A Thankful Response
At 40 years old, Brenda Solomon got pregnant with Lon and Brenda’s fourth child. Thrilled, their baby girl, Jill, was born beautiful and perfect. At three months old, however, Jill began to seizure. Quickly, the malady turned into grand maul seizures which were continuous. Pastor Lon Solomon is the successful senior pastor at McLean Bible Church in metropolitan DC. Their family was active with their boys’ sporting events and continual teen/preteen activities. “Our lives stopped. Life became one seizure after another. Everything else was erased.”
After two and a half years, the family, especially Brenda, was exhausted. She had no sleep. Nervous energy and acute awareness of her daughter’s critical condition kept her going. Sitting in the middle of the floor one morning, Brenda was singing to Jill as she seizured. Brenda broke down. Her weeping transformed into prayer as she pleaded with God, “Father, if my daughter must go through this suffering, please use her life in a mighty way for Your glory.”
Thankful Answer to Prayer
In desperation, Brenda Solomon, wife of Pastor Lon Solomon, at McLean Bible Church, had prayed that the Lord would use her daughter’s life and disability in a mighty way. She and her family were exhausted from two and a half years of concern and sleepless nights. After the prayer, that afternoon the phone rang. It was a stranger whom the Lord directed to call. Brenda felt this was an answer to prayer; and she poured out her heart. The stranger responded with help. A corps of volunteers was organized by this Christian messenger-of-mercy. These folks poured through the Solomon home for years. As a thankfulness response, the vision of Jill’s House was born. The Solomon’s know the desperate need for a safe place for families to bring their children with disabilities, thereby giving them time to rest, regather and recoup.
Thankful Birth of a dream
After years of prayer, a corporation was formed to build a respite facility. But Mrs. Brenda Solomon, mother of Jill who is a child with special needs, admits she knew nothing about constructing a facility to accommodate the respite care needs of fragile children and their families. After seven years of research, study and fund-raising, the $12.7 million respite center was built without government funds or support. Jill’s House is a 43,000 square foot, 30 bedroom, state-of-the-art facility. The accommodations include a play ground, an indoor pools and a music room. Jill Solomon was assisted by her parents in cutting the ribbon to open the facility in October 2010. Brenda’s voice smiles as she recalls the event. It was a wonderful day, filled with thankful joys.
What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than remembering the care and love children with special needs receive at Jill’s House. From the day of the grand opening in October 2010, this cutting-edge facility strives to provide quality care that insures that families feel secure about leaving their children for a few days. Shannon McNeil and her family are enthusiastic supporters of Jill’s House. They are involved in the fund-raising activities as a thankful response for the care their daughter Waverly has received.
“There are hours of preparation to be accepted as a participant at Jill’s House,” Shannon McNeil reported. “But the result is that when Waverly walked into the door the first time, the staff and volunteers knew her complete routine. They were able to meet her needs and anticipate her desires. Waverly was totally comfortable at Jill’s House.”
Parents and families who give birth to and live with special needs children each day, do not hide their sorrows. They quickly express the pain that haunts their lives. Shannon McNeil shared on one of her blog entries, “I miss Waverly’s voice.” Because both her children–Waverly who is eight and Oliver who is four–have a progressive disease called San Fillippo Syndrome. These children appear to be progressing normally until they are about 12 months old. At that age they start to lose their physical and cognitive abilities. But it is not the pain and hurt that reaching into the deepest parts of their spirit. It is joyful thankfulness for their exceptional children. Most parents say, “I could not understand unconditional love until my child with special needs was born. He loves me unconditionally.”
Thankfulness Fills the Lives of Families of Children with Special Needs
The Solomon family and the McNeil Family from Washington DC are a minute sampling of the millions of families in our nation whose children have disabilities. They readily share the joy and love these marvelous children bring into their lives. For the McNeil’s, Jill’s House has become an important extension of her joy-filled life. “Waverly has been able to stay at Jill’s House four weekends. She has also had four week-long camp experiences. This facility has brought such joy to her. Additionally, rest and peace of mind to us.” As the San Fillippo Syndrome rips Oliver of his abilities, Shannon McNeil said, “We are able to give him one-on-one time while Waverly is cared for with love.” When you speak to and live with these courageous parents, there is unspeakable love and a deep abiding thankfulness to the Lord for his gracious provision. “Our children are our greatest joy,” Shannon McNeil reports. “We thank God each day for their lives.”