It’s been said you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. That was exactly the case for our family when it came to the chance to worship Christ with others.

It was 2008, a few years after a diagnosis known as autism rocked our family to its core. Our son Cade was doing better, but still couldn’t communicate, was very prone to wandering, and had severe behavior issues. It scared us to take him any- where because either he darted away from us or had meltdowns that attracted the attention of others who quite didn’t understand our world.

Trips outside of the home that weren’t to therapy or the grocery store were rare. We hadn’t been to church in years. We were isolated, in crisis, and desperate for fellowship – until one last attempt to find refuge, and a church family.

We went from one church to another, but not one of them got our situation. One even gave Cade a nickname – “Houdini” – because he would somehow end up in their fellowship hall without anyone knowing. That led us to our next and last stop, The Church at Brook Hills.

We were able to take part in the church’s buddy system, which paired Cade with an adult who would hang out with him one-on-one during his small group, while my husband and I could go to our own small group or worship. I distinctly remember being amazed at the fact we made it through one service without being asked to come get our son.

We kept coming back, and as we did, we kept growing in our faith. We started going to our own small group and soaking up other fellowship opportunities. But it’s what happened with Cade that made the tough journey to find a church home so worth it.

Cade was learning God’s Word and taking part in his small group. He was getting to know the other boys and feeling like he be- longed. It was all thanks to buddies like Meghan, a special education teacher who gave up her Sunday mornings to make sure our whole family was growing closer to Christ. Or most recently, a newlywed named Caleb came alongside Cade to help him transition to the student ministry. These angels will never know how crucial they were to keeping the Thompson family all together, facing autism with hope instead of fear.

Now we know exactly what we have and don’t for a minute take it for granted. Our family has the incredible chance to worship Christ with others, some of whom have stood by us at our darkest times. Our little “Houdini” isn’t disappearing during small group, but instead is very active in one.

The Thompsons are not alone. There are several families in our community who feel trapped, scared to take part in church because their child’s needs seem so severe or their loved one may be misunderstood. All it takes is one person with a few hours of time a week to change all of that for a family affected by disability. Like Meghan, Caleb, and the countless others who have cared enough about Cade, Christ can use you in extraordinary ways.

Thanks to buddies who support Cade on Wednesday nights.

Scarlet Thompson leads a Small Group of mothers of children with unique needs, and her husband John helps out in the Children’s Ministry. The Thompsons have three children; Cade, Keeley and Kaela, and have been members of The Church at Brook Hills for eight years.

If you are willing to serve as Buddy for our Special Needs Ministry on Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings, we need you! For more information on how you can become a Buddy, please contact Dawn Stephens at .