Warm summers evenings… do you remember those? I remember one a while back, when running a weeknight children’s club at my home church. A beautiful evening, so I was very happy to be on the door greeting the children as they arrived, and saying hello to their parents. It was then that I saw a car pull up and a mum and her boy get out that I didn’t recognise. I hadn’t seen them at church before, or around in the local area.
As they headed up the path towards me, I knew something significant was coming with them; a story that was powerful… When they reached me, mum looked at me and asked “Is this club just for church children, or can any children from around here come?” I confirmed that the club was open for any children to come, not just church children, but as I answered I could see that she was building herself up to something more…
“Only… (she took a deep breath)… only, Martin has ADHD, and sometimes that can display itself through his behaviour. We’ve tried to get him into other clubs but they’ve always said “No”. That they haven’t got enough experience of special needs, or not enough people to help, or they’ve not been trained… Can he come to your club?” So, no pressure then! But as she finished, I could see that she was steeling herself ready for another rejection, ready to receive another “No”, ready for her 10-year-old son to be turned away once again, as had happened so often before.
My heart was breaking for her and for Martin as she told me their story, but I must admit that I was also being rather distracted by what was going on in the room behind me. There were children climbing the walls, shrieks and shouts, and as I occasionally looked over my shoulder during the most piercing of screams, wondering where the rest of the team were that were supposed to be organising things, my eyes fell on two or three other children that we were journeying with at that time… Children with ADHD, or Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), or in one case both, which was an exciting cocktail for both him and us!
And in the midst of all of this chaos, I heard a still, small voice whisper to me “There’s room for one more you know…” God wanted us to include Martin, and so did I…
I looked back at Martin’s mum, she almost flinched, and I said, “Of course Martin can be a part of our club…” and motioning behind me I continued “…and as you’ll see he’ll fit right in!” And she laughed… and as she laughed the light came back into her eyes, I visibly saw a weight lift from her shoulders, someone had finally said “Yes” to her and her son. It was wonderful, one of the most profoundly moving moments I can remember and has been one of the key reasons that I do what I do. The power of “Yes” is very, very strong indeed!
We hadn’t just said “Yes” to Martin coming to club, we had said “Yes” to his mum and his family. We had said “Yes” we care about all of you, we’ll do all we can to welcome you and help you to feel at home, to feel that you belong here. We won’t judge you, look down on you, glare at you, highlight your differences, put you in a corner. We will love you as Jesus loves you, we will accept you as you are, enjoy spending time with you, be the ones that change, miss you when you can’t come, and smile when you return. That’s powerful… especially for a family used to rejection, used to hearing “No”.
We journeyed with Martin and his family for a couple of years or so until life took them in a different direction and they moved out of the area. I can’t say that every week went entirely smoothly, that we didn’t sometimes have some harder times with Martin, but we loved him through it, learned from it, and were sorry to say goodbye. The experience we gained helped us to say “Yes” again and again. His story features in the training I deliver and so helps to inspire many others. And all because of the power of “Yes!”
I’m pretty sure that when Jesus said “Let the little children come to me. Don’t keep them away. The kingdom of heaven belongs to people like them.” (Matthew 19:14 NIrV Accessible Edition) his words could be summarised as “Just say yes!” It’s a powerful word, let’s all use it more…
3rd March 2017
Image rights: Robert Berman