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Disabilities ministries is new NAMB consultant’s focus

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–David Z. Glover –- recently appointed as the North American Mission Board’s national consultant for disabilities ministries -– may be the only man you’ll ever meet who was named after his grandson.

After the 2003 death of 4-year-old Zach Emerson -– born blind and with cerebral palsy — 57-year-old Glover wanted to honor his grandson by legally changing his own middle name to Zachariah.

“[N]obody on this earth has affected my life like Zach did in the brief time he was here,” Glover said, adding with a smile, “I didn’t like Eugene anyway.”

With Zach as his motivation, Glover co-founded Zachariah’s Way, Inc., in Gainesville, Ga., to help educate churches about the needs and blessings of special needs children and their families. It was his pioneering work in starting church ministries for the disabled that led him to the North American Mission Board.

Through grandson Zach, Glover became aware of the lack of support for families of disabled children within the church community.

“Over those four years that God lent Zach to us, he turned our lives upside down,” Glover said. “We were totally and completely changed in ways that happen only when God’s blessing can be seen and experienced. We discovered we were blind in so many ways and Zach taught us to see.”

As NAMB’s national consultant for disabilities ministries and a Mission Service Corps missionary, Glover will use his personal experience to promote and equip evangelistic disabilities ministries throughout the Southern Baptist Convention. He will assist churches and associations in developing disabled ministries, training staff and volunteers and developing plans for reaching people with disabilities and their families for Christ. Glover also is available to speak at conferences, workshops and churches.

“About 95 percent of the disabled population, including their families, is outside the church,” Glover said. “So this is a vast mission field we need to reach for the Lord.”

Before founding Zachariah’s Way, Glover retired from a successful career in the computer software business. He holds a B.S. degree in industrial and systems engineering from Georgia Tech. He and his wife Lee have been married for 35 years and have three children and six grandchildren.

“As a consultant to NAMB, it opens doors to Baptist churches and gives me instant credibility,” Glover said.

“Once a church’s pastor is on board, I like to go to the church and speak to as many people at one time as I can,” Glover said. He then conducts a seminar on training church staff and members in how to minister to those with special needs.

“Most people are scared to death to work with kids or adults with special needs,” Glover said, “even pastors and church staff. We try to help them identify with and understand what special needs a person –- and his or her family -– may have so the church can minister to them.”

Glover said there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to ministering to the physically or mentally disabled. Several factors have to be considered, such as whether to group the child with others with disabilities or mainstream them into regular classes. And, for instance, children with cerebral palsy often can’t be treated the same as those with Down syndrome.

“You do what’s best for the child,” Glover said. “At the same time, we tell churches that ministering to the disabled is not a complicated problem. It’s just having a plan.”

Disabled people in the United States represent 10 percent of the general population, Glover said, noting that if the statistics hold true, a Southern Baptist church with 1,000 members could have up to 100 disabled children or adults in need of ministry.

Baptists must minister to the whole family, not just the person or child with the disability, Glover said.

“We can’t do that until we understand what the family is going through. Life is never the same for these parents as other parents.

“A strategic disability ministry allows church members and staffs to get to know these families and lovingly welcome them into the fellowship,” Glover continued. “They need the Lord like everyone else. Parents just want to know that their disabled kids are loved, cared for and taught to the best of their abilities. These families don’t want to be seen as mission projects. They want to be included in the church as regular members.”

Such ministries advance church growth, he said, because “once a family learns that a church accepts disabled children, you’re going to attract that entire family.” And through word of mouth, the church will become a magnet to other families with disabled members.

“I think those with disabilities have a special purpose in life,” Glover said. “These children are not mistakes. There’s no such thing as a disabled soul. We’re cheating ourselves when we don’t minister to them and their families.”
For additional information about ministering to the disabled, Glover can be reached via e-mailed at [email protected] or by phone at (678) 643-6781.

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  • Mickey Noah