Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Step 25: A Look in the Eye

I have known Brandon since he was about six years old. He came to Graceview certainly by no accident. My life was changed in so many ways by this young boy as he introduced me to so many situations that I had never faced in my life and as a leader in our Special Needs Ministry.

Most of my interactions happened with Brandon on Sunday mornings when I would care for him along with others on our JOY Ministry team. Brandon was one of the first children with Autism who taught me how to run fast! It would seem to bring him such delight to see if Ms. Denise could catch him running through the halls of our church. It was because of Brandon and children like him that caused us to change the dress code for Sunday mornings at church and upgrade to a great pair of running shoes!

But one of the most important things Brandon taught me was how to truly care for him and needs he had. There was not a long line of folks who often signed up for diaper changing or bathroom duties, and in a special needs ministry that's a wise thing. We always protected our children and adults who needed this type of care. However, as Brandon grew and grew and grew into a fine young man. He also grew taller than me! And yet, some of his needs never changed. He still needed to be changed or assisted in the bathroom. I think he challenged me to my "tag line" as a diaper changer for Jesus" as if to somehow say without being able to speak a word aloud "Okay, Ms. Denise, let's see you change this guy"! But time after time, I did it willingly.

It was one particular Sunday, I remember being in a hurry, checking the to do's off the ministry list, that Brandon needed assistance and he needed to be changed. He seemed almost agitated that it was me that day who was the one chosen. But I recall as I knelt down and removed his shoes, then the rest of his items, I spoke to him saying "Buddy I know you just tolerate Ms Denise don't you" he reached down and picked up my chin and looked me directly in the eyes. He never spoke, he couldn't, yet in his Brandon language, he moaned and glared deep within my soul as if to say, Thank You. I remember saying back to him, "Brandon, it's my honor sweet boy, my honor". It truly took my breath away! That moment it felt as if God were in the room.

My eyes tear up right now as I write about him, this sweet young man, watching him grow up, knowing that he has a direct line to our Lord Jesus. I will never forget that day, or any day spent with Brandon and others with Autism who are often trapped inside a mind that we often don't understand. Oh how I pray for others who care for children and adults like Brandon. For them to be gentle kind people who will slow down and take the time to change a diaper, wipe a tear, listen to their heartsong. God is using these children in huge ways ... to change us perhaps instead of us changing them. I am thankful Brandon Guppy changed my life, my heart! I am thankful for his family and their trust they had in our ministry to truly care for their child. I'll take a look in the eye from him any day!

Written by Denise Briley

aka "The JOY Lady"

Poem from Miss Pam, a former volunteer in the Joy Ministry who was very touched by Brandon...

Are You Listening?

Are you listening

Can you hear this young heart sing
Not with words and voice as you or me
But spirit songs from deep within
Maybe life's not easy for this child
But his soul is alive with love and light
And he's happy to be here with you and I
His joy is pure, his love is real
You just have to listen
With the heart Jesus gave you
To hear Brandon's song of life revealed