When I was a teenage counsellor at Ontario Pioneer Camp in the early 1980s, I never imagined how a young camper with autism was preparing me to parent and disciple my own daughter with special needs. Carly is the youngest of our three adult children. She is now 21 years old and has Angelman Syndrome. Carly’s life has grown my faith and provided inspiration for much of my writing. My latest book is Jesus, Let’s Talk. It introduces prayer to the very young and the young at heart.
Jesus, Let’s Talk explores the very personal and natural ways we express ourselves with God, no matter what our abilities are to communicate. Since Carly is non-verbal, we used signs, pictures, music and postures when showing her examples of connecting with Jesus. Still, I wasn’t always as intentional about teaching her to pray as I was with my other children. Then one day I woke up to realize the opportunity I was missing.
Late one night, I was wide awake with Carly. She’s had a life-long battle with sleep. In tearful frustration, I called out, “Jesus, help!” and simultaneously signed “help.” Suddenly it occurred to me we had not encouraged enough independence in this area. Although we had been modeling “thank you” and “I love you” prayers around meal time and bedtime, most other prayers happened silently for her but not with her.
We began teaching Carly a broader range of prayers, often including a representative word in American Sign Language. Since photo scrapbooks had often worked well for teaching Carly new skills, I envisioned pairing core prayers with a basic sign. Those prayers became the springboard for the book:
- Hello, Jesus!
- Thank you, God.
- I’m sorry, Jesus.
- Help me, Holy Spirit!
- I’m listening, Lord.
- I love you, Lord!
I approached my friend Ann about partnering on the photography side. Ann serves with an international missions organization based in Ottawa and is a professional photographer. She shares my passion to help people of all abilities connect with Jesus. Ann’s pictures are spectacular reflection of what is special about our lives, experiences, relationships and worship.
We are so grateful the book is helping and encouraging families with special needs. The Q&A section at the back is also ministering to companion readers who do not know Jesus. God is so beautifully creative!
It’s our prayer that as children explore the pictures and language modeled in the book, they will discover the delight of connecting with God in all of their uniquely personal ways. Most of all, we want all readers to be encouraged in the truth that God loves them, considers them exceedingly precious and wants to have relationship with them. Whether they are happy or hurting, feeling sad or alone, needing help or hope, Jesus, Let’s Talk guides readers to bring everything to God.
Lisa Jamieson is the author of books and Bible studies including the Finding Glory series of resources and the children’s book Jesus, Let’s Talk. She is founder-director of the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection and co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries. Lisa and her husband, Larry, have been married over 30 years and have three grown daughters. Their daughter, Carly, has Angelman Syndrome and lives at home with them in Maple Grove, Minnesota.