with over 500 volunteers. Over 2000 families have been served by E-Sports since the inception of the program.
Inspired by E-Sports’ work promoting inclusivity throughout the Bay Area, the Golden State Warriors have partnered with E-Hoops since 2018, inviting participants to promote inclusion at their halftime and “primetime” exhibitions and games. E-Sports has also made a difference for special needs and typical families by partnering with organizations like Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes and expanding globally to Kenya, India, China, and the Philippines.
Additionally, our E-Sports volunteers have expanded the program’s inclusive mindset into other innovative programs. E-Dance, E-Surf, E-Art, E-Game Social, E-Fitness, E-Gardening, and E-Photography are bringing inclusion to the whole person no matter their life stage, so that every individual can live an exceptional life!
Builders in the Bible:
For even greater inspiration about building the Kingdom through building inclusion, check out Paul’s story and outlook in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 of how God’s power and strength were perfected when Paul both experienced and embraced limitations.
Also check-out, “When Family Becomes a Lifeline, Not a Limit.” God always opens up new opportunities for impacting lives when we embrace a heart for inclusion.
Till next time,
San Francisco Lead Minister