A more recent photo of our family, from Will's graduation at The Little Light House, May 2010.

The Most Amazing Gift

We began attending First Assembly of God North Little Rock the first Sunday after we moved to town back in June. We had visited it twice before moving - once with just me and Will, and another time with the whole family, even my parents. I was so impressed by the beautiful children's building, the gigantic sanctuary, and all the technology. I was also impressed by how friendly everyone there seemed to be. They had this really awesome special needs kids ministry called COOL kids, so we thought we'd give it a shot. Plus, we kind of knew someone there (her uncle was a pastor at our church in Tulsa). Anyway, I had no idea when we went on our first Sunday six months ago how much this place would mean to us and how awesome it would really be. 
We've quickly made friends with several couples in our Sunday school class. Will absolutely loves COOL Kids and goes every Sunday and Wednesday. Cate has the best time at Sunday school "praisin' the Lord" and learning about Jesus. She also goes to Mother's Day Out two days a week and has made some wonderful little friends. The music is awesome! The pastor is a wonderful man of God who isn't afraid to preach God's word. I guess what I'm trying to say is, even though it was hard for us to leave Woodlake Church in Tulsa, God put us in the perfect place. We really feel like this is our church home and that these people are our family. 
As I said, we loved our time at Woodlake in Tulsa, and we treasure the friendships we made there. We wouldn't trade that time for anything. But, as God moves in our lives, we must too move on for the next part of His plan for our lives. 
Anyway, with the exception of my family, I've never felt like people cared so much about what we go through with Will as the people at First Assembly NLR do. They really care about him. They make time for him, talk to him like he's a normal kid, play with him, and include him. It's so nice to see him included. It doesn't usually happen. They care about us as a couple and a family. They make an effort to provide care for Will if there is something the church is having or to watch him for us so we can enjoy things too. 
Yesterday was Family Christmas at church. I have learned why everyone says it's their favorite service. Pastor Rod and the pastoral staff and their families read through the Christmas story. As they do, Pastor Rod stops the story to give gifts to individuals and families in the church. I'd heard about this. In years past, they've given away a car, tuition to Bible college, a high school diploma for an older lady who never got it, some pretty amazing things. Well, this Sunday we were sitting in the sanctuary enjoying the service, when all of the sudden we were called up on stage. Pastor Rod talked about our family, about how much it meant to us that Will had a place to belong at church. He even talked about what Angelman Syndrome is and how it affects our daily lives. Then, he gave it to us...an all-expense paid trip to San Antonio to Morgan's Wonderland, an amusement park just for special needs kids. It didn't stop there. He knows how much Will loves the water and how frightening it can be to take him to a public pool because he'd just jump in, and he doesn't know how to swim. Well, he told us that May 23, 2011, is going to be the first Will Saunders Day at Wild River Country, the local water park. It's going to be closed to the general public and open only to our family and other families with special needs children from around central Arkansas. And, it's free! Can you believe it?!? I've never felt so loved by people who we really don't even know that well yet. Will gets excluded from things a lot, and they made it their purpose to include him in this. It was all about him. It's never been all about him. This is amazing! Most parents take it for granted that they can take their kids to an amusement park or water park, but it's something I never thought we'd be able to do. Now, thanks to the generosity and love of our new church family, we will. 
I've known since we moved here that God put us here. He's directed our path the entire way and made for a wonderfully smooth transition. I just didn't expect this. It just goes to show that when you follow God's will for your life, every now and again you get the most amazing gifts!
Thank you First Assembly NLR! I'll never be able to say it enough...thank you!