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‘It was beautiful. It was a blessing’

Ninety Christians show how to make a difference in the lives of children with special needs — and their families

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Sometimes, I long for a break — a few hours to do whatever I’d like without taking my shadow along.

At the same time, letting go of control and trusting someone else with your loved one can be difficult. 

But when you get the chance, it can be pure heaven.

My family had such an opportunity recently when the Karns Church of Christ hosted a parents’ night out event for children with special needs. Through the Forever His ministry, the church reaches out to families in our community.

It worked out for our daughter, Camille, to attend, and I must say I was a little nervous to take her and leave her with mostly strangers. I did know a handful of people who would be there. I filled out an extensive questionnaire and was able to explain and tell them things they needed to know about my daughter, her disability and her needs.

That night, we walked in the door, and they immediately welcomed my daughter by name. I did not know a single face in the crowd, so it was crazy that they knew who she was! We did see the familiar faces a few minutes later, and her night began. 

About 25 special-needs children, ranging from 3 to 23 years of age, participated in the event. About 90 individuals volunteered their time to make this a success. They even gave the parents some dessert to take for our night out.

My husband and I went out to dinner at a nice restaurant and walked around a shopping mall. We had about four hours to spend all by ourselves. It was heavenly. I once had built-in babysitters with Camille’s two older siblings, but they are now nine hours away in college.

When we arrived back at the church building, we were greeted and taken to Camille. She was playing cornhole and surrounded by at least five people attending to her needs. Yes, you read that right: five people. She was having a blast!  

A couple of younger, typically developing kids were playing with her and taking turns. She didn’t even notice us for a few minutes, and when she did, she smiled and was so excited for us to see her playing a game.

A few minutes later, she ran over to a group of adults, of which we knew only one person. She hugged them, dropped herself on the floor and raised her arms for them to help her up. They all dutifully reached down and helped her up and proceeded to each give her a hug. She came back to the game and finished playing.  

No one skipped a beat, no one thought it odd, no one questioned, and she just did her thing. Her two buddies knew right where she was and watched her like a hawk.

It was refreshing to see and feel the love for my child. Churches are where you find the heart of Christ. The heart of Christ is where you find unconditional love for all people. I realize it is not this way in some churches. But, for the most part, people do care. They may not understand, but they do care. They may not always get it right and know what to do, but they genuinely do care.

Thank you to Karns Church of Christ. Your Forever His program is awesome and awe-inspiring. It takes committed individuals to plan and execute such an event. These people were serious about their love for others — all others. 

It showed. 

It was beautiful. It was a blessing. (One of the attendees’ families drove about three hours each way so their daughter could attend.)

I would be remiss if I did not say how much fun Camille had at the party. She doesn’t really communicate in full sentences or talk bunches, but she talked all the way home. She was able to tell me everything she had to eat while there, and there were quite a few items she mentioned. She sang several church songs on the way home as well.

It was good for her socially, mentally, physically and spiritually. 

BOBBIE LYNN RIDER, a member of the Arlington Church of Christ in Knoxville, is a writer, speaker, wife and homeschool mom. She writes a blog at www.graceandfortitude.com meant to encourage and bless mothers and caregivers of special-needs individuals. This article is adapted from her blog with permission.

Filed under: National

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