They’ve been referred to as “a model of can-do blindness”—and those who know Sue and Larry Povinelli would certainly agree with that description. Sue, a federal government employee, and Larry, a disability rights attorney, are active members at Lamb of God, Madison, Ala. They are using their experience and knowledge to advocate for others who, like them, are visually impaired.
One way the Povinellis serve is to ensure that Lamb of God is an “inclusive congregation”—providing the resources and support needed for those with disabilities to be engaged in ministry and participate fully in worship. At Lamb of God, that means ensuring that Sue had access to a Braille version of the worship service folder. In addition, the couple collaborated with their pastor on a Bible study on blindness to help Lamb of God members better understand and be comfortable with those who are visually impaired.
The Povinellis also have taken their service beyond the walls of their home congregation. Since 2013, they have been members of the WELS Mission for the Visually Impaired. As part of the committee, they are passionate about supporting other Christians who are print impaired by improving the spiritual resources that are available through the blessings of technology. These resources can now be conveniently accessed via computers and other devices. Sue encourages those looking for volunteer opportunities—especially younger people—to help convert print materials into accessible formats for people who are print impaired. “With so many new technologies, you can help serve in this way right from where you are,” she says.
What advice do the Povinellis have for congregations to be more inclusive? They urge, “Have a true conversation with the people you are trying to reach, whatever their differences are. They might not come forward, so approach them and simply ask, ‘How can we serve you? What are your gifts?’ Work to create those relationships.”
And what advice do they have for those with disabilities in our congregations? “Please don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself,” Larry says. “Tell your congregation what you need.”
He adds, “People with disabilities often find that others decide for them how they can and cannot participate in church life, even though they have as much interest in the work of the church as those who are fully abled. If we fail to include and accommodate people, both the church and the excluded person suffer.”
Sue and Larry Povinelli may be visually impaired, but they don’t want to be treated differently. They just want to serve their Lord faithfully with the gifts he has given them—and they want all members of the body of Christ to have the same opportunity.
Did you know?
WELS offers a variety of spiritual resources for those unable to read normal print. Resources include large-print and audio versions of Forward in Christ and Meditations (Meditations also is available in Braille), along with other materials from Northwestern Publishing House. In addition, the WELS website, wels.net, is compatible with Internet readers used by people who are visually impaired.
Volume 107, Number 05
Issue: May 2020