On September 26, 1961, Randy was born to Bob and Aggie Lehman, who were serving as missionaries in Zimbabwe. They were surprised when the doctor said, “This is a Down syndrome baby.” They asked the doctor, a Christian, “What do we do?” He said, “Take him home and love him. Treat him like all your other kids.” Through their nine additional years on the mission field, Randy’s schooling, and until the end of his life, Bob and Aggie saw God’s provision for their family of seven and specifically for Randy’s needs. This included excellent schools in Zimbabwe, caring adults who watched out for him when he wandered away from home as he liked to do, and a wonderful church family in his adult life. They also saw God’s work in Randy, who had a simple, strong faith in Jesus and told others about him.
Reflecting on his experiences as Randy’s brother, Thom says, “As a child, I looked up to Randy, my big brother. Later I realized his differences, but it was a normal sibling relationship in many ways. Randy expressed God’s image in many ways, including his acceptance of others regardless of their disability, skin color, or culture. He had the ability to see beauty in the ordinary, cared deeply for others, and frequently brought much needed comic relief!”
Our voices declaring the value of each life need to be heard. In her Christianity Today, Thin Places blog post titled, “True or False: 90% of Babies with Down Syndrome are Aborted,” Amy Julia Becker highlights a study that showed that about 30% of babies with Down syndrome were selectively aborted. The study also highlighted the “role that culture plays in women’s decisions about prenatal testing and abortion.” Becker concludes, “We all can contribute to sustaining and creating a culture in which people with Down syndrome are welcomed and valued” (Becker, Amy Julia. Thin Places. April 1, 2015. Accessed January 5, 2016.)
When parents receive an adverse diagnosis during pregnancy, they usually fear the worst and forget about the potential blessings. Community and voices for life are important in these difficult times. If they choose abortion, they may miss out on special blessings or experiences that the Lord had for them.
The desire for “perfection” from the human perspective is gaining ground. Genetic engineering promises power to limit disease, choose the sex of a child, and even select hair or eye color and other desired characteristics. In addition, wrongful life and wrongful birth lawsuits are occurring. In 2012, parents of a four-year-old girl with Down syndrome were awarded $2.9 million in a “wrongful birth” lawsuit. They claimed that had the prenatal testing correctly diagnosed Down syndrome, they would have terminated the pregnancy. (Carollo, Kim. “Parents Get $2.9M in Down Syndrome Girl ‘Wrongful Birth’ Suit”. ABC News. March 10, 2012. Accessed January 5, 2016.)
But advocating for and supporting life doesn’t end at birth; there are dangers throughout the life span. Threats of making or enhancing life to suit our desires or of taking life before natural death aren’t just the result of increased knowledge and technology or of cost-cutting policies. Ultimately these come from turning from God as our sovereign Creator and the source of human dignity.
What do we, as Christians, have to say to these issues? We know that God is Creator and has ordained all the days of our lives. We know there is forgiveness, through Christ, for our sins in these areas. We know that God has called us, the body of Christ, to walk alongside others in their challenges. We are to display his glory to the world.
Do we believe God is the sovereign giver and taker of life? Are we willing to declare, through word and deed, God’s faithfulness to those around us? Take a stand for life. Pursue a friendship with those you know with disabilities or in a nursing home. Encourage parents and siblings of a person with a disability or terminal illness. Come alongside a mom or couple facing a difficult pregnancy. Provide assistance to these families. Choose and support life!
To learn more:
Attend Tenth’s Equip luncheons, designed to prepare Tenth to acknowledge Jesus before neighbors, family, and co-workers as the Spirit leads. Join us as we eat, study God’s word, and talk about disability on March 12, 2016.
Visit partner websites: AlphaCare and Mission to North America Engaging Disability with the Gospel. Also see The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity from Trinity International University.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Kristen Harnly. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org