True acceptance has been found

Published 12:03 pm Monday, July 10, 2017

Parents of special needs kids spend a fair amount of time trying to fit in.

We realize that unless it’s a place catering to special needs kids, we will never fit in. The exception is church.

Church is the one place we have every reason to believe we will be fully accepted. Yet, it has become far too commonplace for families to leave churches because of their special needs child.

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For a variety of reasons, we have left different churches. Except for one, each separation was partially due to DJ. That’s not to say there weren’t good people in those churches. Some had a desire for special needs ministry. But a special needs ministry takes the backing of the entire church. It takes hard work, sacrifice and unyielding dedication. It’s like a vineyard; you have to invest years of work before you see a return. After searching and never finding what we needed, I just gave up.

So, when my friend insisted we give her church a try, I was more than a little skeptical. Even though I had met the pastor and liked him, I had been burned too many times to be open-minded. Besides, this was a small country church she was inviting me to.

If the biggest, most technology advanced, popular, we-got-a-group-for-everything churches in town couldn’t help DJ, what are the chances a small church could? Besides, we had tried small, large, traditional, charismatic, contemporary and everything in between. How much different could this church be?

It is safe to say Bethlehem Christian Church is unlike any church I have attended. They are the most accepting, loving church I have ever seen. I mean, nothing bothers these people!

DJ yells out and I try to quiet him. They tell me to let him yell because he’s worshipping in the voice God gave him.

The piano causes sensory overload? No problem. The pianist just plays a little softer and at times not at all!

Need a lesson on how Christ sees us? The pastor brings DJ up to help him preach.

They go out of their way, far out of their way, to make people feel loved, welcomed, and appreciated.

And it’s not just DJ. A woman arrives with her disabled grandson and his four toddler siblings a little late one morning. The service comes stop as, like worker bees in a hive, the congregation comes to her aid. In short order, kids are tucked into loving arms so for the next few minutes she can just enjoy the service. I nearly cried at the sight.

Bethlehem is filled with people who have a connection to special needs kids. Not only does the minister have two adult kids with disabilities but many members of the congregation do. Others work as therapists, recreation counselors, or teachers all in special education.

It is an arrangement of people only God could orchestrate. So, if you’re looking for an accommodating church, I promise that just as Mary and Joseph found reprieve in Bethlehem so will you and your special one.

Joan Graves is a mother to five boys and an advocate and activist for children with special needs and their families. For more, go to