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There are times when God doesn’t heal. There are people who will only be healed when they are in Heaven. I am reminded of that as I sit in church and listen to a family praising God for healing their child of autism. They were getting ready to go on an AIM (Associates in Missions) trip and their child was diagnosed with autism. “I can’t imagine taking him overseas with us,” they say. “We brought him up to the altar to be prayed for time and time again.” And I recall our own lives, seven years ago when we got the diagnosis and prayed for our child to be healed of autism. I remember how, six months later we took our three year old to Nigeria on an AIM trip despite the admonition of all of his therapists.
The evangelist continues with the story, “God healed our two year old of autism. A doctor has confirmed it. He said it was a miracle! He used to wear ear muffs and look at him now!” As the sanctuary erupts in the shouts and praises of the saints, I think of my child, enjoying the service from behind the glass in the media room with his noise-cancelling headphones firmly in place on his head.
Healing wasn’t the path God chose for us. It wasn’t too long after we got the diagnosis of autism that God spoke to us and said we should stop praying for healing. He reassured us our child was made exactly as He intended. This was confirmed through three different people in the same month.
I am brought back to the church service and reality as we start to sing, “My God is awesome . . . Deliverer, Healer, He’s holy, He’s great . . . He can move mountains.” And even though I wonder why He didn’t remove our specific mountain, I continue to sing out in praise to an awesome God. I can honestly say He is still my deliverer and healer. Even though we are on a path that we would never choose, I can still say that God is good and even great.
As I raise my hands in honor to the God who is able, the next stanza holds my attention, “keeps me in the valley, hides me from the rain” and I realize that there is where I am at times. In the valley but hidden from the storm. Protected by the almighty hand of God. Safe and secure.
ABLE Ministry is a complicated world. We stand, worshiping the God who can do it all. Some of us never give up and pray unceasingly. Some celebrate the gift God has given them and would never choose another life. And others, like me, fluctuate between despair and joy. This newsletter is an attempt to celebrate the journey and conflict that exists in the world of families that are affected by disability.
Written by: Stephanie Gossard. She attends New Life St. Louis in Bridgeton, Missouri, and is ABLE Ministry’s content manager.
“We haven’t seen them for a while!” “They never come to church anymore.” “Why did they stop coming?” The answer to that question pops up often on the ABLE Ministry UPCI Facebook page. The answer is different for many families, but the bottom line answer is always the same: because they can’t figure out a way to go to church and provide care for their loved one at the same time. Maybe their spouse is too ill to travel, maybe their child has a weakened immune system, or maybe their loved one is so disruptive that they are unable to be in the sanctuary.
What are the options for caregivers? None of them are ideal. They can have a family member stay home with their loved one while they go to church. This can be difficult if their family doesn’t live close to them. They can pay someone to either sit with their family member at home or attend church with them and care for them in the church building. Depending on the needs of their loved one, this can get expensive. If the family member has a significant medical issue, trained medical staff can be required, which is costly. Some states offer subsidies for care, but not all states provide these services.
Some families tag team each week-one parent taking the responsibility of caregiving while the other attends church. However, if one of the parents is used in leadership or ministry during the service, often the other takes a bigger share of the caregiving load.
If there is no other option than to stay home, caregivers often turn to online resources such as Revival Radio, My Hope Radio, or YouTube recordings to feel God’s presence. Larger churches offer online streaming of their services in real-time, which can help caregivers feel less alone. Some families have church services in their living room.
How can we help families who are in this situation? At times, expecting someone to ask for help or telling someone they need help can be tricky. Approach these conversations with grace and love. Often the caregiver already feels guilty because they have been missing church.
What can the church do? Notice when they aren’t there. Pray for them. Trust that the issue they are facing is hard enough they cannot find a solution. Understand. Reach out. Offer to Skype or Facetime the service. Send CDs or DVDs of the service. Drop off a gift or a meal at their home. Send a card. Often their loved one doesn’t need trained medical staff but simply needs someone to be on-call. Offer to sit with their loved one once a month. Offer to accommodate. If the parents say their child needs to be in another room with someone, trust them. Is there someone besides the parent who can assist?
Brainstorm with them in love. Caregivers are often sleep-deprived, hopeless, depressed, anxious, or stressed. Help them think out of the box. Is the issue with finances? Can the church supplement the cost once a month so the caregiver can come to church without worry? Is the issue that there are no family members that can help? Can a few church members rotate and offer to watch their loved one for them? Can someone watch their child at church even if it is in a Sunday school room with their favorite game?
Most importantly, love them when they are there. Sometimes love is displayed by holding back comments such as “I haven’t seen you in forever! Where have you been?” Perhaps a better comment might be, “I know things are difficult right now but I love seeing you when you can come. How are things going?”
For some families, most weeks are manageable, but then comes a change. Maybe it’s daylight savings time, a change in season, a change in type of clothing, or it’s holiday time which can be filled with anxiety and disruption. Maybe it is a time of transition-either back to school or back to summer. These changes in schedule and timing can affect people, especially those prone to anxiety.
What should we never do? Judge.
Lord, I pray that those who are home with loved ones this week feel Your presence. That You give them hope and peace and strength. That You send those who can show them Your love in a way that is unexpected and real.
Fun, festivities, awe, and wonder are some of the best parts of this season, yet many of us experience significant challenges throughout these special days. There is something extraordinarily comforting about being with people who “get it”; people who accept you and all your circumstances without judgment, without pity, and without any expectations.
Our church is partnering with a community organization called FACES 4 Autism by hosting social gatherings for teenagers on the spectrum. What started with a few families has now grown to a fifty-plus get together each month. In November it was a Friendsgiving celebration, Charlie Brown style, with pizza, pretzels, jelly beans, and popcorn. Take a look at these happy faces!
I had been laid off from my job and I just had my third daughter after a difficult pregnancy. Depression came on gradually and before I knew it, apathy had settled in. There were many days I couldn’t even get dressed.
According to Wikipedia, “Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity or apathy that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings, and sense of well-being. People with a depressed mood can feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, angry, ashamed, or restless.”
The second time I struggled was six years later. This time, every area of my life was touched; my marriage, my health, our finances, and my daughter was diagnosed with a learning disability. Normally a confident career woman, I didn’t feel like I added any value to my family. I wondered, “How did I get here? How could a loving God do this to me?” I thought, “God loves everyone else, but not me.”
My husband and I attended a small church and we were involved in all aspects of ministry. I never missed a service. I ministered to others, I prayed, I read my Bible, and I smiled. I felt broken and no one knew.
The song “I Held On” by Shara McKee ministered to me. I held on to the things I was taught. I didn’t have a secret formula, nor did I consider myself great, or even strong. I held on until the storm was over. Life is a journey. I put one foot in front of another, only worrying about that step, until eventually the landscape around me changed.
God is faithful. Even during those difficult times, God’s protection and blessings were apparent: my unemployment benefits were extended, we met our bills and house payments, I was able to be home with my baby, we moved to a better school district to help my daughter, got the help of a godly counselor, and my health slowly recovered.
Sometime later while in prayer, God reminded me of that moment in my office and reassured me that He had been there and that He loved me. I don’t know why this happened to me. I do know that God causes the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). As the Bible says, He did love me, He does love me and He does love you, regardless of any hopelessness you may feel.
Depression, postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), are all things that many Christians do not talk about readily. According to medicine.net, “Depression is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be wished away. People with depression cannot merely ‘pull themselves together’ and get better.” It is a medical condition.
As with any medical issue where healing is needed, “call for the elders of the church” and ask to be prayed for (James 5:14). If you are not healed instantly:
Seek help of a godly counselor and your physician.
Hold on-pray, read your Bible, memorize Scripture verses that minister to you, fast, and go to church, even when you don’t feel like it.
Encourage yourself in the Lord by listening to godly music. My Hope Radio is an excellent resource. Watch or listen to UPCI preaching on Youtube or the Revival Radio app.
Psalms 18:2, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”
Written by: Carolyn Barcus. She grew up in Pennsylvania in a home mission church as a pastor’s daughter. She is a graduate of Apostolic Bible Institute. She attends Saint Paul Apostolic Tabernacle in St. Paul, Minnesota with her husband and three daughters.