When it comes to disability ministry, Kevin Avery’s interaction has been unusual. He entered this area of ministry many years ago as a typical, non-disabled individual. Now, just shy of 49, he preaches and ministers as one who is himself disabled.
While he and his wife, Dayna, were serving as English teachers in China from 2001 to 2003, Kevin had an opportunity to teach children affected by intellectual and physical disabilities during his free time. Although the children’s level of English was rather poor, Kevin was forever changed by the joy exhibited by these kids. This class was their first chance to belong to a group and make friends. When Kevin and Dayna left in 2003 to go back to the US, Kevin’s prayer was to be able to come back one day and work fulltime among such children.
A year after Kevin graduated with an MDiv from seminary in 2006, Molly was born, and two years later, Hudson followed. The plan had been to return to China after the birth of two kids, but that plan had been damaged, if not destroyed. A few months before Hudson’s birth, Kevin was in the hospital, receiving the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. He wondered if he could even continue serving as a parttime pastor or chaplain in the US, much less as a fulltime minister overseas.
But with God, that plan to return to China had never been altered. With passports in hand and God’s calling in their hearts, Kevin, Dayna and two small children had to trust the promise in 1 Peter 4:11 of God providing the strength they needed to serve. For 8 1/2 years, they served in China. Those years were wonderful! Indeed, Kevin joyfully shared God’s love through creative arts therapy to adolescents affected by autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Also, while living in China, he earned an MA in Disability Studies in 2016 from California Baptist University by taking virtual classes.
However, when the Averys returned to the US in September 2020, Kevin was dealing with extensive MS nerve damage. He was now wheelchair bound, and travel of any sort was daunting. How was he going to be able to continue to serve others? Besides serving staff members as a hospital patient – reminiscent of chaplain days – his hope of returning to in-person ministry was fading. Discouragement was knocking at Kevin’s door.
Thankfully, Kevin did find encouragement through prayer and online ministry, but his greatest encouragement began in 2022. At this time, he was developing a friendship with Ben Watson, who was serving with iTEE Global, despite being affected by blindness. Even better, Kevin learned there are cohorts of individuals with visual impairments in the US and in Zambia, Africa. Amazing! He knew that few churches and mission organizations minister among those with disabilities and even fewer try to make disciples among them. And focusing on such a group to multiply disciple-makers? This was his first time to hear about such passion, such accessibility! Hallelujah!
Since formally becoming a staff member of iTEE Global in December 2022, Kevin Avery has been grateful to work and pray alongside others whose passion is multiplying disciple-makers across the nations. Typical boundaries of poverty or disability do not hinder such a God-given vision. Amen!