Both accounts below come from Floris United Methodist Church’s Family Support Ministry, which helps parents and caregivers of those with special needs. Learn more about the Family Support Ministry.
In my career I have the privilege of partnering with parents who have children with special health care needs. I am constantly amazed at how these parents manage to do so much with so little. One parent describes her life as being an ‘air traffic controller’ for her child’s needs. This mom must manage her child’s medical appointments, therapy and medications; attend school meetings; complete household duties; and sometimes work outside the home. These 24/7 responsibilities take their toll, and parents have shared with me their sense of loneliness, isolation and stress. I can feel the exhaustion as I listen to their stories.
When Floris UMC asked for volunteers for the Family Support Program, I thought, “Wow! This is a way that I can use my talents in ministry.” This is what I am good at. I don’t know about you, but I often notice that when I am feeling prideful about my abilities, God has a way of humbling me and helping me to grow.
So the day arrives for me to go take care of a special girl who I’ll call Sara and her two siblings. Volunteers always go in pairs. My plan was that I would take care of Sara, and the other volunteer would work with Sara’s siblings. Can you sense where this is going? Sara wanted nothing to do with me and cried when I tried to care for her. She lit up with smiles for the other volunteer. How can this beI’m the expert? Well, guess what? It isn’t about me. It is about giving Sara’s mom the rest that she needs and deserves. And so I played with Sara’s siblings and had a blast! Sure there were tears from the kids when mom left to go out, but it was all worth it when mom came home at the end of the evening looking a bit more relaxed and refreshed.
Fast forward to today. I am thoroughly enjoying my time as a family support volunteer. Sara has captured my heart. I am learning how she communicates and am beginning to understand her likes and dislikes (and she smiles for me too now). Together we have formed a bond. I look forward to my time with Sara and her siblings, and it makes me happy to know that I have some small part in helping Sara’s mom recharge her batteries. Thank you, God!
Submitted by Judy Sturm.
Who doesn’t have a hard time finding care for their kids to enjoy a night out? Imagine if those kids were older yet required supervision because of their disability. That is part of what makes our family and childcare needs slightly different.
For the past several years, on a monthly basis, we have been blessed with having two people from the Floris UMC Family Support Ministry come to our home and hang out with our kids while my husband and I go out. It has been wonderful for the caregivers that come to the home to see how normal our lives really are despite having three kids with the same disability. Each child/young adult is different in how they like to interact with others, but the common thread is that they just need someone with them at home in case there is an emergency.
It is very comforting to know that they are being cared for in their own environment. This program allows people to get to know them in a more relaxed atmosphere. When the kids see the caregivers again at church, it makes us happy to see relationships form between not only the caregivers and our kids, but also amongst the caregivers themselves. Many come to our home never having met, and through their time providing care together, a friendship is formed. While one of our two girls may not interact with them much, she is well aware of their presence in our home, and if she is comfortable with them she will allow them into her circle. Relationships take time and they take investing of that time.
It really is a gift for us to have time alone, as a couple. So many parts of our lives are not in our control, but to know that one night a month we have coverage for our kids enables us to designate time for one another. The Family Support Ministry at Floris United Methodist Church provides not only a break for us but also allows fellowship to happen through our church that may not happen normally. If Jesus commands us to take care of others, then this program is doing just that.
Submitted by Andrea Creighton.