Caleb's Invitation

  • Nov. 7, 2018
  • #9528

Joy and relief for Caleb’s parents arrive in a party invitation for their son who was socially isolated because of his autism. 

Has a birthday party invitation ever moved you to tears?

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada and the other day my friend and co-worker Steve Bundy told me about such a birthday party invite. But first, let me give you the background. Steve is Vice President of our Christian Institute on Disability here at Joni and Friends, and I’ve had the joy of knowing him and his wife Melissa for over a decade. I’ve also had the privilege of getting to know their two sons—Caleb and Jaron—who are now both teenagers. Jaron is the youngest, a typical 15-year- old who is outgoing, social, he’s funny and he’s pretty good looking. It’s hard not to like him, especially since it’s so evident that he loves Jesus. The kid goes on mission trips; he writes worship songs with his guitar, he’s just one great guy!

But Caleb—his older brother—well, he’s another story. Caleb is 19 years old and was born with a number of challenging disabilities. He’s way up on the autism spectrum; he can walk a bit with assistance, but he’s nowhere near able to do stuff on his own. He can’t verbalize a whole lot, and when he does, it’s often loud, erratic and sometimes disrupting to those around him. Like many kids with autism, he’s prone to having outbursts. Just taking care of Caleb has been a lot of work for Steve and Melissa, but of course they love him fiercely all the same. It grieves their hearts that their precious Caleb has so many issues, and that he is so isolated from the mainstream of life. He just doesn’t have friends, and forget any fun stuff that most 19- year-olds do.

But back to Jaron for a moment. Like I said, he’s quite the popular kid and, as you’d guess, he gets invited to lots of birthday parties. In fact, one year Steve and Melissa counted and realized they had purchased 13 gifts for other people’s kids just because of Jaron’s invites! And that was just one year! But Caleb never receives an invitation to a birthday party. That is, until not long ago an envelope arrived one day bringing an invitation that really made Steve and Melissa tear up. A family they knew, well-acquainted with all of Caleb’s unique challenges; all of his loud outbursts and his inability to join in on stuff—all of it—this family wanted Caleb to come to their son’s birthday party. Just holding the invitation and staring at it Steve got so choked up. It reminded him of Jesus’ words in Luke 14, that when you give a party, don’t just invite your friends and family, but go out and find the disabled and invite them. Isn’t it amazing how just an invitation to a simple party blessed Steve and Melissa beyond measure, in such a wonderful, powerful way? They cried, just to have someone else care about Caleb; to invite him to a party. Wow.

You know what; I’d really like you to meet Steve and his family. So some time ago, we featured Steve’s family in a two-part TV episode called Making Sense of Autism. In it, Caleb and Jaron are much younger, but I know you’ll be blessed by their testimonies; I’ve posted it on my radio page for you, so stop on by joniradio.org! And since it’s National Family Caregivers Month, I’d love for you to take a minute and listen to a brief but powerful message just for caregivers like Steve and Melissa – it’s given by my friend Katherine Wolf, a beautiful young mother who is a stroke survivor. It’s something I know you’d want to share with your Facebook friends. It’s all there for you: the TV episode and Katherine’s video, on my radio page today at joniradio.org. Again that’s joniradio.org. See you next time on Joni and Friends.

© Joni and Friends

 

 

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