Disability Awareness Sunday - March 12th

    People with disabilities are part of our society. They are the folks that we call neighbor, friend, loved one, and colleague.  It is this time of year that we pause and become aware that people with disabilities are people first! Their disabilities are a part of their lives, but do not define them.

    On Sunday, March 12th, we will celebrate disabilities!  We will be blessed to hear from two individuals - Darnell Booker and John Smyth.  This Sunday marks our third Disability Awareness (or should we say Acceptance) worship service.  Our speakers will share their stories of their life and faith with us at both the 9am and 11am services.  This is a Sunday to realize the importance of how God created us as unique, beautiful creatures, who want to be recognized as God's children first.  Everyone wants to be included, and learning about our differences helps us to understand and hopefully, accept each other.

    Darnell Booker was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana.  He attended the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  He later majored in PE, Business and Telecommunications at IUPUI, graduating in 1991.  He currently works for Bright Ideas doing outside sales and non-profit organizations as a fundraising consultant.  Darnell enjoys playing pool and basketball and coaching all types of sports.  But his love is Beepball!

    He discovered Beepball in 1985.  He played this sport full time from 1985-2000 and in 1990 his team went all the way to the World Series! In 2000, he decided to start his own team, named Indy Thunder.  He shares that it has been a blessing to help youth and adults who are blind and visually impaired to be competitive in sports.  Darnell feels God has put him in this position to give back and this is his calling to help athletes learn social skills, sportsmanship and leadership.  And low and behold, 16 years later, the Indy Thunder became World Series Champions in 2016! Darnell says "It was an unbelievable feeling to reach the pinnacle of the sport of Beepball!"  He invites you to read more about this team from his website Thunderbeepball.org.

    John Smyth is a 22 year old expert on autism, isolation, and excape from isolation to a life of contribution.  Diagnosed with severe autism, communication disorder, and seizure disorder, John lost his speech to regressive autism at about 20 months of age and became nonverbal.  Until the age of 16 1/2, he was unable to communicate even his most basic needs.  At the age of 16 1/2, John began taking lessons in Supported Typing, also known as Facilitated Communication.  To his parents' complete surprise , he began communicating age-appropriate thoughts immediately.

    Since that time, John has attained some amazing accomplishments, including graduating in September 2015.  He was accepted into Marian University in Indianapolis, where he began classes in January, 2016 and is maintaining an A average.  He has a deep love for the Lord and wants to live out his faith by pursuing a major in pastoral leadership, with a minor in peace and justice.

    John's mission is to open a window into the world of disability, especially to the growing population wrestling with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), many of whom are often wrongly rubber-stamped with the label "low intelligence".  John says, "I want to help families and schools connect with our real intelligence, personality and potential.  I want us to be better able to express our love and appreciation and more fully participate in our own medical treatment and education.  I want to dispel myths and misunderstandings that impede these connections.  I was mislabeled as mentally incompetent and low intelligence for most of my childhood."

    You can learn more about this extraordinary young man on his website, AuthenticJohn.com, and read more of his writing on JohnSmythAuthor.com.