All of us face the possibility of dealing with natural disasters. Depending on where you live, these can include hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes, floods and wildfires. Preparing for and dealing with disasters can be stressful for everyone, but disasters can be especially challenging for people with disabilities — including the elderly.
A major issue faced by persons with disabilities, which may not be readily apparent to members of their congregation, is the lack of transportation. For example, dealing with extended power outages during natural disasters is a major inconvenience. During Hurricane Sandy, for example, many people were without power for two weeks or more. It was very unpleasant for everyone affected. For people with disabilities without transportation, these situations are often compounded by discomfort, isolation, loneliness, concern for personal safety, and need for food, medical supplies or both.
As a member of the leadership team of Presbyterians for Disability Concerns, I am very encouraged by the growing number of stories about how congregations are welcoming and supporting people with disabilities, sharing their gifts and talents in worship, leadership, outreach and personal ministry.
As our congregations continue to strive for greater inclusion for people with disabilities, please be mindful of the added difficulties they may face during natural disasters. By reaching out to folks who may need a helping hand (or ride), you are reinforcing the message of inclusion for everyone in God’s kingdom.
Gary Pratt, Presbyterians for Disability Concerns (PDC) Leadership Team, a network of the Presbyterian Health, Education & Welfare Association (PHEWA)
Let us pray:
Incline your ear to us, O God, for we are always in need of your gracious care. Preserve us and protect us when the storms of life wash over us and leave us gasping for breath. Help us to notice signs of your providence and love each day, and especially at those times when we cannot care for ourselves but need to rely upon the kindness of brothers and sisters to help us weather the storm. Amen.