Our church has been doing a series entitled “Who Cares? Caring for those who are not just like ‘us’”. Today Rhema and our family had the opportunity to share about life as a special needs family, our experiences in church (good and bad), and practical ways the church can come alongside and support families like ours.
This is a topic that has long been near and dear to my heart. I’ve written a lot about our desire to see (and help!) churches implement creative ways to reach special needs communities. A few years ago I wrote about my ‘odd dream, a desperate prayer and an even bigger hope’ that Rhema could be a part of that conversation.
So today at church was another dream come true and answer to prayer. Thank God for churches willing to listen and to serve!
Rhema loves being able to share her story with anyone who will listen. Using her iPad she answered the following “interview” questions (ahead of time).
Question: Do you like coming to church on Sunday? What is the best part of coming to Church? What is the hardest part?
Rhema: I love coming to church. My favorite part is singing the songs. The hardest part is sitting still and being quiet. I like to make noises with my mouth that sounds like humming. Sometimes I have to leave because I get overwhelmed. I want so much to stay but my body does not cooperate. It betrays me at the worst times so I have to leave.
Question: What do you wish people knew about you on Sunday mornings?
Rhema: I wish that people knew that I am smart. Only my parents know and I hope that others will give me a chance to show them that I am thinking all the time. Nothing makes me happier than having my voice heard. Nothing makes me happier than people hearing my story.
Question: What do you know about who Jesus is that you’d like to share with us?
Rhema: Only Jesus knows the true longing of my heart. He makes my prayers come true. Jesus is everything to me. No one makes me so happy in my heart. He is mine.
Question: Do you have a favorite song we sing at church? Or at home?
Rhema: My favorite song is How Great Thou Art and the songs about Jesus in the heavens making room for me.
Question: Do you have a favorite verse or Bible story (or both)?
Rhema: I love the verse that says I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. How do you only succeed so much without him? The only true success comes from Him. I love the story of Moses. This story taught me to speak on my board. I learned to spell on my board while studying Moses, who also needed to find his voice. He had to let God be with his mouth. Only time will tell the impact Moses has on me.
Question: What could we do to make your time at church easier? What else would you like to say about our church and autism?
Rhema: You would make important decisions with autistic people in mind. This will help me feel more sure of myself. The biggest challenge to me is to make more people with autism feel like they will be accepted at church. You do this by teaching them that God loves them through your actions of love and support. Once you do that they will feel encouraged.
One time I was in church and I was so sad because I could not go to Vacation Bible School or gems. I hit my sister because I really wanted to be a part of it but my body would not let me. So I really hope these things will be easier in the future.
My hope is that this has been helpful. Thank you for listening.
*Video of Rhema rocking out at church to How Great Thou Art.