People with Disabilities Are Indispensable to the Body of Christ

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (The Message)

I love this Scripture on the Body of Christ. I’ve spent the last 40 years discerning my gifts for the Body. I love helping other discern their gifts. And for 33 years I've watched the gifts of the Spirit manifest in my son Joel, who has autism. As Jesus said, everyone gets in on it! And watch out! Joel is not shy about sharing his gifts with the church!



Every since Joel was a kid he’s loved to pray for people. It started when he was 10 and we took him to a Tuesday night prayer group to be prayed for. This was a pretty charismatic group, mostly women, and they waved prayer flags as they worshipped and prayed. Joel loved it. He soon started saying, “Let’s go pray for the ladies!” He didn’t see this as a place to be prayed for. This was a place where he could pray for others!

My husband and I have been in the healing ministry for years. Joel is often a part of our healing teams. He doesn’t have much language (at least not that he shares with many people). But he does like to put his hand on someone who is seeking prayer, and, in his quiet whisper, pray, “Dear God, pray for ____. Make ____ better." The benediction after this simple prayer is his beautiful smile. People really respond to that prayer of faith.

This past Sunday in church, Joel was lifted high by worship. He danced. He leaped. He waved his hands in the air. Like David dancing before the Lord, he was beautiful to behold.

As worship wound down the pastor stood up to announce that we were going to transition into a time of healing prayer, Joel jumped out of his seat and headed to one of the back corners where prayer chairs are set up. A few feet away from the corner he stopped abruptly, diverted by the sight of a woman he knows, leaning forward in her seat with her head in her hands. Joel stared at her for a minute, then walked the few extra steps and plopped down in one of the prayer chairs.

My husband Wally and I followed close behind. Wally sat down beside him. “So, do you want prayer today, Joel, or do you want to pray for someone?”

Joel lifted his arm and pointed to the woman he had just passed. The one with her head in her hands.

“You sure?” Wally asked. Joel continued pointing directly at this woman.

I approached her. “Excuse me,” I said softly. “Joel would really like to pray for you. Is that OK?”

She looked up. “Oh my gosh, I was sitting here thinking I should go up for prayer, but I’m so tired of praying and not seeing any change. I’d decided I’d just stay here in my seat. But yes, I would like prayer.”

She came back to the prayer chairs and sat down facing Joel.

“How do you want to pray for Janice*?” Wally asked.

Joel took her hand in his. “Dear God, pray for Janice,” he whispered.

“Wonderful,” Wally said with a smile. “Janice, how else can we pray for you?”

Janice went on to tell us how she had been struggling. Tears flowed as she tried to put her feelings into words. Her sadness permeated the corner in which we sat. Wally and I both prayed for her.

Opening my eyes I was amazed to see that Joel was still holding her hand. Usually, Joel's hand-holds lasts 30 seconds, max.

Suddenly, Joel began to speak. He looked Janice directly in the eye.

“I love you,” he said gently but firmly. Not his usual whisper that you have to strain to hear, but words easily heard, easily understood.

“I love you,” he repeated. “I love you. I love you so much.”

Janice’s eyes widened. Wally and I looked at one another.

It was as if the voice of Jesus had just spoken through our son.

Still holding Janice’s hand, Joel continued to look directly into her eyes.

“You are so tired,” he said. “You are so tired.” The words were empathetic, compassionate.

“Yes, I am very tired,” Janice answered, wiping her face with a tissue. “Thank you, Joel. Thank you for that prayer.”

The Holy Spirit has given Joel a gift of healing. Through Joel, Jesus was able to communicate His love and care and compassion for Janice, and healing oil poured over her.

The Body of Christ is incomplete without all of its children present—including those with cognitive, mental, or emotional disabilities. Each person is given something to show who God is. Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits.

Joel showed Janice that God loves her, understands her pain, and that He is with her, desiring to heal her.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul goes on to use the metaphor of a human body to explain the Body of Christ:

A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it. (1 Cor. 12:14-18 The Message)

God has carefully placed Joel right where he wants him for ministry.

Where would the Body of Christ be without Joel?

*Name has been changed to protect privacy

Question to Ponder: What spiritual gifts has the Spirit given your child? Where would the Body of Christ be without him or her?

Kathleen Deyer Bolduc is the author of The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities Check out her website at