My husband and I are very blessed to be a part of a church plant in New Caney, Texas. We came from a church in Atascocita with a faithful Pastor who had a vision to start planting autonomous churches within the greater Houston area. That church had many missions minded ministries, one of which included the special needs ministry that my son was able to be a part of.
My youngest of three children, Jacob, has severe autism. He is almost 8 and has minimal speech, elopes from safety, and cannot attend to a Bible Study for 20 minutes. Having a buddy system to help him behaviorally and to keep him safe as well as having curriculum adjusted to his needs was an enormous help to us.
So, when we stepped out in faith to follow a preacher that we didn’t know to a church plant that didn’t have a special needs ministry yet or enough volunteers for it, I was a little nervous for Jacob. Nevertheless, we felt like the Lord wanted us to go, so we followed with eager anticipation to see the Gospel spread through our new Pastor and church.
Being a special needs parent can be pretty isolating at times. We can’t go to peoples’ homes and attend events very often because of how much anxiety it causes my son. Even standing in the lobby visiting with people can be hard when my son is trying to dart away.
However, when it came time for our church to start hosting Bible Studies in homes, our Pastor urged us to host one in our home. This has been a spring of so much encouragement for us. People come to our home every week and worship God and fellowship despite my son’s frequent interruptions of song and humming. They laugh if he runs through the room full speed or when he takes a swig of their water or climbs in someone’s lap that he barely knows. They don’t mind the sounds of every object in the house spinning in the background. They even understand that we have to deadbolt them in our house with a key to prevent him from wandering outside.
These people coming into our home and seeing our wild and unusual life and still being joyful and present is so encouraging. We feel connected in a deep and meaningful way. Being a part of a small group has grown our faith tremendously as we pray for others and as they pray for us. There have been times of profound sadness and stress when all I could do was cry and ask for prayer and they all stopped and prayed over us. There have been moments of joy and triumph that we got to celebrate with them and those friendships have strengthened.
What I’ve seen time and time again is that God is faithful. He has provided encouragement for us in a way that we weren’t expecting, and we are so thankful for His provision. God is so good. We are so thankful. I pray you find this type of encouragement in your local church. People who love the Lord with all their heart will love and accept your family no matter how different. I pray you find believers that can strengthen your faith and that you can serve alongside.
This month is autism awareness month. With 1 in 68 children diagnosed, most likely you know someone affected by autism. I urge you to reach out to them. If you are inspired to find ways to encourage special needs families here are some helpful tips that I have experienced at my church:
- · Encourage them to join a small group or bible study and to share their hardships and victories. Pray for them and celebrate with them.
- · If their child cannot be in the Worship Center, create a buddy system where people take turns caring for their child in Bible Study, so they can be free to worship.
- · Show excitement rather than dismay when their child arrives at church, especially if their child is engaging in behavior that seems odd or different.
- · Look at their child in the eyes and say hello. You may be surprised at how many people turn away instead of looking at individuals with special needs.
- · Encourage your children to engage with special needs children. I promise it will bless them and grow them.
- · Go to them if you see them isolating themselves. I find myself sitting alone with Jacob when he is having a hard day because I don’t want to disturb people.
- · Ask them how you can pray for them and then PRAY.