What is an Autism Missionary?
Autism Missionary: a parent, friend, or caregiver who enters an autistic person's world; bringing valuable concepts from the outside world; and enabling that autistic person to contribute meaningfully to the those around him.
We are Matt and Chrysta Barfield, and we are missionaries.
Not only do we fit the traditional definition of missionaries, we are also on a mission to connect with our autistic son and connect him to his life's purpose. We are Autism Missionaries.
Do you remember how you first felt when you learned that your child was on the autistic spectrum? Perhaps you started out knowing something "just wasn't right" before you had an official diagnosis. Then, maybe you thought, "Wow, I have no idea what to do," or " I HAVE to get started fixing this problem RIGHT NOW!"
Chrysta and I faced the reality of autism with our first child while we were living overseas for ministry in the Middle East. Our son, Josiah, was a little over one year-old when we left the States for foreign climes. At first, Josiah progressed as we expected, but, when it came time for him to talk, it seemed to take him forever. What was worse was words he learned one week he seemed to forget the next.
Multiplying the difficulty was the lack of resources in our adopted country. We took Josiah to the best schools around to see if they had a way to help him talk. Faculty members were always polite, and always told us the same thing: "We can't help you."
This may seem like a daunting situation, but it doesn't even cover half of what we were facing at the time. My own debilitating illness, demands of two additional infants, and difficulties in the ministry rounded out the mountain of impossibilities we were facing.
But facing impossibilities is something missionaries are supposed to do. They are supposed to see desperate need and overcome it with Divine help.
Maybe that is why when Josiah was labeled autistic, we knew what to do. We knew that we would be able to do what we were supposed to do, and that he would be able to accomplish his purpose in life.
What we learned along the way continues to expand our horizons, not only about what is possible for a person on the spectrum, but also about what is possible for every one of us.
While, seen from the outside, being a missionary appears to be entirely uncomfortable and miserable, missionaries continue to extend themselves to help others and more join their ranks every year from an increasing number of nations. The desire to be a missionary spreads.
What the world also needs is for an increase in the number of Autism Missionaries: parents and caregivers embracing hope and purpose for the autistic children in their care; engaging their children with flexibility and purpose; and giving to the world the gifts their autistic children possess.
We are Autism Missionaries, and we love what we do. You can be one too.
We will show you how.