Eve Newman takes pride in her work as assistant custodian at Centennial United Methodist Church in Roseville, Minn., a job she has held for 13 years. Eve sees keeping the church clean as a way to serve her church and serve God. “I do my praying as I’m cleaning,” she said. Eve is the unofficial greeter for people who enter the building while she cleans the entrance. She was delighted when vacation Bible school students thanked her for the good job she does. Eve serves as a self-advocate representative on the Disability Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church where she shares her gifts and gives voice to concerns of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Eve’s mom Debby Newman (who represents parents on the Disability Ministries Committee) notes that Special Olympics participants introduce themselves by their name, where they live, and where they work. Work is a central piece of personal identity, yet work is hard to obtain for many people with disabilities. In developing countries, the unemployment rate is as high as 80–90 percent (http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/toolaction/employmentfs.pdf). In industrialized countries, persons with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed as persons without disabilities. These rates do not include those who are underemployed or have given up trying to obtain work. Complex reasons for the statistics include limited opportunity, discrimination, and income limits for obtaining needed services.
Without meaningful, paid employment, people are trapped in poverty and have limited life choices, which may lead to depression and low self-esteem. Churches can make a difference! Communities would benefit if even half of the more than 335,000 churches in the US offered positions such as the one Eve holds (http://faithanddisability.org/webinar/webinar-putting-faith-to-work).
Resources for Disability Awareness Sunday