Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Step 11: From a sibling's friend's perspective!

I have been asked to share how autism in the Guppy's life has affected my life; and to be honest with you, its changed a lot more than I thought. I think that God has blessed me with such a great family in my life to not only change who I am on the outside but also who I am on the inside. After reading and working through "Experiencing God's Story of Life and Hope" by J. Scott Duvall, I learned that our belief's change our behavior, which in turn changes who we become.

When I first met Matt, I had no idea what he and his family dealt with on a daily basis having to take care of Brandon. For some reason, I would always feel a tension in the air when I said "That's retarded!"  And one day, Matt finally exploded and said, "Hey you know what? My brother is mentally challenged and when you say the word 'retarded,' it offends me, my family, and anyone else who is close to someone with disabilities!" My response was shame. I had unintentionally hurt many people by what I said.  By using the "R word" to describe something (at least in middle school and high school), you were basically saying that is was dumb. So why didn't I use that word in the first place? I don't know.

This was just the beginning of the impact it had on me. When I went to Matt's house, I got to experience the extra responsibility it put on him and his parents shoulders just to keep things semi-normal around the house! I remember helping mow the yard countless times just so we could go do something he wanted to do. But there's something deeper than all this. Many people who have something against the mentally challenged often don't realize that just because they aren't there mentally, does not mean they aren't there spiritually or emotionally. Brandon, along with all other disabled people I have been around, have a personality. They are someBODY. They aren't just someTHING. They have a way of communicating even though it may not be with words. They show affection and understanding. They bless you in silence.

I feel as if having Brandon has given the Guppy family a huge ministry. Not just to the autistic community, but to everyone they encounter. I was never the cool kid on campus. I was picked on. I was different. But Matt seemed to be one of the few people to ever put  that aside. I feel as if having a "different" brother has given him a heart for those who are often overlooked. And on the subject of ministry through circumstance, I believe that as the Guppy's minister to others, it plants a seed for those other people to minister to people they encounter. It becomes and exponential ministry. Each domino that falls pushes down countless other dominoes. Now when my friends say the "R word", I have an open door to share a story about my friends, Brandon, Matt, Michelle, and Todd. And I have an opportunity to show people how to improve the way that they show the love, kindness, and gentleness of God.

Grace and Peace be with you,

Derek Miller