“It could be miserable at times,” said Brittany, on the mounting exhaustion.
Sunday worship was “a toss-up,” with Brittany spending many of them sitting in the church’s nursery with Dezi, watching the service through Facebook. Judy Aguillard, the pastor’s wife, soon put a stop to that.
“Sister Judy, she’s pretty much taken over the nursery,” said Brittany. “She’s become very familiar with Dezi and for the last six months or so, I haven’t had to go back there. I just got saved in the last five years and Judy knows how eager I am to be [in the sanctuary].”
It’s also a blessing for a lack of attention to be received. Say, for instance, a three-year-old decides to mess with your shoes under the table during a churchwide fish fry. Let it go.
“People have grown to accept her little autistic behaviors and nobody minds,” said Brittany. “Kelly is just the most perfect little church.”
Pardue has experienced that connection as well. One church member, Thomas Pollard, unofficially adopted her as another grandparent. Every time Pardue went grocery shopping at Mac’s Fresh Market in nearby Olla, where he worked, Pollard would welcome her.
“He was such a nice young man and showed he cared,” said Pardue of the young man who graduated from Caldwell Parrish High in 2021. Now a Marine, he sent her a video this year wishing her a Happy Mother’s Day.
“It made my day and shows that at Kelly Baptist everybody loves everybody,” she said. “If it wasn’t for my church family, I’d have already lost it.”
In 2019, Pastor Aguillard, wrote the annual Christmas play. Titled “And I Remember Kelly,” it starred Pardue and was set at Mac’s. In the setting she meets church members one by one.
“It was heartwarming and memorable … and it was real,” said Aguillard.
Since joining Kelly Baptist, the Emfingers and three of their children have been baptized. Dustin leads the church’s ministry toward widows and orphans. That day his family visited Pardue, he had been talking to her about adding some gravel from a church paving project to a boggy stretch of her land.
It ended with a scene that melted his heart – a daddy watching his little girl make a connection.
“I can hardly describe it,” he said. “It was leaps and bounds and pride and joy and happiness.”
The family has since learned that, yes, apparently donkeys have a connection with kids with autism. Just as children like Dezi are highly tuned to sensory perception, so is J Bear.
The same can happen in a small church, said Aguillard.
“We want to give God the glory. We’re just country people and are not doing this like a textbook. It’s just people relating to each other and doing that through Jesus,” he said.
Looks can be deceiving and potential misjudged. Many churches, for instance, are small and can be disregarded on their ability to make an impact. But it’s hard to overestimate the good they can accomplish.
This article originally appeared at Baptist Press.