As he got older, along with speech delays, significant behavior issues developed and he would regularly become abnormally agitated by loud noises and overly excited or upset. He had daily uncontrollable emotional and violent tantrums despite our best efforts to help him. After a very clear diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, my hopes for his future were crushed. I wondered if he would ever be able to have friendships or become a Christian.
We worked with the teachers in school and the children's ministry to help manage him in class and the years passed. In school he was often bullied and many people didn't understand his behavior, so I was deeply moved and grateful when I saw those in children's ministry and other's in the church show mercy and compassion through his emotional displays as they understood his inborn issues. I came to understand God's heart and what he feels when we have mercy and compassion on those considered to be "the least" as described in Matthew 25:40, when we are caring for his children in his place.
My son grew and his love for God grew with him. Despite my fears about his future, he developed a deep love for God and became a Christian in the teen ministry two years ago, when he was 15. Please watch as he powerfully shares his testimony with the church showing how God's power is made perfect though our weakness.
From Curt Ammons, Youth & Family ministry:
One of the greatest blessings in working with the Youth and Family ministry is seeing the growth and progress of the kids as they grow up. We get to watch the kids go through the kingdom kids ministry and eventually they end up with us, in the teens, before we send them out into the campus ministry. Some kids break your heart by the decisions they make, while others grow and change so much, and do far more for you than you could ever do for them. Such is the case with a young, faithful teen, named Dawson Easler. Although Dawson was born with autism, his convictions, character growth, and faith have caused him to be an inspiration for the entire church.
During Dawson’s childhood, he didn’t get along very well with the rest of the kids. He had a hard time listening in class and his kingdom kids teachers constantly had to remove him from the other kids for being disruptive. Although Dawson was a ‘nice boy,’ he had a really hard time controlling his anger and frustration. I recall on many occasions seeing Dawson walk away from the kids yelling to himself and pulling at his head. Dawson’s behavior was not only a challenge to his teachers, but to his classmates as well. However, there was one boy who saw past Dawson’s challenges and treated him with a remarkable Christ-like heart, full of patience and kindness. The boy’s name is Cameron Anderson. In fact, not only did Cameron treat Dawson with love and respect, but they eventually became best friends.
As Dawson entered the pre-teen ministry he continued to battle with the social challenges of his autism. He attended all the church events and also managed to make some other friendships. The training that Dawson’s parents invested in him started to become more evident as Dawson entered the young teen ministry. Hesitantly, his mom and dad allowed him to go to summer camp. Every day they prayed and waited for the call from camp that Dawson needed to go home. However, the call never came. Surprisingly to his parents, Dawson made it through the week with flying colors, and his successes didn’t stop there.
By the time Dawson entered the teen ministry, his convictions and faith drove him to start studying the Bible As he studied, Dawson shared openly about the challenges of his autism but he refused to be controlled by it. Year after year, Dawson’s character and faith grew. In addition, he continued to go to summer camps doing better and better at each one. He read his Bible daily and pursued a relationship with God earnestly. During one of his last Bible studies, I challenged him to give his Xbox 360 to his dad to be sold for the poor. After saving his own money for two years to buy the Xbox, he went home and handed it over. (We didn’t tell him he was going to get it back, however, we wanted to test the depth of his convictions.)
At Dawson’s baptism, so many people shared about how much Dawson has inspired and convicted them. The sharing seemed to go on forever, and more than a few older, mature disciples told Dawson that he was there spiritual hero. Dawson is now a senior in high school. Impressively, Dawson has continued to grow in his convictions, character, and faithfulness. Now, Dawson not only attends church camp as a camper, he attends as a counselor!
In addition, he regularly speaks up at devotionals and reaches out to the younger classmen encouraging them to be their best for God. Dawson Easler is a true spiritual hero. He is a hero because he serves as an example for all of us, disciples of Jesus, to be the best we can be for God. No matter what our challenges or weaknesses are, as Dawson says, “We all have issues, whether we struggle with insecurity, pride, a physical challenge, or whatever, we all are in need of God’s unlimited power to change us.”