***It is with great joy that I welcome a very special young lady, Rhema Russell, to the Worship Wednesday table today. She is 14 years old. When she was 2, she was diagnosed with autism, apraxia, and a rare and stubborn seizure disorder that robbed her of her speech. She was silent for the first 12 years of her life. She is silent no longer. Her story is powerful, full of the power and faithfulness of a God who sees and hears us. The words that follow are hers. They are hard won, un-edited, exquisitely honest, and full of a grace I hope to one day emulate. Please welcome Rhema Russell…
How I love Jesus
I am so happy he saved me.
I was not so happy all the time. My hope was gone and I was full of despair. I could not speak and no one believed I understood anything. It was so frustrating to not be able to tell anyone how I felt. So I often hurt myself and did destructive things. It was a very painful time in my life. No one could help me.
Only Jesus knew the loneliness inside my heart. Only he heard the prayers that I prayed. Only he comforted me. He told me that he would one day give me a voice bigger than I could imagine. Soon I was thanking him for his promise to me.
Two years ago I found my voice through pointing on my board. My mother took me to learn a new teaching method and I knew this would be the way I would have my voice. My mother spent many months with me working until I could spell on my board. Today I am able to say Jesus is my savior. And he is my hope. So much of my words really come from him. He is my strength in my so weak self and I boast in my really weak self so his power shines through.
In my silence He showed me how to listen.
I enjoyed being in his presence. He gave me the ability to hear songs on the trees and music in numbers. My heart filled with gratitude that God would let me hear this beautiful music. One day all of creation will worship the Creator again. I think it will sound like the beautiful music that I hear.
To notice the totally majestic ways of God you have to stop and listen to his voice. To do this is not always easy. You must practice because the noise of the world is so loud.
I think having autism might make some think I have a sad life. That is not true. I am happy that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am thankful for my autism because it teaches me to trust God. My body is not something I can trust but the God who made me is. He not only made me autistic he made me not able to speak with my mouth but with my heart.
Can you love God when your body betrays you every day? You can.
So much of my trouble with my motor skills comes from sensory overload. It makes me want to jump out of my skin. It is mostly awful to feel this way but I know the Lord made my body.
So I even will trust him in this good and mostly mean body.
Having my hope in my self is not my strategy. My body and my soul love to let me know how helpless I am without the Lord. I get my really strong help from him. He is keenly aware of my every need and my desires. He is my light.
The gift of my voice is my sweetest song of praise. The gift of my voice is my method of communicating by typing and pointing on my letterboard. Also I hum and sing with my mouth even though I do not talk. I am singing the song in my heart to the Lord. I want to sing and sing. I not only want to sing I want to share my song with the world. My hope is in the Lord. I thank him. For he is always good.
Rhema Russell is 14 years old. She has a sister named Hope who she loves more than anything. She also loves her parents so much. Her best friends are Sydney and Reilly. Her favorite subject in school is science followed by math. She also enjoys gymnastics and writing on her blog. To share her story with the world is a special gift and she is grateful to a faithful God.
***If you would like to read part 1 of Rhema’s testimony and the incredible story of how she began to communicate verbally after 12 years of silence, please visit last week’s Worship Wednesday post (Aug 15th) written by her mom, Jeneil Russell. Also, just in case you missed it last week, we included the video story of her incredible journey below.