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An excerpt adapted from A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith, and Determined Parenting by Karla Akins
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An excerpt adapted from A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith, and Determined Parenting by Karla Akins

22 Sep Posted by in Articles | Comments Off on An excerpt adapted from A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith, and Determined Parenting by Karla Akins
An excerpt adapted from A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith, and Determined Parenting by Karla Akins
When Karla Akins hoped that her autistic sons could learn to read and function independently, doctors warned her that those expectations would never be met. She set out to prove that, despite those warnings, all things are possible through God.

Laced with humor and compassion, A Pair of Miracles is the heartwarming story of her journey rearing adopted twin sons, each diagnosed with autism and fetal alcohol disorder. This is more than a moving biography from a mom on the front lines, however. It is a powerful tool, full of practical help for parents, educators, and church members working with children who have intellectual disabilities, speech impairments, and other limitations on the autism spectrum. It is also a challenge to the church to welcome and celebrate all the members of their congregation, no matter their abilities.

 

An excerpt adapted from A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith, and Determined Parenting by Karla Akins

 

©2017 Kregel Publications, used with permission 

 

Created to Serve

 

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

-Ephesians 2:10

One year I directed a Christmas program at our church that included a cowboy choir, whose members used sign language while they sang. One of those cowboys was a nonverbal, elderly gentleman who loved to sing but had no words. He didn’t have very many notes either, and his singing mainly consisted of loud, enthusiastic bellows. Every time he sang, I teared up at the sheer look of ecstasy on his face. The sounds he made with his voice were a passionate, joyful noise. As far as I was concerned, he was the best singer we had.

After the program, someone commented to me that most churches wouldn’t have allowed him to sing in the choir because his sounds “ruined the music.” While I agreed the harmony wasn’t something we earthlings would consider technically excellent, I believed that heaven enjoyed it just as well, if not more. This man loved to sing and he used his voice to praise the Lord with all his heart. He was serving the Lord with a voice that seemed horribly imperfect to us, but I doubt it was imperfect in the eyes of God.

 

Purpose and Ability

 

Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they don’t have a purpose. God doesn’t make mistakes and his Word applies to everyone, disabled or not. God has a job for each of us to do. For those who can’t easily recognize the part they play in the body of Christ, it’s up to others to provide opportunities and guide them.

The twins have been given more opportunities than most because they’re pastor’s kids. They’ve accompanied their dad and me everywhere and helped us with every imaginable responsibility in the church. From visiting the sick in the hospital to setting up tables for a dinner, they’ve learned to serve others with their gifts. This service carries over in their day-to-day lives as well. They have willing, helpful hearts.

Their father has kept them busy through the years laying floors at the church, doing drywalling and other carpentry-type work or maintenance. How blessed they are to have a dad who loves to spend time with his children. Everywhere their pastor-dad goes, they go. My children know more people in the community than I do. And most people don’t know they have a diagnosis of autism until they are around them for longer than a few minutes.

If someone’s arms are full, they offer to help them carry something. If they see someone struggling with a door, they hold it open. Of all the things they’ve learned, these are the skills I most admire. Because they were given opportunities to serve at very young ages, they’ve grown to help others. And not only do they help others when asked, they recognize when others need help. This is a huge accomplishment for any young man, let alone one with autism. I’m amazed that they’re capable of doing such things, since two of the social skills people with autism struggle with are empathy and initiation.

I don’t think their servants’ hearts are completely a natural ability. Call me a fanatic, but I have a deep belief that God’s hand is on their lives. I believe they hear his voice. Here’s why.

The twins often tell me that God speaks to them. Who am I to say he doesn’t?

Just the other day, Isaac came home all excited to tell me something that happened while he was running an errand for me.

 

“Mom, I was on way home. God tell me Miss Judy need help. I turn bike around, go back, and help Miss Judy.”

“Miss Judy? Your Sunday school teacher?”

He nodded. “Yeah. She need help. God told me that.”

“What did she need help with?”

“Boxes too heavy. She need help with boxes at storage. I move them. That nice, right Mom?”

I smiled. “That’s very nice, Isaac. Miss Judy shouldn’t lift heavy things.”

Isaac laughed. “God tell me that! God talk to me. I turn bike around and do what God say. I hear him say it.”

“That’s awesome, Isaac. It’s important to obey God’s voice when you hear it.”

“Yep.”

 

Now, I’m not saying the boys are always giddy with excitement when it comes to doing the dishes or cleaning the toilet. They’re normal young men. But doesn’t that make the fact that they love to serve others even more remarkable? I think so.

My hope is that all parents would help their child with or without disabilities to learn to serve. It’s for service that God created us, as affirmed by this chapter’s opening Scripture, Ephesians 2:10.

There are no distinctions in this verse regarding ability. Every person is God’s sacred handiwork. We all have assignments from God. These tasks aren’t always jobs or chores within the walls of the church. They include giving people with disabilities opportunities to serve in ministry, which helps them carry that serving attitude over into their day-to-day lives. It helps them discover talents they may not otherwise know they have.

It also gives them a sense of purpose. We all possess a need to contribute. I can’t imagine going through life wondering why I was created. That has to be a desperate feeling. When we help others to believe in their purpose, we give them a reason for living.

I’m not sure if giving the twins opportunities to serve helped them develop empathy or not, but it’s an interesting theory. They’ve gone from not understanding how other people feel when they hurt to having extreme compassion for the elderly and infirm.

Their paternal grandmother has Alzheimer’s and lives with us. I didn’t realize how much they cared for her well-being until the day she fell on our cement driveway, hit her head, and was knocked unconscious. The twins’ extreme reaction of despair and panic was eye-opening. People who have no empathy wouldn’t react that way.

Watching them gently care for her each day pricks my heart. They offer her food and make sure she drinks her protein shakes. Isaiah opens the bottle for her and says, “Drink it all gone, Grandma, so you get big muscles.” Then he squeezes her bicep. These boys have come a long way from the days they refused to roleplay with dolls and stuffed animals. Now they care for God’s people and creatures with such tenderness that my heart explodes watching them.

 

The Church’s Response to Autism and Disabilities

 

There are many opportunities for ministry in the church for young people with autism, but sometimes ministry leaders need to be made aware of them. Here are a few you might consider discussing with your church:

 

–Greeting (a great way to practice
handshakes and eye contact)–Opening/holding doors–Folding bulletins

–Stuffing envelopes

–Making copies for teachers/musicians

–Making coffee

–Stocking pop machines/vending

machines

–Mowing

–Sweeping/vacuuming/dusting/cleaning

bathrooms

–Clearing tables at community suppers

–Passing out bulletins/ announcements
–Decorating bulletin boards–Organizing shelves–Helping with landscaping/flower gardens

–Taking out the garbage

–Making get-well cards

–Passing get-well cards around the church

to be signed

–Helping put equipment away

–Helping fill treat bags on holidays

–Wiping down tables

–Putting away extra chairs/tables

–Walking elderly folks to and from cars

 

There are countless ways people with disabilities can serve in their local church. They need only to be given the chance. Just as God gives us, with all our frailties and limitations, an opportunity to serve him, the church must allow those with disabilities to contribute as well. Compared to God’s perfection and power, how feeble we are! But our Father doesn’t see us in terms of what we can’t do; he sees us in terms of our potential.

It’s the church’s responsibility to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Prov. 31:8). If the church doesn’t answer the call, how can we expect the world not to discriminate? As Christ gently guides us toward our calling, the body of Christ should embrace those with autism and show them how very valuable their contributions are.

 

Learn more about A Pair of Miracles at www.KarlaAkins.com

 

 

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