Autism Ministry Helps Cultivate Safe Space

Source: Living Lutheran

When anti-Asian slurs were found in the congregation’s parking lot last winter, parishioners of Grace Chinese Lutheran Church, in Seattle, relied on their long-standing outreach program, Love Me Ministry.

“Grace Chinese Seattle was determined to continue this vital ministry of love for some of the most marginalized people in our society,” Herb Shao, director for evangelical mission with the Northwest Washington Synod, told Living Lutheran. “The long waitlist to attend the ministry’s events is a testament to how they are valued by these families, who can connect and also serve in ways they may not otherwise be able to.”

Before the rise in anti-Asian sentiments in the United States, Love Me Ministry has been helping its congregation and families of children with special needs.

“It’s an expression of God’s love. Many of these people have never even heard the story of Jesus before. The ministry invites people to a conversation about God’s love,” said Shao.

Each week, nearly 20 Asian children with autism, ages 5 to 13, are paired with a high schooler for the day’s activity which can be in art, music, sports and more. While the children are engaged with the teen volunteers, families fellowship and have Bible study.

“We hope to stimulate the children’s creativity as well as [provide] a safe environment for parents to share their struggles with one another and find healing in God’s word,” Wendy Cheung, a pastor of Grace Chinese, told Living Lutheran. “It is a community that strives to mimic Jesus’ teaching of loving one another regardless of who you are. All you need is love—these five words capture the heart of the ministry.”

Love Me Ministry began a decade ago after a child in one of Cheung’s church families was diagnosed with autism.

“I, and several sisters in Christ, spent time praying for and with the family,” Cheung said. “We stood beside them as they began to find resources to help them cope with the reality of having an autistic child. A lot of effort was put into this endeavor, but in the end we felt frustrated.”

“God plants the seed of dreams into our hearts,” Cheung said. “The Holy Spirit reminded me that we don’t need anything but love. We would care not only for the special-needs child but also the parents, because they need to be loved and supported.”

Cheung also said the ministry’s volunteers also receive a lot from the experience.

“The high school kids are learning how to love, how to take care of someone, and [they’re] learning about life—that it’s not always peaceful and happy,” said Cheung. “We’re hoping to recruit more high school students, and then we could open the ministry to more children. And if some other church would like to join us, that would be wonderful.”

Source: Living Lutheran