Differently abled

Farmville Enterprise April 3, 2019

Most of us know individuals who seem to be constantly smiling. Matthew McClain was one such person. I met him when I began attending his family’s church and was in senior high youth group with the sister closest to his age. Their wonderful father, an OB-GYN, and dear mother had three other children and graciously opened up their home for all kinds of youth activities. Matthew typically sat in a pew up front and was enthusiastic in greeting others at worship. He carried his Bible and a notebook and often had Scripture verses or prayer requests to share. Matthew was an Eagle Scout and a part of the Special Olympics. He and his family were connected to Young Life Capernaum, which ministered to youth with special needs.

Matthew left this world surrounded by his family on March 21, World Down Syndrome Day. Since people with Down syndrome have a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21 the organizers of WDSD chose the 21st day of the 3rd month to recognize this genetic disorder. One out of 700 infants or approximately 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome per year in the United States. While these children experience differing levels of developmental and intellectual delays, they enrich the lives of those around them and are beloved daughters and sons of God, just as we all are. Matthew was an integral part of the church. Many of us recognize that our lives were made better by knowing him. It was no surprise that for his memorial service last week the church parking lot was full.

A friend from seminary has two daughters who are about to release their self-published book on Amazon. Enabled: The Memoir of Ceci and Lucy Sturman follows a 19-year love story of inseparable sisterhood and is a sweet exposition of their relationship. The memoir illuminates how Lucy, radiant, theatrical and diagnosed with Down Syndrome, has been able to reclaim her ability with the help of her older sister and how Ceci, sensitive, artistic and prone to anxiety, has faced and overcome challenges with the help of her younger sister. The two alternate perspectives through a mix of poetry and prose. Their book intends to offer both truth and beauty to the special needs community.

Sadly, many couples and women have decided to terminate pregnancies when they have received a positive prenatal screening result for Down syndrome.  Iceland rarely has more than two infants born with Down per year and their termination rate is almost 100%. In Denmark the rate is approximately 98% of those with a positive test result while it is 77% in France and 67% in the US. On the bright side, the organized and active push for full inclusion and welcoming those with Down syndrome continues to make a positive impact.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139: 13-16)  Jesus said, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”  The righteous asked when they had done those things. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25: 34– 40)

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