Tuesday, December 31, 2013

God Has Autism Too or Why Churches Need to Minister to and With Special Needs Adults

God has autism. 

Why?

God is perfectionistic. He created a perfect world. His work was perfect. Then He created these people. Who flubbed up the perfection. 

So God had a meltdown. He punished the people who messed up the perfection. 

People kept screwing up and things got more flubbed up. So God had another meltdown. This time He flooded the whole earth and started over again after He calmed down enough to be more reasonable. 

But God still was not happy. It just was not the same ever again.

So God sent Jesus. 

Now here's the clencher: Jesus was no ordinary baby. Nor was He any ordinary man.

And churches who mess up in this might want to repent sooner than later because the end result will not be good for them.

Many churches do not minister to or with special needs individuals or their families. Particularly adults with special needs. 

This is a very sad reality. 

Anyone who has read earlier posts on here know what I just dealt with with one such church. 

I have been praying that they will see their mistakes before they hurt more people like me. 

If ever there was a more compelling reason for them to repent and try to repair the damage they caused me, and for that matter, a more compelling reason for them and really for EVERY church to minister to and with special needs children AND adults, here it is:

Most of Jesus' life ministry was spent healing the deaf, healing the blind, healing the leper, healing the woman with a bleeding issue. Jesus even said how you treat the least of these is how you treat Him (Matthew 25). And He basically said if you treat them fair and treat them well, then you treat Him fair and well and you will be a sheep. BUT, conversely, if you hurt them, you hurt Him and you will be a goat sent to the fire. He is talking about churches too as the churches are simply comprised of people. So, if your church doesn't minister to and with children AND adults with special needs and instead does what that church did to me, you might need to do one of two things:

1. Go to your leadership and talk to them and even complain and protest. 
2. Run far away from that church for failing to actually do the work of Jesus.

Because here's the thing: Jesus not only did or encouraged foreign missions, but He also did and encouraged special needs ministry. And if a church is lacking either of these things, then it is not really following Jesus at all, now is it? 

Don't get me wrong. I know some churches will claim that they just don't have the resources or the people to volunteer or the people who need it. WRONG WRONG WRONG. 

Let me take, no offense, but just because I am more familiar with them, so let me take Oak Mountain for example.

Excuse 1: Don't have the resources.

Wrong. 

Oak Mountain has over 2500 people by now. It is also in a predominantly affluent area. With the new campaign it is launching, some of the allocation or reallocation of funds can include special needs ministry to both children and adults? The focus is too much on the children. This fails to remember that children with special needs grow up to be adults who still have special needs. But in a church that size or larger, if the excuse is not having the resources, I would be more concerned that they are misappropriating some of the resources rather than that they truly don't have the resources.

Excuse 2: Don't have the people to volunteer.

Wrong.

Oak Mountain never asked. They never expressed the need. Therefore they do not have because they did not ask. If they would announce the need, they would have people who would step up. I know. Because I met several who are interested. But they have not been asked nor have they been made aware of the need. Why? Because as I have experienced, their leaders treat autism as though it is a sin which also means they treat God as though God is a sinner. Read some of my previous posts for clarity on that comment. 

Excuse 3: Don't have the people who need it.

Wrong.

I needed it and still need it. With autism diagnosis rates in children being 1 in 88 and 1 in 50 between ages 6 and 17, and adults being unaccounted for, a church the size of Oak Mountain definitely has the people who need it. And that's just autism! ADHD, ODD, OCD, dyslexia, Down Syndrome, Tourette's, SPD, MR, LD are others that can benefit. I read a statistic last night that bothered me as I have been made a statistic as a result of what they did to me: 95% of families with special needs are unchurched. A smaller percent (55%) was also given. If this excuse is used, I would be more concerned about why this is the case than about this being the case. Why? In my case, I was bullied and abused, more so after the diagnosis of autism came to their attention. And even the offending party (Tom) admitted that to my mom (the only truth he told her). We met others with similar stories with regard to the exact same church. Which means that they are literally doing something wrong. RUN people. Because that is NOT what Jesus would want. 

Why do I write this though? Because right now, believe it or not, bringing it to public light is the most gracious thing I can do under the circumstances. Because someone out there might read this and finally say aha! and might be able to call foul and help correct the wrong. Because no church deserves to be in a position that Jesus would deem as goat. Because every church deserves a chance to do right and repair damage they magnified or caused. Because every church deserves a chance to do better. And because these principles apply to EVERY church. 

Wake up churches! You're hurting people more than you understand right now. You're pushing them away from God rather than drawing them to God. 

By the way, I am a millennial with autism. Double whammy. Churches! Do you want to know how to effectively minister to people like me? Talk to me! 

I challenge each person reading this to evaluate his or her own church though and see if you can identify some of the things I pointed out here. Then do one of those two things. But if you talk and they still refuse, I would suggest running and warning others who would be negatively impacted as well. 

I would rather that NO church be like that with anyone. And the fact a church was like that to me at all is sad and gives me much grief. But grace is winning right now and telling me to give them one last chance to correct things before they can do more harm. They can choose to take advantage of this moment and reach out. Or the alternative is one I cannot fathom right now because it is even worse. 

My hunch is that the reason Jesus has a special place and consideration for people with special needs is because He knows that these are often the people who cannot even defend themselves against a world that can be so mean and cold. And since EVERY person alive is an image bearer of the Creator, then if a child or adult has autism or any of the countless other conditions that I named or even didn't name, then to some degree, God has those characteristics too. Because here's the ultimate deal: Anyone who actually gets to know me for me knows that I am creative, loving, caring, compassionate, loyal, real, honest, and sometimes even funny because I see the world differently. And the thing is, many of my characteristics are also ones that God has! And it's the same with any of us special needs people. If a church rejects us, it essentially also rejects God because we are also God's children. 

I know some of you may be scratching your heads some after this. GOOD! See the comment box below? Use it! Because I want this post to be conversational and to result in conversations. It needs to. And if you follow me on YouTube, keep an eye out for a similar video soon. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Modern Christmas

God via text:

Hey Gabriel. I need you to do something for me.

Gabriel via text:

Yeah, what do You need?

God via text:

Go tell Mary she's to give birth to my Son.

Gabriel via text:

Okay. Consider it done.

--------------------------------------------

Gabriel appears on Mary's computer screen. Mary gasps.

Gabriel:

Mary, do not be afraid for I come to you in peace. You are the chosen one. You are to give birth to a child. His name shall be called Emmanuel, Jesus. He is God's Son.

Mary: 

Hunh? But how can this be? I've never even been with a man. I am engaged, but we have never known each other intimately. 

Gabriel:

Just trust.

--------------------------------------------

Mary picks up the phone:

Joseph? Honey, I need to tell you something.

Joseph: 

What's up?

Mary:

We're going to have a child. He's God's Son. But we're going to raise Him together.

Joseph: 

Um.... Mary...?

Mary hangs up.

---------------------------------------------

Joseph texts his friend:

You got a minute?

Friend:

Yeah, what's up?

Joseph:

Just a minute.

Joseph via FaceTime:

Mary just told me we're expecting. It's God's Son. I don't know whether to go through the wedding now or not?

Friend:

Go for it man. You should feel honored man.

----------------------------------------------

Joseph:

Hey Mary, we have to go to Bethlehem for the census. But Bethlehem Travel's website says there might not be any rooms available.

Mary:

That's okay. I'm sure we'll find something.

---------------------------------------------

Joseph and Mary at the third inn:

Sir, surely you have something? Mary's about to pop. We cannot continue any further.

Innkeeper:

Well, there is the stable.

Joseph:

We'll take it!

---------------------------------------------

The wise men receive the text alert on their phones:

The newborn king of kings has arrived! His name is Jesus.

The wise men look at each other. All three: 

He's cute!!!

1: Let's go!
2: Yeah!
3: Siri?
Siri: Yes?
3: Set route for Bethlehem. Stable. Under the star.
Siri: Here you go.

-------The End--------

Christmas Wishes

1. Health. My ear drums to heal (maybe before three months) and hearing to be restored. If the hearing improves, then it will be worth having the tubes removed as long as I stay infection free. Also for the oral surgery this Tuesday to go well.

2. The decision from court. It has been significantly delayed.

3. Improved financial health for the family.

4. An attorney. The reality is that after all the more gracious attempts to give Tom Patton the opportunity to do the biblical and Christian thing, II Corinthians 13:11 - "Aim for restoration" and enter biblical conciliation, he refused. And the thing his, he spread lies and false accusations that have caused real damages, not only emotionally but also financially with regard to my reputation and my relationships in the community at large. So I have chosen to do the next most gracious thing I can do which in this case is to pursue legal action in order to seek the justice I deserve and to hold him accountable for his lies. According to the scripture, Mr. Patton no longer even qualifies to be in the position of a pastor because he is no longer "above reproach." I have already submitted a complaint to higher authority and am anxiously awaiting the time they address it and hopefully form whatever investigative committees are necessary in order to either seek the whole truth about he and Oak Mountain put me in some stupid box and broke all the biblical rules to create and break their own rules from there, and most importantly, to deal with his lies because he either lied to me, my mom, the person who can verify that he had no justification to break his promise or compromise regarding Facebook, the advocate, and the therapist I no longer have and cannot replace due to the severe lack of services for adults with autism who were not already established clients with the people who provide the therapy I need OR he lied to the guy who was trying to get him to do the right thing to enter biblical conciliation. Either way, he lied. What he told me and everyone else is that his job was threatened just for being my friend just because as he had admitted the church was wrong in how it handled things with regard to me and as a result I asked the higher authority for help because it was clear that yet again the church leadership was going to fail to do what it should have done to start with. 

The people who are in some more expert positions and know more about the workings of the PCA and how it should work have had issues with the way Oak Mountain leadership have been treating me. And to be honest, it is outright abusive, evidences bullying, disregards scripture and the Book of Church Order, and needs to be brought to the attention of the public. Their leadership has been corrupted and it is corrupting the entire church. Their leadership is abusing people who are different, treating people with special needs as though their conditions are a sin (by the way, remember how Jesus explained to the disciples that the blind man was not blind because of sins committed, but Oak Mountain treats people with autism as though the autism itself is a sin which if autism is a sin, then according to Oak Mountain, God is a sinner which cannot be, but that's how they are acting). Look aroun on a given Sunday morning. Do you see anyone, other than people with physical handicaps, who have mental challenges, Down syndrome, autism, Tourette's, ADHD, etc. If not, then you need to ask yourself why and ask them why. And push for the truth. And then see what they do. The thing is Oak Mountain leadership does not like the truth. Truth to them is apparently like kryptonite to Superman. It is scary. Yet church is supposed to be safe and honest. Yeah. I see one of my friends points: Oak Mountain puts its politics over people's hearts and forgot how to truly minister to them. And that's sad. But also true. 

The good shepherd will leave the 99 to go after the 1 who is lost or hurt. Yet the shepherds at Oak Mountain will actually abandon any who are lost or hurt and stay with the ones who are not. Yes, I just used Mr. Patton's excuse to abandon the friendship instead of doing the right thing and entering conflict resolution in accordance with Matthew 18 against him. I'm not sorry for doing that either because it further evidences that he is in direct violation of scriptures. Matthew 25, Jesus separates them into sheep and goats, if you hurt the least of these, you hurt Him. That passage makes me afraid for the people at Oak Mountain because of how the leadership has treated me and the others my mom has met who have also been hurt by them for similar situations as my own. 

I make a promise to whoever reads this though and I would ask that this be put forth by them:

IF, and ONLY if, Mr. Patton will agree to talk with me and to me directly and IF, and ONLY if, the church leadership will agree to ONE meeting with me, and BOTH conditions MUST be met and the meetings or conversations do not have to be before Christmas but must have been scheduled for immediately after the holidays by Christmas, THEN I will not pursue legal action against Mr. Patton or anyone else from the church. If not, then I will continue to seek justice. At this point though, I cannot nor will I retract any complaints to higher authority UNLESS Mr. Patton talks with me directly before Christmas and tells me the truth and either enters restoration or gives me true closure. 

Here's the catch that could get Oak Mountain in trouble: The leadership NEVER enacted church discipline with me. Then it did some document that stated that if I didn't sign, I agreed to be limited to Sunday morning worship and missions conference only. Then it said in the same document that Mr. Patton swore neither of us were subject to if I terminated my membership this allowing him to be friends with me which he evidenced wanting more than me but in hindsight he could be cited for abuse by certain outside parties based on certain things he did, but I never thought him to be abusive except in one area and I viewed him more like a father figure (which I need back at least on Facebook) than a friend), but that same document which THEY signed stated that if I was out of bounds that the church session must and will engage in official church discipline. 

We have requested any minutes regarding any action against me for the record. They have not provided them. We will try again with the notation that it is because complaint was filed with a higher court. 

My concern is that the membership, not the leadership, is correct. Church discipline has not been done because I have not done anything to warrant or justify it. If that's true, them the church leadership is wrong and has done things inappropriately and need to be brought under disciplinethemselves. If that's not true, then the church leadership must engage in proper church discipline in accordance with Matthew 18 and the Book of Church Order. If it begins the process before January, then I can withdraw the complaint. If not, the complaint remains. 

If church discipline is done correctly, then it is a very redemptive process. If it is not done correctly or not done at all, then it is destructive, not only to the hearts of the victims of the abuse, but to those around them. 

That grace that Oak Mountain seems so find of? Where is it now? Because grace would dictate that Mr. Patton and I talk and that Oak Mountain leaders do the correct thing and meet with me. Period. As things stand now, there is no grace at Oak Mountain, never has been, and never will be. And Mr. Patton and its leaders are the worst offenders. 

But wait, I am requesting, again, a meeting with at least him and am offering, again, to void pursuit of action if he does talk to me. Wait a minute. Isn't that GRACE? Because TRUE grace dictates that I at least offer the opportunity for the offender to correct himself with regard to the offense against me. 

Ultimately, this wish is not so much for an attorney which is more of a need, but for restoration. Biblical restoration of a valuable relationship, at least on Facebook. 

I should be getting ready for church now, but wait, I can't. Because Oak Mountain leaders are corrupt and abusive and bullied me and incorrectly punished me over a misunderstanding that they refuses to resolve and failure to properly execute scriptural mandates and said I could never come back because they didn't want to handle things according to scripture but instead broke their own contracts and rules that said I could attend. And because of Mr. Patton and because of the corrupt leadership, I no longer have the desire to try anymore church anywhere because I'm too afraid that I'll get hurt again just because I have autism and am different. And because as it turns out, apparently Oak Mountain is NOT a true church since it blatantly disregards truth and blatantly violates scripture. And I dare Mr. Patton and the leadership to prove me wrong by scheduling a meeting with me. Seriously. I dare them to prove me wrong. Because based on my experience, I am correct. And I am disheartened by their abuses. 

5. For oppression of the least of these, including me, to stop. For more churches to accept people with special needs, including adults like me. Period. And if the existing churches won't do it, then for church plants to do it. Because in Birmingham area alone, we need that. We aren't being ministered to or with. We're being hurt and abused and bullied. And I'm tired of it. And so is everyone else. Because we're all seeking, but not finding. 

That's it. And I know number 4 is confusing because I am hurt and confused. And I need answers. Honest answers. And Mr. Patton is the only one who can give them to me. And he knows that. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sadness

I am sad that despite of efforts of many people to bring about Biblical conflict resolution that all the efforts were turned down. More sad that he has continued to spread lies about me. Sad that not once did they ever handle things correctly. Sad that they outright bullied and abused me, more so after they learned I have autism. Sad that churches are not the safe places they should be. Sad that a church that talks so much about grace doesn't actually practice it. Sad that corrupt leaders stand up in front and talk about grace while hypocritically never actually do grace. I tried II Corinthians 13:11 and I tried Matthew 18 with regard to conflict. And they retaliated. I am sad that I now have no other choice but to pursue legal recourse. I never wanted to have to resort to that, but the lies have cost me far too much and they can no longer be tolerated. It is with much grief that I write this. Much sadness. And to think, all it would have taken was for him to talk with me and we truly would not be where we are now. It is just a handful of people who will be named. These people, including him, will be named in the case. The fact that they broke all the rules, even the very ones that they made, is what I find to be the worst. Well, second only to his lies. 
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