Breaking Down Barriers - Indochina

Wednesday 20 Mar

Scott shares a story of transformation in the midst of stigma and exclusion.

Sadly, in too many places around the world people living with disabilities are disrespected, stigmatised and pushed to the margins of society. 

Michael knows how painful this can be – emotionally and physically. Parts of his story are heartbreaking, as he lived with neglect and exclusion because of his disability. Yet he also knows the life-transforming difference that comes from having advocates in his corner who see his potential.

I had the privilege of meeting Michael this week on a visit to Indochina where I am meeting with team members and our ministry partner that provides vocational training and employment opportunities for people living with disabilities. As I chatted with Michael he was busy meeting with parents and children attending after-school English classes that our partner organisation offers local school students. Michael had a big smile on his face.

Here, young people are not only learning English, but something beautiful and powerful is also happening. The young people are being taught by people living with a disability - something that is sadly rare in Indochina, due to the undervaluing of people with disabilities. But as these young people and their families see their teachers as empowered, intelligent and capable people, barriers are being broken down, stigmas are being removed and community attitudes are changing. 

Our Indochina partnership is one of several initiatives across the world where Baptist Mission Australia team members and ministry partners are coming alongside people living with disabilities - fostering dignity, hope, opportunity and community connectedness. These ministries offer a range of holistic, empowering and networking services in allied health, vocational training and community development spaces. 

In most of these settings, social, cultural and religious views on disability directly impact the degree of stigma and exclusion experienced by community members living with disabilities. This is particularly the case in shame culture contexts. And yet, in Indochina and other places, team members and partners report moving personal stories that reflect encouraging progress in breaking down barriers and supporting much-needed change in community perceptions.

A Baptist Mission Australia-wide group has also been established to allow team members from different intercultural teams to connect from across the globe for support, encouragement and peer resourcing. 

In the Gospels, we read of Jesus compassionately engaging with women and men living with disabilities. We read of how Jesus “saw” these people, in contrast to many, including religious leaders, who turned away and neglected to model God’s love. 

I am thankful for team members and ministry partners with eyes and hearts open in their local communities, who are coming alongside people like Michael and cheering on people’s worth in God’s eyes and potential to make a purposeful difference in the lives of others.

Jesus came to break down social, cultural and religious barriers. We’re called to do the same – in all aspects of life – across the street and across the globe. And I know for me that means I need to keep a regular check on my own thinking and attitudes. I need to be aware of my biases and the barriers I can create when I fail to see others as Jesus sees them. 

In shame cultures across the globe people can be confronted with many barriers. Please pray for our Baptist Mission Australia team members, and ministry partners, as they model love of another kind – the love of Jesus – and seek to build bridges in their neighbourhoods. 

Through our words and deeds, we all can be bridge-builders in our local communities. And with prayer and generous financial support we can stand with our team members and partners as they cheer on people like Michael and build hope and authentic, inclusive and joyful community.

Grace and peace
Scott « Back to News