BY MAGGIE PERRY, GRACE ATTENDER
We desperately needed consistency and structure amid turmoil and grief. Grace Kids has provided a consistency for our son that we never imagined we’d need.
My husband, Michael, and I brought our son, Rhett, home from Bulgaria just a little over a year ago on December 23, 2015. Rhett lived two and a half years of his life in a crib, with little interaction. He was abandoned in a hospital in Bulgaria because he has Down Syndrome. He lived in a culture where he was considered unlovable because of his disability. Before Christmas of 2015, he’d never set a foot in a church or heard about Jesus. Literally two days after bringing Rhett home, we brought him to the 2015 Christmas Eve service at Grace. Rhett’s eyes lit up, and he was enthralled with the worship. Our two-and-a-half-year-old was experiencing God in a way he never had before, and it was magical to witness. We couldn’t wait for him to become involved in Grace Kids so that he could continue learning about Jesus.
Soon after bringing Rhett home, he became a part of the LIFT (Loving Individuals & Families Together) ministry in Grace Kids. Rhett was always welcomed with open arms and lots of hugs. In August, once Rhett could walk and had less medical issues, we asked if he could be matched with a “buddy” (a volunteer to assist him in Grace Kids). In early fall, Rhett began going to the young three’s classroom. He was greeted by name and went directly to his buddy and the classroom volunteers without even looking back to say goodbye. Though Rhett only knows a few signs and is still learning to communicate, we could tell immediately that he loved going to his class in Grace Kids. Even though he learns a little differently and communicates not with words, but with smiles and babbles (and the occasional hit), Rhett is welcomed and loved.
In October, the unimaginable happened to our family. Our baby girl, Willow Arabella, was born full term on October 6th. Just four short hours after Willow was born, she passed away unexpectedly. Less than a year from bringing our son home from Bulgaria, we went from the highest of highs, to the lowest of lows. Grief was and has been crippling and unrelenting. As we’ve attempted the navigate the waves of grief and loss over the past four months, we’ve also had to navigate what it looks like to continue parenting our son. We’ve found that structure, consistency, and familiar faces have been what we’ve needed on some of the hardest days. Grace Kids has been all of that for us and for Rhett. After treading through long work weeks paired with exhausting grief, it is sometimes all we can do to get up on Sunday morning and go to church. But, we know that Rhett needs structure and normalcy. He needs worship, crafts and playtime with peers. He needs familiar faces and to be known by name.
While Rhett is being well taken care of in Grace Kids, Michael and I so desperately need that hour and fifteen minutes to sink into the arms of Christ and worship. We need to know that as we fall apart, our boy is being loved and taught about Jesus. We need to have God’s word permeate our hearts and souls, as it is the only food we crave these days. To know that we can go worship, lament, learn, and work on our healing, while Rhett is being loved and cared for in Grace Kids, has been the most wonderful gift.