A month ago I took a huge risk with my special needs family. And it paid off.
It began almost twenty years ago when, as a 21 year old exchange student in Europe, I discovered the needs of people across the globe through weekly prayer meetings. My heart began to beat for villages with no clean water, societal violence toward women, entire groups of people ignored and left to die because of their country's beliefs.
I asked God what my role would be in this hurting world. Over the next year it was clear these verses were His answer:
Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of those appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge rightly, and plead the cause of the poor and needy. — Proverbs 31:8-9
From there, I traveled to different countries with ministry teams, encouraging village pastors, bringing supplies to persecuted Christians, hearing and sharing their stories each time I got home.
Then life happened. I finished college. I met and married my husband. I became a homefront advocate for people in need across the world. After infertility struggles, we chose to adopt and bring those who needed a voice and a chance into our lives at home.
I thought that was the full scope of what Proverbs 31:8-9 would mean for me.
Raising my two adopted daughters, advocating for their needs in schools, clinics, and in the community was opening my mouth for the speechless. Our younger daughter came to us Failure To Thrive. We held and cared for her until she was no longer failing to thrive, but willing and able to live.
As they grew and their younger sisters were born, I began writing and speaking. I rejoiced in being able to say what others needed to express, but life had left them speechless.
That was what the verses and the call must have been about, I reasoned. Except that it wasn’t. Not entirely. And that realization shocked me more than anyone else.
After twenty years of longing to get back to international work, a friend ministering in North Africa asked if I'd come see her.
Reason would have said, “I’ve got kids with Aspergers, epilepsy, and a half dozen other medical, mental health and developmental conditions. I can’t possibly make time, gather money… there is just no way!”
But instead I heard myself say, “Yes.”
Six months later, I got on a plane and traveled to North Africa.
- The finances came together through the generosity of my friend, intentional family spending, and an incredibly miraculous surprise the week I left.
- We found appropriate childcare, our community scheduled to bring meals every other night, and we arranged with the kids’ teachers and resource specialists to give them a break on homework while I was gone.
- We practiced the different routines long before the trip so our kids could have lots of adjustment meltdowns before I left and (hopefully!) just live the routines while I was away.
With all this, my husband was able to manage work during the days and our wild family in the evenings. (Can I get a round of applause for this man?)
The final obstacle was going to be ... the laundry.
A twelve year old daughter with enuresis meant someone would need to help with urine-soaked laundry during my nine days away. Who would possibly want to deal with that?
Enter: my friend who was in the delivery room for the births of my two younger daughters. I cried over lunch when she offered to do my laundry. (Because of course I didn’t ask. How could I ask anyone to do a job even I wish I didn’t have to do?!)
This friend stopped by midweek and not only did laundry, but set up surprise birthday decorations for my youngest’s party that day. I fought back joy tears when I talked to my daughter by Skype that day… seeing the beauty of being loved like that by a dear friend.
God provided in radical ways for this dream to happen.
God provided resources, energy, support, finances, and my husband’s willingness to let his wife go across the planet.
He provided courage to stick with the small yes that emerged the day my friend had asked her audacious question.
And beyond that, God provided a reminder that my calling was never gone.
Parents, God has not forgotten your dreams.
Our dreams may lie dormant for decades, but if they’re His dreams for us, they will come back to find us when we least think them possible.
They will come back in some way—to prove to us that not only does God see our special kids, but he sees the hearts of their special parents, too.