These Words…

‘These words are spirit and life…’ (John 6:63)

I have long loved a tradition in our church of presenting Bibles to second graders. Each Bible has the child’s name on it, and it’s signed by the pastor. It’s a rite of passage, many of these children receiving their very own Bible for the first time. As the children stand before the congregation I believe they get the message that the entire church is supporting and encouraging them on their journey of faith.

Several weeks ago we received an invitation via e-mail for Rhema to participate in the upcoming Bible presentations. I stared at the e-mail suspiciously for a good ten minutes not knowing what to do. For a moment, I honestly thought I’d received the e-mail in error. I’d forgotten that Rhema would be a second grader now if she had been in a typical school setting. And it never occurred to me that she could or would ever be a part of the church ceremony.

For days I hemmed and hawed, rehearsing the can’ts and won’ts in my mind. She won’t be able to stand still. She can’t even sit in the sanctuary for 10 minutes. She won’t understand what’s going on. She can’t even read. Isn’t the whole point of this to entrust Bibles to children who can read and understand?

Finally, I mentioned it to Brandon. “Do we want Rhema to participate?”

“Of course!”

“Oh.”

Then I knew. Of course. Of course she would go to the front of the church and accept her Bible just like the others. It would be different for her, yes, but meaningful still. Her Maker, limitless, His imagination and purposes so much bigger than mine.

And this is what I’ve been praying for and talking about for years – to see a more inclusive Church, one that ministers to, embraces and celebrates people with special needs. I’m so thankful for the church communities of which my family is a part.

A Bible for Rhema. Who can say if she’s listening or understanding? Nevertheless, we’ll read it to her. While she’s running and spinning around the room. We’ll pray it over her as we tuck her in at night. We’ll write it out and post it on her door. We’ll say it to her in moments of discouragement and moments of triumph. Because no other word has power like this Word, to teach, heal, encourage, save. Because the word “rhema” means God’s Word spoken, revealed. Because words will come and words will go, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.

As it happens, I was out of town the day of the ceremony. But father, sister and grandmother were  there. Brandon walked her to the front and sat with her on the front pew while the others stood and the Pastor said a few words. And then, at just the right time, Rhema received her Bible, the most important book she’ll ever hold.

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20 thoughts on “These Words…

  1. Oh, that is wonderful. That is so wonderful your church included Rhema. And when you read to her, her spirit knows. She is, in ways unseen, soaking that truth in.

  2. I keep meaning to ask you a question–am reminded by this post–do you know of any materials/books/websites/etc. on teaching the gospel to a spectrum kid? It is the miracle I ask for–not that he be “cured” but that he would know his Savior now, on earth, not just one day in Heaven (though I know that’s nothing to sneeze at). But how, how, how to make something untouchable and mysterious accessible for someone whose language is–at best–simple and concrete and whose attention span lasts for 5 seconds. Thank you for the reminder that the Word is most powerful, that I have a mighty weapon even there. I would covet your prayers and any advice that you have in this. Thanks.
    –Jett

    • Jett,

      I have wondered about this A LOT myself. Rhema has such a hard time attending and is only just now beginning to understand language (or so it seems to me). Often we read and just hope she’s somehow taking it in. I’ve been quoting a verse to her since she was born and one day a couple years ago she blew me away by filling in some of the words to the verse – I had no idea that she’d even been listening to me all those years!

      I love the Jesus Storybook Bible , which is really more on Hope’s level, but every story in this particular Bible points to the Gospel. It also comes with an audio CD that might hold your son’s interest: http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Storybook-Bible-Deluxe-Lloyd-Jones/dp/0310718783/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1322625759&sr=8-2

      The Inclusive Church (link on my blog roll) has posted some articles on teaching children with autism about the Bible in a tangible way. She recommends taking some of the abstract concepts in the Bible and making them concrete through visual aids, hands-on activities and picture schedules. Some examples: http://theinclusivechurch.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/teaching-children-with-autism-the-tangibles/

      Let me know if you find something that works!

  3. I am so touched by this. Another reminder for me to stop wondering if he can and simply say “of course!”. Just wow. So happy that Rhema participated and received her very own Bible. So glad her dad was able to share the moment with her. This lit me up!

    • Erika,

      Just today a friend actually sent me a couple pictures from the ceremony! The other children’s faces are pretty clear in the pictures, and so I don’t want to post them online. But I guess I can just send them to your e-mail. 8)

  4. Congratulations! My son received his bible a couple of years ago and the church we attend is VERY inclusive! We have several ASD families in our church and they make accomodations for Sunday school for all of us! WTG Rhema:)

  5. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post – and not just because you were kind enough to link to my blog. Can I please repost this from you as a guestpost on The Inclusive Church Blog? (Don’t feel bad to say “no”). Either way, I am going to link to your blog. This post is amazing my friend. I want to cry and cheer all at the same time. This post is what every children’s ministry leader in America needs to hear!

    ~ Amy Fenton Lee

  6. Pingback: Including a Child with Autism in the Children’s Ministry Bible Presentation « The Inclusive Church

  7. Thank you for sharing Rhema’s story. I enjoyed reading it. My son has Autism and we are searching for a church in the Chicagoland area that would embrace all children such as your church does. Blessings to your church leaders.

    Sue Hunt

  8. Amen! Of course! My NT 2nd grader doesn’t have his own Bible and isn’t a great reader either, but we can do the reading for him. He’s a great listener. =) Praying other churches can learn to say ‘of course!’

  9. Amen!!!! Praise God for a church sensitive and pro active to those with special requirements. Praise God for His Living Word so full of power and promise. Praise God for Rhema who teaches us the spoken word every day without even speaking it.
    Love you Neily. So glad you got to have sometime away and Rhema had the blessing of receiving her first Bible.
    God is sooo good!

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