The Gospels are full of miracles, amazing scenes of people’s lives being transformed as they encountered Jesus.  These miraculous encounters include children and young people with additional needs or disabilities who were healed or even raised from the dead.  Children like these:

Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43)
Jairus was one of the synagogue rulers; he pleads with Jesus to come and heal his daughter and Jesus agrees, but on the way he is interrupted by the woman who touches his cloak and is healed, and by the time Jesus reaches Jairus’ house the girl is dead.  Jesus, saying that the girl is merely asleep, much to the mocking of the crowd, goes in with the parents and the disciples and commands her to arise, which she does.  She was aged 12-years old.  Jesus tells the parents and his disciples not to tell anyone what he had done.

The Syrophoenician woman’s daughter (Mark 7:24-30)
Just a couple of chapters later we meet another parent, this time a Greek woman born in Syrian Phoenicia.  She had a daughter, described as being possessed by an evil spirit, and she came to Jesus to seek his help for her girl.  At first, Jesus is harsh with her, saying that because she is not Jewish he cannot help her “First let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”  The mother responds with great grace, humility and wisdom, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”  Because of her reply Jesus saves her daughter, the mother returning home finding that all was well.

A boy described as having an evil spirit (Mark 9:14-29)
Further on again in Mark’s Gospel we meet another child, this time a boy who is described as having an evil spirit.  Reading the account, it is possible that this boy has epilepsy, and perhaps other additional needs.  His father had asked the disciples to heal the boy, but they had been unable to do so.  The boy is brought before Jesus and promptly fits again.  There is some discussion about the belief in Jesus of the father who is rebuked by Jesus for saying if you can do anything…”, Jesus responding that Everything is possible for him who believes.”  Jesus then heals the boy, and subsequently answers the Disciples’ questions about why they had been unsuccessful in healing the boy themselves; “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

There are many occasions where Jesus’ encounters with children were miraculous, including when he met children with additional/special needs or disabilities, but what about today?  Do miracles involving children with additional/special needs or disabilities still occur?  What do they look like?  As parents or children’s workers are we right to hope, to pray, for miracles?

James’ story
If you’ve read by blog for a while you will know that in July 2017 our son, James, who is aged 16 is Autistic and has Learning Disabilities and Epilepsy, stopped leaving the house.  His difficulties started to manifest themselves at school, with James struggling massively in the final weeks of that years’ summer term.  He was increasingly overwhelmed by a series of changes at school, coming on top of the onset of Epilepsy, and his response was to retreat into his ‘safe space’ at home.  He refused to go out, to school, to church, to his favourite farm shop, to anywhere…  For over a year he was unable to take more than a few steps outside of the back door during the day.  The few evening drives that we managed to coax James out to came to an end as autumn last year headed into a long, bleak, winter.

We didn’t give up trying, we didn’t give up hoping, we didn’t give up praying, we didn’t give up believing; we have been held up by many, many wonderful people who have been praying for James or, if they aren’t the praying sort, were thinking positive thoughts.  People we had never met, who we didn’t even know, were holding James in their hearts and we are forever grateful to them all.

In August of this year, 13 months on from James last daytime trip out, things started to suddenly, unexpectedly, wonderfully change.  Having offered James the opportunity to come for a drive, he suddenly agreed to come out for a short trip.  The next day we went further, including to the farm shop, a few days later we went out into the countryside to a little airfield café that James loves…  Progress continued and as we celebrated each new trip out, each new achievement for James, we thanked God for these answers to prayer, for the miracles that were happening before our eyes.

Then, there was yesterday…  Having seen James making such amazing progress, we prepared him for a bigger test of his new found, God given, resilience; a visit to school.  It’s hard to articulate how we felt as we helped to James prepare for this visit.  We tried to suppress our anxiety in case he picked up on it, but inside we were juggling our feelings alongside holding on to our faith and belief that we were all in God’s good hands.

We showed James a specially prepared video of the journey to school, and another one walking through school to the sensory room, James’ favourite place when he was there before everything changed.  We phoned school to say that we were on our way, so that there would be someone James recognised to meet us when we arrived.  We talked excitedly on the journey in about school, how it was going to be great to see it again.  Then we arrived… we drove through the gates and up to the entrance of the school building… how would James respond?  Would he get out of the car?  Would he be willing, be able, to walk through the entrance?

We opened James’ door and collected his things… we held our breath… we prayed.  James stepped one foot out of the car, then the other, and headed with us through the entrance into school.  One of his favourite teachers met us and we continued our progress through the school, following the route James had seen so many times on the video.  We arrived at the sensory room and before long James was enjoying all the fabulous sensory equipment there.

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A little while later we thought we would try to see if James would be willing to come to his classroom, and to our amazement and delight, some 15 months after his last time, James entered a classroom, sat at a table, and engaged with the staff and his class mates there.  It was absolutely astonishing to see him, smiling and at ease, giggling and jolly, eating cake!  It was, truly, wonderfully, miraculous…

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This isn’t the end of James’ journey, perhaps there will be setbacks as well as positive days to come, but one thing I know without any doubt… that James is beloved of God and that his future is in safe hands.  Back in July of this year, as we marked the anniversary of James struggles to go out, I wrote a blog post in which I felt our faith was being tested in the fire as we stood with James… I referenced some verses that reminded us that we, that James, didn’t stand alone…

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 hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

“So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.”  Isaiah 41:13

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

These verses upheld us, as we knew that God had not forgotten James, but was with him with every little step he took.  We trusted, and continue to trust, that God’s got this, that he understands; that he has a wonderful future planed for James, and that as he has sustained us through these difficult times, growing us in our faith, he will continue to sustain us into the future.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” Proverbs 3:5
 

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  2 Timothy 1:7

So, do miracles still happen for children and young people with additional/special needs or disabilities?  Yes, they do, James is proof, is evidence of that, and it gives hope to us all that the miracles can and will continue…  Join us in continuing to pray, to hope, to believe, to have faith for more.

Amen!

Mark

Mark Arnold
2nd November 2018

Bible passage used in this blog post:  Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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