My child was diagnosed with a form of autism (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-PDD-NOS) by age 5, received treatment for ADHD with medications for 8 years and received special education for the entirety of schooling. During all those years, I was treated for anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder, both while married and as a single mother.
My child got very sick from medication in the first year of high school and nearly died. At the time we had a home church where our family attended and I regularly served as a lay reader, usher, Sunday school teacher and later, as an ordained deacon. I reached out to our home church and the congregation for support and unfortunately, they did not want to get involved. My child's anxieties increased. In advocating for my child’s mental, physical, educational well being, I as an individual with disabilities was basically on my own. My family was critical and judgmental during processes they neither understood nor tried to understand. Consistently, they put down my child and questioned me. Had I not accepted or followed Jesus Christ through my faith and dependence upon Him, I do not know how we would have gotten through all the adversity.
In the years that followed I served in several local bodies of Christ in the church, my child occasionally attended some youth groups, and I encouraged this for numerous reasons. It was too overstimulating for my child with sensory issues.
Both my parents passed, we moved several times, and then became displaced without permanent residence. So the Lord used me as an example to those in our lives. As I studied, practiced and lived the Bible out loud, serving in church in whatever capacity the Lord intended as well as in our home and our community. The most beautiful display of God's grace came through working with a 10 year old non-verbal girl with autism for Sunday services. We connected in ways only the Lord could have had a hand in. That child was integrated into a regular Sunday school classroom and breakthroughs became evident in her communicating. It was one of the biggest blessings of my life.
Fast forward about 10 years...My child now an adult, got a GED. Received no transitional or life skill enhancements, and struggles both socially and emotionally. The churches of which I was a member and served Christ in helped us relocate several times. The only missing piece to all of it was not having counsel from within the church setting, as Mental Health ministries did not and still do not exist. Of course pastoral care does, yet even pastors need support, and how can they take on mental health issues they are not privy to nor trained in the world’s ways versus the ways of biblical context?
Reaching out to find Christian based counseling proved null. The ones found were highly non affordable. In essence, the Lord has been with us through it all, and the faith upon which I stand, live, and depend upon has been the saving grace and every provision. I trust God with my children who are His. I thank the Lord for never leaving nor forsaking us, and for granting discernment with a path that lights the way to Glorifying Him in every victory.
Bringing every thought captive to the Love of Christ, while He has been healing us inside and out, we are shining lights in dark places. The biggest question/prayers to the Lord that I've pondered upon has been precisely this: Why hasn't the Church pursued training and ministry for mental illness and for families, single parents and children with disabilities?