A Musing on Prevenient Grace 7-12-2023
Last week at Disney I decided to skip out on a couple of rides and enjoy a break with a Diet Coke and shade. Instead of tapping on my phone I spent time people watching. I enjoy doing this and am never bored by watching folks move throughout their day. It is a fascinating experience.
There was the couple with three kids under 5 trying to push several strollers and hand out snack packs while also trying to figure out where the Dumbo Ride was located.
There were the newlyweds that were so blissfully in love that even with it being 112 degrees their arms were tight around each other.
There was a group of ladies whose shirt proclaimed it was girls' trip 2023! They had some drinks with little umbrellas in them.
I saw retired couples moving slowly.
A dad with 2 preteen daughters who were pretending not to know him.
So many people to watch. So many names and stories that went with them.
One small group of friends that caught my eye were a group of young adults communicating through sign language (ASL). It was amazing to watch.
Now I have very little knowledge of ASL but my daughter Sydney does as she took this as her “foreign language” in both high school and college. She might have double majored in this had it been offered at her school.
I wish she had been with me so perhaps I could have talked with them, but she was on some ride being more adventurous than I was.
Anyway, ASL is a beautiful language and, every time I see folks communicating this way I am left in awe.
I am also reminded that in some places in the world those born deaf or hard-of-hearing are seen as less than fully human. Children are sometimes abandoned. They are discarded by their very parents like refuse. I am also reminded of the story of David Worlobah.
David does mission work among the deaf in Liberia. He founded the Hope for the Deaf School which is supported by numerous churches around the world as an ecumenical endeavor.
He writes this about his work.
“In the context of the Liberian society, disabled people in general are most time being considered as insignificant. Nobody therefore will want to show any care for such a person. Deaf children in Liberia are no exception. Most of them are mere beggars in the community. Many of them are seen doing dirty and hard labor work for survival. There is absolutely no empowerment program for deaf children, no educational facility for them. They have no skills and no education whatsoever, they are therefore vulnerable to ill-treatment from the community. They don’t seem to have any value or importance. Deaf girls are seen being abused on a daily basis. Many are experiencing unprepared pregnancy. I personally have appeared at the police station more than twice to witness a case involving a deaf girl been raped. I had to even volunteered to interpret for this innocent young deaf girl. The perpetrator will most of the time go with impunity. Justice is not being dispensed for the deaf. Many of them are not prepared to fight their case for proper redress only because they are not letter and not able perfectly express themselves. In view of the above, most deaf children are not prepared to contribute in any way to the community in which they live. This is indeed very sadden. In fact, they have been considered as mere liabilities to the community thereby loosing every form of respect or value. They do have skill to do decent work and earn their own income and support their individual family members. They have strength and the willingness to work but cannot simply because they do have skills. There are no facilities to help empower them to work and have a family and of course be able to have a family and contribute the community in which they live.”
At the school, he teaches sign language and job skills to deaf students. In addition to working directly with the students, he seeks to change attitudes in the surrounding area. In some parts of Africa, persons with disabilities are considered of little value. He makes the poignant observation that until they began attending his school, many of his students did not realize that they had names. Their deafness deprived them of the pleasures of hearing, the esteem of their culture, the opportunity to work and feel productive, and even their identity.
However, through the work of David and others, these individuals learn they are beloved children of God and have ultimate value just as they are.
The good news beyond this though is these folks, like all of humanity, are known and loved by God. Even if when they did not know God – God knew and loved them. Theologically this is known as "prevenient grace." It is the idea that God always loves first. This is why we practice infant baptism; it is a reminder that even though we might not even be able to understand God, God loves us regardless. God is faithful even when for whatever reason we are not.
For me this this is indeed good news.
Perhaps these words of The Brief Statement of Faith (PCUSA) say it best.
Loving us still,
God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant.
Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child,
like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home,
God is faithful still.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia Amen.