of us may remember the days of childhood when a runny nose was caused
by an affectionate Sunday school teacher who offered a hug, leaving
us with her scent of perfume that mingled on our clothes long after
she had left. But over the past twenty years, the number of people
who suffer from chronic illnesses such as asthma, allergies, Parkinson's,
fibromyalgia, and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) has skyrocketed,
making this perfume an actual health risk to some people we love.
This has created new challenges for the church, many of which are
unequipped to effectively reach people who often feel misunderstood
by friends, family, and the church.
exactly is MCS?
who suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, also known
as Environmental Illness, become ill when exposed to low levels
of chemicals that wouldn't bother most people. When exposed
to products such as fresh paint, new carpeting, perfume, or
scented laundry products, a few of the symptoms people may
experience include migraines, seizures, disorientation, or
barriers prevent thousands of people from participating in church
activities. These include scented products used by other church
members, toxic cleaning products, and building materials used in
the remodeling of church facilities.
Recently, Calvary Chapel Eastside in Bellevue, Washington has helped
bridge the gap between the church and the MCS community through
Aroma of Christ. The church has a room next to the auditorium called
the "Fragrance Free Zone."
those who abide by a strict fragrance-free policy may enter. The
service can be viewed through glass panels and people who haven't
been able to attend church in years are once again feeling connected
to the body of Christ. Nancy Schlimmer shared that being able to
come back was like a "homecoming." Judy Stephenson has
been blessed to be able to take communion and see baby dedications
again after spending years in isolation on Sunday mornings. Psalm
9:18 says: "But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor
the hope of the afflicted ever perish."
prayer is that many churches around the country will start learning
how to minister effectively to the chemically sensitive. I know
it is not God's perfect plan for members of the body of Christ to
be isolated at home, unable to be part of their local church. The
apostle Paul makes it clear that each person is a valuable member
of the body of Christ. I Corinthians 12:21-23 says: "The eye
cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those
parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and
the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special
Ridings is the founder of Aroma of Christ Ministry. She is a graduate
of Northwest Bible College in Kirkland, Washington. Visit: www.aromaofchrist.com.