N.C. deacon with ‘a heart for the special-needs community’ dies at age 54
“A lot of our students are sad this morning. We have encouraged them to talk about their feelings and try to do something constructive with them. Erin and Stephani decided to make cards!”
So said a note Sunday on the Facebook page of the Brooks Avenue Church of Christ’s special-needs ministry.
The children were sad because of the sudden death of Barry Woodhouse, a 54-year-old deacon for the Raleigh, N.C., congregation.
Barry WoodhouseFifteen years ago, Woodhouse and his wife, Paula — inspired by their daughter Melissa — started a nationally renowned ministry for children with special needs at the Brooks Avenue church. The ministry’s popular annual carnival serves hundreds of special-needs children and their families.
“What do you say about the loss of one of the greatest men you’ve ever known?” special-needs ministry coordinator Melinda Oldham wrote on her Facebook page. “Barry Woodhouse was a man who consistently just LOVED people. He was a consistent source of love and peace in my life. He will be sorely missed.”
In 2009, I was blessed to spend time with the Lipscomb University alumnus and his family — including younger daughters Morgan and Maggie. My story on the ministry appeared on the front page of the December 2009 Christian Chronicle:
RALEIGH, N.C. — “People are going to heaven because of Melissa. She has been quite evangelistic.”
Tears well up in elder Ed Woodhouse’s eyes as he describes what his 18-year-old granddaughter has meant to the Brooks Avenue Church of Christ, a 450-member congregation just blocks from North Carolina State University.
Born with Smith-Magenis syndrome, a rare developmental disorder characterized by mental retardation, speech problems, sleep disruptions and hyperactivity, Melissa Woodhouse hasn’t taught the plan of salvation to anyone herself.
But 10 years ago, she inspired the creation of a ministry for children with special needs at the Brooks Avenue church.
It’s a ministry that has met a huge need in North Carolina’s capital city and led entire families to Jesus, church leaders say.
“We wanted the parents to be able to worship in peace, to know that their children were well cared for,” said Paula Woodhouse, Melissa’s mother, who with her husband, Barry, started the ministry in 2000.
Barry Woodhouse’s obituary notes that he “had a heart for the special-needs community.”