By Danelle Putnam, Missionary
We have exciting plans in the works to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities. HLBP received a grant from IMPACT, and international alliance of Lutheran organizations who provide services to people with developmental disabilities (Bethesda is a member) to do staff training in the government orphanage. We believe that this will improve the quality of care and the quality of life for the children living in the home. Since the government will be observing what we are teaching, we pray that this will open up more opportunities for training at a higher level and will open up conversations about how people with developmental disabilities are cared for.
HLPB is facilitating a network of non-profit organizations that work with people with developmental disabilities. By networking and facilitating communication, we can help to be a stronger force in the area of advocacy for people with developmental disability. We can be a stronger presence and voice in the community and to the government. Instead of repeating services offered, we can help make each organization stronger in the services they offer families and people with developmental disabilities.
The Dominican Lutheran Church and HLBP together are working on expanding outreach and services to families with developmentally disabled children. Through monthly Amigos de Jesus outreach activities, the church is sharing Christ’s love to people with developmental disabilities and their families. These families tend to have great physical needs and lack orientation and support in caring for their family member with developmental disabilities. HLBP is planning on expanding her rehabilitation services to families in the communities where we have Amigos de Jesus outreaches (in our congregations and missions). HLBP will provide experience in training and orientation so that families can receive the support thy need to better care for their family member.
We also hope to start a summer camp program for children and youth with developmental disabilities. This is just in the beginning conversation stages, but would be the first of its kind in the DR and a wonderful opportunity for Christian witness and letting children and youth with developmental disabilities experience something they have never done before…and involve community members!
From the beginning of the Dominican Republic Lutheran Mission, the developmental disability ministry has been an integral part of witness (outreach and church planting) and of learning what it means to be the church, to extend the mercy that we have received through Christ to others. Church members for years visited the children with developmental disabilities in the government orphanages. They shred God’s Word with the children, His love, and salvation we have through faith in Jesus. Our witness to the children opened the doors to collaborate with the government to receive the children in the group home. Along the way, our members, many of whom are very poor, have learned to reach out to those who have a greater need than they do – a need for family, a need to have an opportunity to hear God’s Word. These are the orphans and the families of children with developmental disabilities who are generally very marginalized. Our church, our members through faith, have received Christ’s mercy and are extending this mercy to others. They see the needs, they respond. This mercy is extended not just to people with developmental disabilities, but to others in the community. They understand that as a church, they are the Body of Christ, they are a family all in it together. This is taking care of each other in the family (physically and spiritually) and reaching out and growing the family. Not only do we want people with developmental disabilities to be included and lovingly cared for but we want them to be active participants in society, community and church who are giving of themselves, who are giving, who are reaching out to the government and working to impact society on a large scale, this specifically though the developmental disability ministry and services. We are doing this in Jesus’ name and by his love.