I have had the blessing of attending the same church my entire life. The Lord led my parents here in a very sad way; my grandfather died during a Sunday evening service at this church. Three weeks later I was born and my parents moved to this area and started attending our church to be supportive of my grandmother. In many ways, my church has become my home away from home.
When Sarah was first diagnosed with autism, it was if my church family also received the diagnosis. The love and support was amazing! We had very few special needs kids attending our church and we had no real procedures in place. Our church family, lead by our Children’s Ministry Director, Bonnie V., knew we needed something in place for kids like Sarah and the “Helping Hands” ministry was born.
“Helping Hands” allow us to attend church services together or do other things, such as serve as leaders in our youth group. We come to church with our bag of goodies (coloring books, toys, treats) and we know Sarah is getting the one on one attention she needs. I can’t even begin to name all who helped watch Sarah! We had high school students, college students, moms, dads, grandmas, teachers and speech therapists. Some had experience with specials needs children, others just wanted to help.
All I consider to be beloved friends now. There is a special place in my heart for those who love and desire to help who have come alongside us on this journey to ease the burden. Their hour of service was our sanity and our time to refuel. The Helping Hands ministry is such a precious gift when your spirit is dry and your soul is weary.
Currently we have the most dynamic duo in Pam and Sarah V. These two ladies for years have been watching Sarah for us. Pam has such a sweet and calm presence about her. She and Sarah “chill” and Sarah loves her time with Pam. Sarah V. is the master of crafts and Sarah enjoys their creations. I love when I come to pick up Sarah and they are intensely working on a project. I feel like I am interrupting something precious–something that has slipped past autism and has allowed our Sarah to break forth. These ladies love Sarah and are such a blessing to us. Watching Sarah can be exhausting and since she is basically non-verbal it is a very one-sided conversation. An hour of care is taxing but they do it without complaint and with such joy.
I found this quote from Emily Colson, daughter of Chuck Colson and the author of Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free:
“Many believe autism has reached epidemic proportions. We may need to build bigger schools to hold them all, but we don’t need bigger churches. When God reaches for His spiritual tool belt, He builds love and compassion in us. And when we let God grow our hearts, there’s room enough for everyone.”
I am thankful for Pam and Sarah V. (and the many others who have worked with Sarah-bless you all), let God grow their hearts. Their compassion for our girl is something that the world peeks at with great wonder. Why do they do this thankless job? It is because God took His tool belt and created something beautiful!
They are the Helping Hands, but it is us who have the grateful hearts!
“Then King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you will do for me.’” Matthew 25:40