About eight and a half years ago, I sat in the corner of a small room at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis while a young doctor played with my son. Usually, Corinne would be the one to take him to these types of appointments, but for some reason, it was just me and him on this visit.
While I sat in an uncomfortable plastic chair, the young doctor used wooden blocks and a wooden train to engage Grant. She made notes of his toe-walking, and ran a series of other tests, occasionally looking up to ask me a question. I don’t remember everything about that visit, but the outcome has impacted our family immensely: high-functioning autism.
In recent years, I have had friends of mine whose children have been diagnosed with cancer or other major health issues. In retrospect, there are so many diagnoses that could have been worse than what we got, but I remember leaving Riley Hospital and driving back to Noblesville with my head in a cloud.
What would Grant be able to do? What wouldn’t he be able to do? Would he get married, drive a car, live on his own, hold down a job? My mind shifted to our missionary calling. What if Grant needed to live with us long-term—maybe I should get a better job, a higher paying job. Newsflash: missions doesn’t make you rich…and the thought of taking care of my son for most of his life made me suddenly feel inadequate. I had received a name for his struggles less than an hour before and already I was working through a plan…
Then something struck me. God called us into ministry. God sustained us through the best and worst of times. He knew that Grant would be high-functioning autistic. He knew that long before He called us to ministry, and He called us anyway. I remember thinking that God loves my son more than I could, and if He wanted us to be missionaries, I needed to trust him.
Last August, I sat in my car outside of the Gait Clinic, a part of the University of Heidelberg medical clinic in Heidelberg, Germany. Only one parent was allowed in with Grant, so I took my spot scrolling through sports news in my car parked in a neighborhood down the road. The diagnosis again caught us by surprise. Grant’s calves needed cut and extended, and they said we needed to have a major surgery in which they would break Grant’s femurs, rotate the leg bones to the correct angle and plate them back to the lower portion. The recovery would be six months minimum, and we would have to go back to the US for it.
As we drove back to Budapest, a trip that involved an unplanned overnight stay due to a flat tire and the realization that our car didn’t have a spare, my mind shifted to the challenges this would bring. How were we going to work this out with the team in Hungary? How were we going to handle this logistically? How would we pay for it? See a pattern here? I like developing solutions.
Here too, God broke through the noise. Our team has grown and we have some gifted team members who can handle things for us while we are gone. Covid-19 had cancelled my traveling within the region, so there was literally no better time for us to go from a work perspective, as most of my role was now virtual. We even knew that we had to leave the field for six months for visa considerations—the same timeframe as the recovery.
Everything fell into place, and even when we realized Hungary was going to shut its borders, which would make travel uncertain, we were able to get out before the deadline. We arrived back in Indiana weary and tired, to find that some of our supporting churches had already engaged with Corinne’s mom and had purchased groceries and supplies that we would need. We felt so cared for! But here’s where this story comes full circle.
Two weeks ago, Corinne and Grant sat in a small room in Riley Children’s Hospital, back here in Indianapolis. The Doctor looked over the materials from the German clinic and evaluated the situation. Her recommendation was a series of casts, physical therapy, and some hard work on Grant’s part. She told Corinne that she believed we could arrive at the same results without surgery.
God continues to remind us through all the things we face that He is with us. Being a missionary has had its share of challenges, but watching Him work over and over again, directly and through His people, has been such a humbling blessing. We aren’t out of the woods yet with Grant’s legs, but we are confident that God knows what’s best and He is working.
Jonathan, thank you for sharing. You family are in our prayers.