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Christian Organization Unites the Millions Who Live with Invisible Illness

by Lisa Copen  
9/04/2008 / Health

Nearly 1 in 2 people in the USA live with a chronic illness and about 96% of the illnesses are invisible.* Rest Ministries, Inc., the largest Christian organization that serves the chronically ill, an affiliate of Joni Eareckson Tada's International Disability Ministry, is encouraging those with illness, as well and family, caregivers, and churches through their annual outreach event, National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, September 8-14, 2008.

The week has grown since 2002 to being an entire virtual conference; It features 20 workshops with well-known guest speakers who will be presenting and answering questions via Blog Talk Radio, September 8-12.

Speakers include:
Leslie Vernick, author of The Emotionally Destructive Relationship (Harvest House, 2007)
Julie-Allyson Ieron, author of The Overwhelmed Woman's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents (Moody, 2008)
Lisa Copen, author of Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend (Rest Publishers, 2008)
Jennifer Saake, author of Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage and Adoption Loss (NavPress, 2005)

Lisa Copen, 39, founder of Rest Ministries says, "Since our ministry began in 1997 we've found that despite the strong walk many Christians may have with Christ, chronic illness can rock that solid foundation. Feeling like no one understands how much your life has changed since a diagnosis can be more spiritually detrimental than the illness itself. It can make one feel isolated, misunderstood and even bitter."

Copen, who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia since the age of twenty-four explains why Invisible Illness week matters. "It's important to teach those with illness that they do have to accept a certain level of others not 'getting it'only God really gets it. But it's also nice to be able to encourage others; to find strength in validating the mixed emotions. You don't have to explain why walking twenty feet may be impossible some days."

Rest Ministries extends their outreach about invisible illness awareness to churches, providing materials to start up HopeKeepers groups, books, cards, tracts, etc. About 96% of those with illness may appear perfectly healthy on Sunday mornings, but may struggle to get out of bed the remainder of the week.

Ken Chambers, Director of Church Relations at Joni and Friends International Disability Center, says, "It is vital that Christians understand the emotional and spiritual trials of those with invisible disabilities, as well as those with visible disabilities. Rest Ministries is dedicated to educating churches to not only serve the chronically ill, but to involve them in the church body. I encourage church leaders to take advantage of the wealth of resources at Rest Ministries and to participate in the National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, which they sponsor annually."

Get involved by joining the hundreds of people who will blog about invisible illness on September 8th, attend a seminar, or tell someone who has an illness about the event. Typically, people with illness are unable to attend a traditional conference, so a "virtual conference" is widely anticipated. All seminars will also be recorded and archived.

*Source: Chronic Care in America, U.S. Census Bureau

If you lead a support group or are considering it, don't miss Lisa Copen's new book, for your ministry needs. Over 300 pages with step-by-step instructions on how to write a vision statement, promotion and attendance and much more!

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