*** DEBUG END ***

Interview: Katie Mobbs Through the Roof team leader, and co-ordinator for Wales and west and south-west England

02 February 2024

‘I hear stories of disabled people feeling jumped on by people who are eager to pray for healing, and I’ve experienced this, too’

Through the Roof

Disabled people are some of the most marginalised, overlooked, and forgotten people in the world, even in the Church. It’s estimated by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization that, of the world’s one billion disabled people, only five to ten per cent ever hear the gospel.

Through the Roof was established in 1997, inspired by the work of Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralysed, following a diving accident, and we’re working to change this situation. Several Christian organisations focus on specific disabilities, but we work together with churches and people with all disabilities and access needs.

Our international mission teams work with partners to distribute refurbished wheelchairs or mobility aids and a Bible in local languages to those who need one. We encourage fellowship by providing accessible Christian holidays and retreats for disabled people. Across the UK, we’re equipping a volunteer network of disability champions, Roofbreakers, in churches and ministries, with training, support, and resources. I’m team leader for the Roofbreaker project across the UK. I also focus on reaching churches in Wales and west and south-west England.

Nearly all the charity’s funding comes through voluntary donations from individuals and churches, and we have nine paid staff. Recently, we’ve received a grant from the Benefact Trust to help develop our UK work.

I have cerebral palsy [CP], and I’m a wheelchair user. This led me into a career in health-and-social-care law and disability advocacy in the public and third sector, and then eventually to my current role.

I do lots of networking with people and churches, and we work together on projects, events, and initiatives to raise awareness and share best practice. We also provide training and resources to churches and Christian groups to help them increase disability inclusion.

I’m a cheerleader for the exciting examples where disabled people are truly welcomed and belong within churches — and an advocate for those whose experience of church isn’t what it should be.

There’s been an evolution of sociological models of disability across society and the Church, away from medical models that say that people are disabled by their impairments or differences — leading to a lack of independence, choice, and control — and the charity model, which sees disabled people as people we need to “do good to”.

Following the Disability Rights movement, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and the Equality Act in 2010, the social model developed. It recognises that people are disabled by barriers in society, not just by their impairment or difference. It’s the predominant model in most organisations at present.

It’s a positive development, which has done much to move disability inclusion forward; but, because it focuses on independence in every aspect of life, it’s led to a sense of isolation for some. Through the Roof advocates the gospel model of interdependence, where we all serve each other, giving and receiving as equal members of the body of Christ.

One of the great joys is seeing what God’s doing in people’s lives. One of our favourite things to do is to share each other’s stories. You can hear some of them on our YouTube channel.

There will be disabled people in heaven. Scripture tells us that God’s priority for all people is that our sins are forgiven, and that we can look forward to being in his presence for eternity, whether we experience disability or not.

I’d like to challenge — gently — the underlying assumption that disability’s always a negative thing that needs to be fixed to achieve wholeness. It’s simply untrue, and doesn’t reflect Jesus or his interactions with people.

My experience, and the experience of many other people I know, is that God can and does use our experience of disability to shape us to look more like himself, and has a plan for each of us. Psalm 139 makes it clear that each of us is created in God’s image. My experience of disability is integral to my identity and walk with God. Equally, I’m aware, though, that disability in life is a source of pain and disappointment for many.

In each of these realities, I believe God is present and working. What the Bible promises in eternity for all of us is relief from suffering and pain; but, while suffering and pain can be a consequence of disability, disability does not always equate with suffering and pain. I believe we can look forward to the absence of suffering and pain in eternity, and disability may still be present. To be honest, I really hope it is, because it’s a big part of what makes me me.

Stories about Jesus healing people are a beautiful illustration of the way that Jesus truly sees each person he comes into contact with, treating them with dignity and respect, meeting them where they are.

In a fallen world, people experience disability, pain, and sickness. We believe God does heal, both spiritually and physically — but God brings about healing and wholeness in different ways. There’s a distinction to be drawn between healing and physical cure. It’s possible to receive Jesus and be spiritually healed while not seeing physical cure . . . and it’s possible to be physically cured without receiving spiritual healing. Sometimes, both come together.

I grew up in Devon with my parents and two sisters, and an extended family. They know and love Jesus, which is a massive blessing. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t know who God is, but, when I was 14, I was really struggling with my disability at a crossroads point in the treatment of my CP. I’d been offered multi-level surgery: an extensive orthopaedic procedure that involves a degree of risk and quite a lot of rehabilitation. I felt God invite me to trust him completely with my life and the outcome of the surgery; so I got baptised to show that I wanted to live my whole life for Jesus.

On the day of my baptism, I received a card from someone saying that she’d seen a picture of me coming up out of the baptistery unaided. Although I wasn’t physically healed, God spoke to my heart as I was coming out of the water, saying that, while I wouldn’t walk physically in this life, he wanted me to use my experience of disability to help others in a similar situation to walk spiritually with him.

I now live and work in Cardiff, where I studied and later met my fiancé, Andrew.

What grieves me most are stories of people hurt and even stalled in their relationship with Jesus by their experience of the Church. It’s, sadly, quite common, particularly in the area of prayer for healing. The bedrock of any prayer we offer should be based on seeing the person first, and asking, as Jesus did, what the person would like prayer for. I hear stories of disabled people feeling jumped on by people who are eager to pray for healing, and I’ve experienced this, too.

Prayer must be done in a sensitive way that confers dignity, and the ways in which God brings healing, wholeness, and restoration in our lives are many and varied. Let’s not limit him by expecting healing to come only in the form of physical cure.

People make me happy. I love spending time with my family and friends. I love seeing different expressions of church families, too, and seeing people use their gifts to the glory of God.

I enjoy listening to worship music, as it helps me to keep my focus on God. I also love the sound of a good, crackling fire, particularly on a cold day.

Jesus gives me hope. I have faith that he’s bringing his Kingdom, and that all people will know the love and sovereignty of God.

I pray that more disabled people would come to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and belong within the Church.

I’ve never met Joni Eareckson Tada, who inspired Through the Roof. I’d love to chat to her.

Katie Mobbs was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.

See Through the Roof is 25! on YouTube.


Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)