During our first deputation as missionaries, our then three-year-old little boy was diagnosed with autism. We knew that God had called us to the country of Estonia, and we were also aware that there might not be much support available there for our son’s needs. In prayer, the Lord clearly spoke to my heart: “If you will continue to answer my call and go, I will take care of Christopher.” I decided to trust Him, believing Him to either send the help my son would need, or to remove any need for help. The result was and still is a true miracle story, where the Lord has shown His faithfulness and overwhelming goodness over and over again.
Christopher was homeschooled on the field in kindergarten and first grade by his grandmother, Elizabeth Turner, who had been an elementary school teacher before she and her husband became missionaries. At the same time, he attended Estonian-speaking kindergarten part-time to help with the need for developing social skills. He thrived under his grandmother’s very capable and loving expertise, but the Estonian language barrier became a source of frustration for interacting with other children.
In the spring of 2013, my good Estonian friend Mari, who herself has a child with special needs, told me about a new English-speaking school opening in the fall. We applied for Christopher to attend, not knowing that Mari was also applying to become a teacher there. Partly because of her firsthand experience with her son’s autism, she was actually hired as Christopher’s class teacher. Christopher began second grade in the fall of 2013 in a regular classroom of seven kids, and I prayed and held my breath, knowing this would be his best chance of succeeding in a classroom in Estonia.
Only a few weeks into the new school year, Mari shared the following story:
I would like to share a true inspirational story from my class. It’s only three weeks into the school year, but I’m already inspired beyond words. The story is called “The Star of the Week and the Little Girl Who Made It Happen.”
There is a little boy with autism in my class who is somewhat socially awkward, impulsive, and disruptive in the classroom, but in the most innocent way. The other kids have been very natural and accepting towards him from the beginning, so he is actually well-liked (and protected) by everyone.
Last week, a little girl named Amelie must have noticed that I wasn’t providing enough positive behavior reinforcement for Christopher because she came up with a system of her own. She started telling Christopher that she will give a big sticker to him at the end of the day—if he’s good. At first, Christopher couldn’t have cared less and by the second day I could see Amelie getting a bit frustrated with her “project.” But during the next days, Christopher started responding more and more and really listening to Amelie who remained positive and supportive.
From this week we have a system in class where students get personalized gold stars for being kind and helpful. At the end of the week when we have our Ethics lesson, we count the stars and the student with the most stars becomes the Star of the Week. Before counting the stars today, I gave all students a chance to give one more star to the person who in their mind deserved it the most for being a good friend and doing a great job this week. Three out of five students who were present decided to give their stars to Christopher who, after we counted the stars, came out on top and thus became the first Star of the Week. I could hardly hold back my tears. It’s my goal to help this child excel in my class and for the others to accept him and yet I had nothing to do with it, it was all thanks to a little girl with a big heart. Christopher became the Star of the Week, but I’m sure it was Amelie who went home feeling like a winner.
The Lord is faithful! I am overwhelmed by His goodness and mercy. This beautiful story is only one of many that show how God has been orchestrating events and putting the right people, big and small, into Christopher’s life at the right time. I am not the same person I was when our precious boy was born seven years ago. I had no idea where this road would take us as a family, but I am so thankful for every lesson learned and every opportunity God has used to build my faith and trust in Him. He never fails! “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (I Thessalonians 5:24, NKJV).
Ingunn Turner and husband, Nate, are missionaries to the country of Estonia. They have two sons, Christopher and Michael.