Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ministry & Autism

The comment I most often hear from parents of children with autism is, "I would like to go to church, but my son/daughter tends to be disruptive so we stay home."

And in the case of adults with autism or Asperger Syndrome, it is not uncommon to find that we simply do not fit in with our Christian peers so we tend to avoid fellowship, too.

I think about this problem often because healing usually takes place in church. And healing ministry for people with autism, I expect, is shortly going to be a dire need if it is not already.

Years ago, I met a mother who was embarrassed to bring her deaf son, a teenager, to church for fear he would cause a scene. Her refusal to let him be around other people upset me. I asked her to let him come anyway, and after a good long while she relented.

The very Sunday this boy came to church, while standing next to me, he began to shriek (so he did make a scene) while the rest of us worshipped. I asked (on paper), "What's wrong?" He wrote, "Nothing! I just heard the words God and Jesus in that song. That's all." Well, that was a scene worth making.

God opened up his ears just for a moment, but a week later he (perfectly) spoke his first words after being able to hear for a day. About a month later, after receiving more prayer, he was able to hear permanently.

There were times when Jesus went to people in order to heal them, but most of the time people sought Him out. They went where He was. I think the same is true today. The Holy Spirit can meet us where we are without us seeking Him, but most often if we want His touch, we need to go where He is.

People with autism and their families need to be in church. They need to be able to talk with prayer ministers trained to pray for people with cognitive disabilities. And finally, they need to be able to attend healing conferences curtailed to some of their differences so they have the chance to fully experience all of the wonderful happenings that take place at such events.

In Jesus' day, women and children were considered the dregs of society. The children, especially, were rebuked when they tried to get close to Jesus. Instead of getting upset, however, the Lord said, "Let the little children come unto me." He wanted to hold them and love them.

Today, regardless of age, people with a diagnosis of autism are now treated like the dregs of society in a church atmosphere. This must change. Jesus has His arms stretched open wide for all of the lost and hurting, and He is longing for us all to walk straight into them.

If you are a parent sitting home on Sundays, my heart is with you. Be encouraged and also remember to be willing to forgive those who do not understand. Overcome evil (exclusion from church) with good. The Lord will reward you. He will meet you where you are.

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