I Choose Joy…

“If you can’t change the outside, change the inside. If you can’t change the situation, change the attitude.” I read this quote a few weeks ago.
After I rolled my eyes a bit at the Weight Watchers type statement, I stopped and thought about how accurately this depicts my approach to the quite unexpected life I am living.

I have four beautiful children ranging in age from 9 to 3 who have autism.
They are each uniquely created in the image of God, and He knew them in their mother’s womb, just like He knew me in mine. They are a gift to my husband and I. Individually their challenges are different. They each struggle in different areas and excel in different areas.  I am so proud of how hard they work to overcome their challenges. They bless me every single day and they are a whole bunch of hard work!

We were initiated into the special needs world slowly and basically fighting it the whole way. I knew from my previous experience with children that something was a bit off about my daughter, but autism was a new word introduced to our vocabulary. It certainly doesn’t come with a guide book or dictionary of new related words.  It’s not easy to admit as a parent that you do not know what to do to help your child. It is profoundly difficult to trust someone else to help you to do that, and it’s certainly not easy to trust God and His plan when you feel like you drew the short straw and got to sit in the cheap seats in life.

Coming to the realization that this was God’s plan and design for Tim and I was so hard. Even harder and more difficult to accept was that this was His plan for my child, and then for my children. Thinking about all the specialists, appointments, therapies, and education is mind blowing. The logistics of autism times four can be insanity incarnate, and knowing that there is nothing we can do to change the situation was initially so defeating. Our everyday existence can sometimes feel like a monster that’s chasing me. If I can’t keep up and stay ahead of it, then it has the capacity to swallow me whole.

But here’s the good news! The truth is that God created my children exactly as He intended them to be and that He has a plan to prosper and not harm them, and to give them a future and a hope (Jer. 29:31). He loves them, and He died for them. As sad as I feel about how hard their lives will be and how they will struggle when others do not have to, I do not have to let those emotions control my attitude.
As mad as I get about how unfair the situation is, I do not have to let my anger turn to bitterness. As hard as it is to see other kids their ages and see what I am missing out on, the emotions that I feel do not have to be in control of my heart and mind.

John 8:32 says that knowing the truth will set you free! I know the truth,
and I can be free of the despair that comes from the thoughts of a lifetime
of rehabilitation and an uncertain future for my kids. I can teach my kids
that I CHOOSE joy and that they are worthy to be celebrated and not tolerated!

What’s the first step? Romans 12:2 says to not conform but be TRANSFORMED
by the renewing of your MIND! The first step to a change in attitude is to change your mind! Empty it of the lies from Satan that you hear from other mouths around you and fill it with the truth of God’s word. His yoke is easy and His burden is light! I pray that you will take these first steps towards freedom and transformation and learn to renew your mind today.

 

Angela Falleur lives in Bradenton, Florida with her husband, Tim,
and their four children.

 

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Expanding and Contracting

It’s back to school time. The annual season for many of us to renewed daily routines, new people to meet, busy evenings and weekends and more.
As I prepare for this coming school year, I realize that particularly over the past few years, I really have had two very different mindsets about how I approach this season with each of our two daughters.

For Allison, our 19 year old who was an honor and AP traditional track student
in high school and is in her sophomore year in college, I have had the excited expectancy of new opportunities, challenges and potential profession-enhancing connections to make…the definite “the world is your oyster” mindset.
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As I did during her high school years and still do now, I see her world as expanding as she seeks and is offered new opportunities to enhance her path toward her intended degree. It is exciting to sit and plan with her what her
goals in life are and how to take advantage of what is at her fingertips to
navigate to them.

Our 17 year old daughter, Leah, who is on the autism spectrum, has been in adaptive academic programming since preschool and has been blessed by
having an overall positive school experience. Her academic abilities over the
past handful of years have dictated that she be on track to earn a special diploma. Admittedly, as she gets older, and we grow ever nearer to the end of our school life at the mandated age of 22, my natural optimistic tendencies are definitely affected by the difficult reality that a vital world for us will be ending.
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Since she was 3 years of age, Leah’s school experience has been many things
to us…a place where her potential is fostered academically and personally
and a social center for her and myself, as well, as the school setting provides networking opportunities for me to meet with professionals and other parents, which is so valuable. For us, it has been a place of connection and hope.

In contrast to the mindset that I view Allison’s lifepath with, the expanding world of independence and opportunity, I often view Leah’s world as eventually contracting as enriching offerings and services for adults with disabilities can
be difficult to find. Her social life will rely heavily on mine and my husband’s abilities to find and connect her with activities. Rich and I will not be retiring
for years, so it will be a concern on how to balance Leah’s needs with our practical realities and energies.

Leah has been blessed with the gift of art and there are potential opportunities that could come from that, but it is hard not to be sobered by the current truths lived by many families. Rich and I will encourage and foster Leah to excel as much as she can, but “the cliff” is coming and we are now battling a looming, ticking clock that gets louder each year.

Though I do feel the very real and layered emotions that surround the thoughts of Leah’s future, I am at the same time, hopeful. In the midst of earthly realities, there is a God whose power transcends the tangible. The awesome God of eternity is the same God of the everyday, for every person.

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

This well-known verse is from a letter sent by Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon from Jerusalem. They have been taken to live in a land far away in a culture very different from their own. However, God assures them to live in hope, because their circumstances will not last forever. In fact, the Lord even tells the people
to find peace in the midst of their situations, which is a message for us, as well.

Each and every person on this earth was created with a purpose in mind.
God did not create you and I for failure and defeat, but for a life of abundance.

The biblical definition of abundance may not align with our culture’s understanding of abundance and I, myself, can feel the human pull of that contrast and become pessimistic as I see others gain earthly riches or watch
as other students Leah’s age prepare for independent adulthood.

God’s definition of success is using the gifts that He has granted each of us
to our full potential, service to others and meaningful relationships.
The most important being a relationship with Him through His Son,
Jesus Christ, in which hope, peace and purpose can be found.

The advent of this new school year does elicit varied emotions.
I am blessed with two incredible girls, each on very different paths,
but for each one, I know that God has His hand on both.

With continual prayer which allows me the sensitivity to see Him at work and the determination to accomplish those plans on earth, there is a world available for each of my daughters that is nothing less than expansive.

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Is It Better Together? Yes!

“We’re all working together; that’s the secret.” Sam Walton, founder of
Wal-Mart, recognized the power in working with others for a common cause or purpose. This past Saturday, The One Roof Initiative put this thought into action and hosted the “Adaptive Leaders Ministry Roundtable” at Palma Ceia UMC in Tampa to bring together like minded people from across the Tampa Bay region who are committed to serving the disability community through their churches. It was an incredible success and all glory goes to God!

I am a firm believer in Walton’s principle of collaboration when referring to
The Church. As Christians, we are the body of Christ; regardless of ministry
or denominational lines and we are much stronger when we work together.
Though The Church may have a way to go in making this concept more of a reality, I don’t believe that disability ministry can wait. We need to start working together now to best benefit those we serve and the Roundtable showed that there is a desire for this type of connection. Representatives from eleven different churches of varying denominations found within four counties enjoyed a morning of networking, resource sharing and encouragement.

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The day started with a “speed dating” networking ice breaker to quickly find out who was there and to exchange contact info.

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What followed next were two roundtable sessions in which relevant questions to ministry were posed, such as how to recruit volunteers and ways to keep them engaged or in what ways are or could individuals with disabilities be envisioned as serving in their churches. Ministry veterans sat and conversed with people who only came with a vision of a disability ministry, but all came away inspired and empowered.

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To fortify the encouragement and empowerment of these ministry servants, Pastor David R. Smith of CornerStone Baptist Church in Inverness, and the author of “Christianity…It’s Like This”, spoke from Nehemiah 6 and Nehemiah’s determination not to be distracted to stop his divinely inspired task of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. Though there were naysayers and discouragements, Nehemiah would not stop the task that he knew the Lord had entrusted to him. This was the message that Pastor David wanted our ministry leaders to hear…
do not stop your good work, no matter the challenges.

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This first Roundtable accomplished what was intended. Connections were made, there were inspiring conversations and passionate, committed servants were encouraged. There was one common suggestion on the evaluation form, though, to suggest improvement.. make the Roundtable event longer in length.

It was too short!

Sally DePalma is The One Roof Initiative Founder and Executive Director
Check out our Facebook Photo Album and Event Memories on Vimeo!

 



Sally Invites You To Join Us At The Table!

I am thrilled to announce that The One Roof Initiative will be hosting its first Adaptive Ministry Roundtable on Saturday, August, 29th, from 10am-12pm at Palma Ceia UMC; and we can’t wait to see you there!   “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1Cor.12:27). I believe that the sentiments of this verse drive what you and I do in ministry!

We are committed to the fact that all belong in the community of Christ. Beyond denomination lines and physical locales, The Church, which is us, is called to work in collaboration to best serve those that we have been called to serve and expand the reach of the Kingdom.

Pastor David R. Smith, transformational speaker and author of, “Christianity…It’s Like This”, will be speaking to encourage and fortify you in your missional call! David has been involved in disability ministry and seen the power of it.  David’s high energy, sense of humor and tangible passion for the Lord will leave you personally inspired and spiritually refreshed. You will not want to miss, nor will you forget, David!

  • Are you part of a church ministry or outreach that serves adults or children with disabilities? Are you interested in seeing a special needs ministry established at your own church and don’t know where or how to start?  Whether pro or novice, the Roundtable is for you!
  • Meet committed and passionate people from churches around the area for networking and empowerment.
  • Learn and be inspired from each other.
  • Refresh and be encouraged. We recognize that those involved in disability ministry are very passionate and committed, giving so much of their heart and time. But, in order to be able to pour into others, one must allow a time for themselves to be filled, as well.
  • Come away with practical ideas to refine or build special needs ministries based on the real experiences of peers.

There is power when the Church of Christ operates as one body, in our home churches and the larger community.

Please join us and invite others from your church to meet a community of incredible, like-hearted servants.  I believe it will bless the individuals and families that you serve and yourself, as well. I’m looking forward to meeting you!

Sally DePalma is The One Roof Initiative Founder and Executive Director



Losing My Identity

Several years ago, I lost my identity. I don’t think “several” is quantifiable. I cannot recall the exact moment when my identity was lost. I wouldn’t say I lost my identity entirely, nor did I lose it all in the same moment.

Nine years ago I became a mother for the first time. A year after that, I became a mom of two boys. A year after that, I became a mom of three boys. And that’s about the time when my identity started to change. I was no longer just Tricia. I was no longer just “the boys’ mom,” either. I became a mother of 3-year-old boy with autism. I would say that was about the time I started to feel my identity loss.

My oldest son’s autism was so incredibly difficult for me to understand. He was my oldest child, so therefore I was always venturing into new territory with him. Even though I had about ten years of teaching experience in formal preschool and prekindergarten settings, I was unable to see the developmental delays present in my own son, much less understand how to navigate through his challenges. Very few things had prepared me for the next few years of my life.

I became engulfed in a sea of emotions that ranged from disappointment to anger to depression to defeat. There was never a good day. And I was convinced that with all of the terrible things happening to me, God hated me.

I had a 3 year old with autism, a one and a half year old with liver and gut disorders, and a newborn. So my identity became lost somewhere between motherhood, autism and one very sick little boy.

I had no outlet and no release. My faith was weak. I had no relatives close by to call on. I had no friends. My children had no friends. We lived in the middle of nowhere under feet of snow. My husband had to drive two hours each way to commute to work. The stress of motherhood, three little boys, autism, and sickness was very tiresome for me. In the wink of an eye, our marriage was deteriorating under the stress and depression.

About a year passed. I don’t know how we got through, but we did. We were not living though; we were just barely surviving. In that year, we would change churches, endure major marriage crisis, and move from Pennsylvania to Florida. Despite how miserable I was in Pennsylvania, I was reluctant to move. Moving added another layer on top of the mounting resentment building up in my non-life of lost identity.

We moved to Florida, and then my middle son was diagnosed with autism, with a strong possibility for Angelman Syndrome, and later moderate mental retardation would get tacked on as well. Boy, life just keeps getting better…

During these years, my husband and I tried to hang on to our faith. We weren’t trying very hard though, partly because of being in works-based churches—no wonder we never felt good enough! Church was a disaster for us. There were never programs for our growing son, whose developmental delay dictated that he be in a preschool level class. He towered over the smaller children, and the orthotics on his legs and feet made his feet dangerous weapons that flail and kick. There just weren’t any options for us. We were constantly faced with stares and judgments, even nasty insults and remarks, and this was in church! So for a little while we stopped going to church.

Then we discovered a church with a special needs ministry. There’s a place just for our son! The only molds he must fit into are the ones that are shaped just like him and his uniqueness. The class is full of uniqueness, and there is no one size fits all here. He is loved for being exactly who God made him to be.

Then something amazing happened. There was a safe place where our son fit in, and my husband and I were now able to worship for the first time ever. We got to truly worship. We got to invite Jesus into our hearts and we got to truly experience what walking with Jesus looks and feels like in our day-to-day lives.

Navigating the world with two boys on different ends of the autism spectrum still isn’t easy, but I manage to homeschool all three of my boys. Our daily focus is Bible-based and we spend the bulk of our school day discussing the Bible. We say a lot of prayers. We do therapy at home. We do tantrums every day. We still change diapers every day. We shampoo our carpets frequently because we have a non-verbal eight-year-old still in diapers. We still keep it in the backs of our minds that our child will need us for the rest of his life, and he will probably outlive us. But we’re not just surviving these days. No, these days, we are thriving and living.

What about my identity? I did find it. I found it in the bottom of a pile of rubbish with a really long name (depression-guilt-selfpity-anger-denial-sin-absorption-jealousy-and-it-can-go-on). I found my identity with the help of Jesus. And then with the help of Jesus, I lost my identity again. Only this time, I lost my identity in Jesus Christ. And that is where I CHOOSE to live, thrive, and serve.

Tricia Sengul lives in Land O’ Lakes, Florida, with her husband Tamer and their three boys, Adam, Luke, and Paul.

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Heaven Bound….a Father's Assurance

My son Matthew passed away on February 11, 2004. He was 10 years old.
He died of respiratory arrest on his bed. He was on his bed looking skyward,
his eyes wide open and a smile on his face. He saw an angel. The Father called him home. Matthew was Heaven bound because Our Father cares.

I am a single father of three boys, Matthew, Ethan and Nicholas. Matthew, my first son, was diagnosed with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease at his birth in 1993. Shortly after Matthew passed away, my ex-wife became pregnant with Ethan.
He was born with the same medical condition as Matthew.  The prognosis is not good, particularly as he gets older. You can almost predict his lifespan. That is a tough pill to swallow, but God gives me peace and joy to manage my emotions and live for our Lord and Savior. Nicholas does not have the disorder.

I grew up without a father as one of four children. What did I know about being
a father? Well, nothing! And what did I know about being a special needs father? There’s no course on how to deal with the curious people staring at my child because he is in wheelchair, or one on how not to shout with frustration.
I never expected to have children with special needs, and I did not know what being a dad was like. I could not relate.

After my divorce, I prayed to the Lord and asked Him to allow me to be the father to my children that my father wasn’t to me. The Lord responded by stating:
“I am your Father!” Wow, I was astounded by His response to me because He assured me that I was going to be a great father by being obedient to Him and allowing Him to direct me. What I learned early on is that the Lord has His hand in my life. When Matthew passed away, I realized how I needed to glorify God to allow me to move on because I knew that God is the true father. Therefore, I did.

Matthew paved the way for me to be a father to both Ethan and Nicholas.
As a result of having two boys with a unique and rare medical condition,
I learned a whole lot about being a father:

  • I learned that you must first give it to God; He has a plan
  • I learned to give glory to God.
  • I learned to change my frustration with others to a prayer to God that He give people wisdom to see what I see and to feel what I feel in Him
  • I learned to use my strength from God to encourage and inspire others.

Time and again I hear what a wonderful father I am, but after all, I am wonderfully made in the Father! I have a specially gifted son Nicholas that is attached to his brother Ethan in ways that only the Father can explain. There is such a bond that I see in my boys and me and all because I was obedient to Him.

He has shown me His favor. I have so much joy in pleasing Ethan in his time with us, because we are all on a time lease to pass on to heaven. However, here I am aiming to please my son; knowing full well today could be his last day as it could be mine.

So where is my reward? There is no better reward that seeing the joy in my son’s eyes that his father is right there meeting his needs and Our Father in Heaven is looking down on us watching my performance as a father. I cannot wait for the Lord to tell me “Good job my good and faithful servant” that day in Heaven when I will again see my boys.

And I will see my boys physically whole – as God promised us that the lame will walk! As it is written:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:30-31

I can guarantee you that none of us signed up for this type of life; God planned it! I own it and I must joyfully serve our God and give my children that same joy God is so entrusting me to give.
After all, our children are Heaven Bound – Our Father Cares!

As I reflect upon each and every moment with both my special needs boys,
I realize how special I am to my Father and how much God thought of me to allow me to be their father.  As a father with two special needs children, one in heaven, I have found that being a dad in this role is……awesome.

In Memory of Matthew Robert Gonzalez.
Robert lives in Tampa, Florida with his sons Ethan Andrew Gonzalez
and Nicholas Ryan Gonzalez.

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Heaven Bound….a Father’s Assurance

My son Matthew passed away on February 11, 2004. He was 10 years old.
He died of respiratory arrest on his bed. He was on his bed looking skyward,
his eyes wide open and a smile on his face. He saw an angel. The Father called him home. Matthew was Heaven bound because Our Father cares.

I am a single father of three boys, Matthew, Ethan and Nicholas. Matthew, my first son, was diagnosed with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease at his birth in 1993. Shortly after Matthew passed away, my ex-wife became pregnant with Ethan.
He was born with the same medical condition as Matthew.  The prognosis is not good, particularly as he gets older. You can almost predict his lifespan. That is a tough pill to swallow, but God gives me peace and joy to manage my emotions and live for our Lord and Savior. Nicholas does not have the disorder.

I grew up without a father as one of four children. What did I know about being
a father? Well, nothing! And what did I know about being a special needs father? There’s no course on how to deal with the curious people staring at my child because he is in wheelchair, or one on how not to shout with frustration.
I never expected to have children with special needs, and I did not know what being a dad was like. I could not relate.

After my divorce, I prayed to the Lord and asked Him to allow me to be the father to my children that my father wasn’t to me. The Lord responded by stating:
“I am your Father!” Wow, I was astounded by His response to me because He assured me that I was going to be a great father by being obedient to Him and allowing Him to direct me. What I learned early on is that the Lord has His hand in my life. When Matthew passed away, I realized how I needed to glorify God to allow me to move on because I knew that God is the true father. Therefore, I did.

Matthew paved the way for me to be a father to both Ethan and Nicholas.
As a result of having two boys with a unique and rare medical condition,
I learned a whole lot about being a father:

  • I learned that you must first give it to God; He has a plan
  • I learned to give glory to God.
  • I learned to change my frustration with others to a prayer to God that He give people wisdom to see what I see and to feel what I feel in Him
  • I learned to use my strength from God to encourage and inspire others.

Time and again I hear what a wonderful father I am, but after all, I am wonderfully made in the Father! I have a specially gifted son Nicholas that is attached to his brother Ethan in ways that only the Father can explain. There is such a bond that I see in my boys and me and all because I was obedient to Him.

He has shown me His favor. I have so much joy in pleasing Ethan in his time with us, because we are all on a time lease to pass on to heaven. However, here I am aiming to please my son; knowing full well today could be his last day as it could be mine.

So where is my reward? There is no better reward that seeing the joy in my son’s eyes that his father is right there meeting his needs and Our Father in Heaven is looking down on us watching my performance as a father. I cannot wait for the Lord to tell me “Good job my good and faithful servant” that day in Heaven when I will again see my boys.

And I will see my boys physically whole – as God promised us that the lame will walk! As it is written:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:30-31

I can guarantee you that none of us signed up for this type of life; God planned it! I own it and I must joyfully serve our God and give my children that same joy God is so entrusting me to give.
After all, our children are Heaven Bound – Our Father Cares!

As I reflect upon each and every moment with both my special needs boys,
I realize how special I am to my Father and how much God thought of me to allow me to be their father.  As a father with two special needs children, one in heaven, I have found that being a dad in this role is……awesome.

In Memory of Matthew Robert Gonzalez.
Robert lives in Tampa, Florida with his sons Ethan Andrew Gonzalez
and Nicholas Ryan Gonzalez.

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I Was Made For This

In 2006, I got involved with a ministry called YoungLife. YoungLife is a non-denominational outreach to youth and I became a volunteer leader with high school students in the New Tampa area, where I live. At this time, I facilitate weekly Clubs (our fellowship) and Campaigners (our Bible study) as well as many events where young people are..such as school, church and athletic events.

After being involved with YoungLife for a couple of years, I heard of a branch within Young Life called Capernaum which reached out to individuals with special needs. I had the opportunity to visit YoungLife’s Southwind camp when Capernaum campers were there in 2009 and decided then that I wanted to be a part of bringing that ministry to Tampa. Along with an amazing team of adults, we were able to launch Capernaum in New Tampa that same year.

I reached out to the students in “typical” YoungLife to become student leaders with Capernaum. Many students jumped in and it was a beautiful thing to see! We had, and still do, have monthly Capernaum Clubs and social activities that were attended by equal numbers of friends with special needs and typical high school students with a heart for this ministry.

Club was, and is, fun for all involved! Our Club meets at a local church and includes singing, goofy games and skits, but always ends with a message about the love of Jesus.

At times, we have the opportunity to take Capernaum “on the road” such as our recent visits to the Florida Aquarium and a therapeutic horse farm.

We take our Capernaum students to Southwind camp twice a year; weekend camp in January and a full week camp in June. Many of our special needs friends have never had the opportunity to attend overnight camp and some can be cautious at the prospect, as well as some parents! It’s been 5 years and, so far,
all who have attended camp have had a blast!

Central to what camp is about though, is to hear about Jesus, his love for all of us and learn how Biblical principles apply to our lives.

It is a so rewarding for me to see our typical teenage leaders at Club and camp, putting their friends with special needs first. Relationships are formed. These student leaders have wonderful Young Life camps that they attend around the country, but they all tell me they love serving at Capernaum camp more than any camp they have ever attended for themselves.

I cannot help but think of the lives that are changed and eyes opened when they step into the special needs world. Many of our students want to go to college and make careers out of helping others in various ways. One student was initially not comfortable attending Capernaum, but her boyfriend and other friends encouraged her to check it out. She attended and loved it and has decided to major in special education in college! These students are going to be true world changers.

YoungLife Capernaum has provided relational and social opportunities for students living with disabilities, a forum for typical students to meet and form friendships with these students and, above all, all get to experience Christ.

The national slogan for YoungLife is “You were made for this!”.
God has allowed me the opportunity to be part of something incredible
and I feel as though I was made for this.
I am blessed to be part of this truly special ministry.

Allen Guy is a YoungLife Capernaum Team Leader in Tampa, Florida.
For more information about a Capernaum club near you, check out younglife.org

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Building The Roof

On Saturday, April 25th, The One Roof Initiative was honored to partner with Idlewild Baptist Church in presenting, “Autism and Your Church” in recognition of Autism Awareness Month. This four hour symposium featured area professionals presenting to church teams on how to best be equipped to welcome and engage individuals living with autism and their families into their congregations. From the verbal feedback that we have received already and the palpable enthusiasm, this event was an incredible success!

The interest in this event was evident from the outset. Initial attendance was anticipated to be around 70 guests, but soon after registration was opened, accommodations had to be modified to allow for the 101 people who eventually registered!  Attendance nearly matched the number registered and there were even a few walk-in guests who did not want to miss out!

Much appreciation is extended to Idlewild Baptist Church, Pastor Reno Zunz and their manager of Special Needs Ministry, Deana Troyer, for their heart and hospitality in their commitment to delivering an excellent event. The beautiful and spacious venue for the presentation could not have been better. Special kudos to the Audio Visual team whose expertise helped to ensure a very professional atmosphere to the day.

You can set a great table, but it’s what you have on the plate that counts and our presenters delivered! Dr. Sylvia Diehl, USF Speech Pathologist, gave tips and insight to communicating with individuals with autism; Ellie Weber of CARD-USF shared many tools to implement Positive Behavior Support; Denise Barnes, also of CARD-USF, discussed the very important ways that churches can ensure safe environments for their congregants with autism and Occupational Therapist, Angie Hill, and Speech Pathologist, Alicia Yimoyines, from Socialights Connection, Inc., inspired church teams on how to foster social skills within their students.

The interest generated by this symposium and the number of people in attendance reflect the growing desire of The Church to be relevant and available to all. Diagnoses of every ilk, autism or not, are climbing and churches are being challenged to be the hands and feet of Christ to everyone living in our communities. We aren’t fully The Church until we are fully available to all and as seen by the nearly 100 people in attendance on Saturday, that is not an isolated opinion.

The One Roof is a young ministry and for our first major community offering to be such a success is a blessing and we give all the glory to God.

We are committed to coming alongside churches to equip and mobilize them to minister to those living with disabilities and their families in many ways. Our team is now “building a Roof” that is relevant and will have practical and Kingdom impact.

A core belief of The One Roof is that impact is amplified when we network and work together in community as the body of Christ. In that spirit, we invite you “save the date” for a gathering of special needs ministry leaders, volunteers or those interested in starting a special needs ministry, Saturday, August 29, 2015, 10am-12pm at Palma Ceia UMC in South Tampa. This will be an informal, but great time to meet and get to know others from around the area doing adaptive ministry. Further details will be coming in the future so be sure to check out our website at theoneroof.com, our Facebook page at “The One Roof Initiative” or follow us on Twitter, @the1roof.

This past Saturday was a watershed moment for The One Roof Initiative and we are excited to see where the Lord leads us in offering help and Hope to those in our community.

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Autism and Your Church

With the diagnosis of autism climbing over the recent past and now officially recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as affecting 1 in 68 children, churches across the country have been increasingly challenged on how to properly and successfully welcome these individuals and their families into their congregations. What do church staff and volunteers, who typically aren’t special needs professionals, need to know to create an environment of acceptance and learning and to genuinely share the love of Christ?

Often for families who have a member with autism, Church is an event that is to be “tried” multiple times, sometimes months or years apart, as behaviors can be a barrier to a successful worship experience. It is not unheard of to hear stories such as parents taking turns sitting with a child in their car in the church parking lot on a Sunday morning swapping out to hear parts of the service as most churches, at this time, do not offer adaptive accommodations. Families with adult children are not immune from such scenarios, as well. Most often, families remain at home on Sundays for they don’t expect there to be assistance at their local church and with all the behavioral challenges that could take place starting from leaving the door of the house, it’s easier just to stay home.

Over the past few years, there has been growing awareness within the Christian community that those living with disabilities, in general, have not been properly represented in our congregations. There are a number of reasons for this heightened realization….cultural sensitivity has increased and parachurch ministries such as Joni and Friends, Key Ministries and Nathaniel’s Hope are championing the cause.

Autism has had a spotlight shone on it over the last few years and has garnered unusual attention for the fact that this diagnosis has skyrocketed over the recent past. Our schools and day programs are being challenged with burgeoning rosters to accommodate children and maturing adults and this surge can be seen at churches, as well, as more and more families attempt to engage with their houses of worship.

The One Roof Initiative is proud to partner with Idlewild Baptist Church to host “Autism and Your Church” on Saturday, April 25. This four hour symposium will feature autism experts presenting on the topics of communication, behavior, safety and social skills. Church staff and volunteers are invited to attend to learn relevant and practical information and tips to take back to their church homes to implement.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (I Cor. 12:27). The Church is not fully “The Church” until all can be fully welcomed. Adaptive ministry does take some preparation and knowledge to be properly and successfully implemented, but it can be done. Partnering with a community of experts and networking within the body of Christ, church to church, will move us closer to the vision Paul had and we will all be richer for it.

Event Organizer:
Sally DePalma, The One Roof Initiative
sally@theoneroof.com

Registration is now closed for “Autism and Your Church”.
We appreciate the amazing response and interest!