Today we welcome Ron Sandison to the blog. Ron will share his experience as a minister with autism. We recognize that there are many different experiences of autism, and next week we will hear from Stephen Bedard, a pastor who has only recently been diagnosed. We are grateful to Ron for sharing his story with us!
We hope that after reading Ron’s post you will check out his website at www.spectruminclusion.com, follow along on his new Spectrum Facebook Page and stay tuned for April 5, 2016 when Ron’s book A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice, Biblical Wisdom becomes available in print and digital formats!
Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of American. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and Charisma House is publishing his book on 4/5/16, A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom. He has over 10,000 Scriptures memorized including 22 complete books of the New Testament. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with their pet rabbit, Babs, and cat, Frishma.
5 Challenges I had to Overcome as a Minister with Autism
At eight years old I was diagnosed with autism. The educational specialists and doctors informed my parents that I would probably never read beyond a seventh grade level, attended college, or have a career. My mom was determined to prove the experts wrong by developing my unique gifts. As Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve kings. He won’t serve obscure men.” For me to develop my skills and be a minister I had to overcome five main autism quirks.
1. Ministering with autism required years of intense speech therapy.
When I was three years old, my speech was so delayed that my five year old brother Chuck bragged to his friends, “My brother sounds weird I think he speaks Norwegian!” I still sometimes struggle saying “TH” and “L” words when I preach.
2. I had to overcome my fear of being away from home.
It took faith in God for me to move from Michigan to Oklahoma to attended Oral Roberts University. My parents encouraged me to trust God and my dad and I visited ORU for college weekend to explore the campus.
3. Ministering with autism required me to learn how to filter what I say.
The summer after I finished seminary at ORU I had a youth pastor position interview at a Methodist church in Flint, MI. The senior pastor asked me, “Son do you have any hands on experience in urban ministry?” I answered, “Is urban ministry putting on the full armor of God for spiritual protection and a bullet proof vest for physical protection!” I said this because I knew that the city of Flint had a high homicide and crime rate. Needless to say, “The interview team never called me back.” I have learned through experiences like this to think before I speak.
4. I had to overcome sensory issues of smell and sound.
Most peoples’ neurological wiring is like bottled water you can shake it and not much will happen—my wiring is like carbonated Mount Dew—when shaken watch out! Meltdown—do the Dew!!! My kryptonite is music bass and bleach. I can still smell bleach a week after it has been applied. Living on campus at ORU required me to overcome my sensory issue of music bass. I was able to accomplish this with earplugs.
5. The final challenge I had to overcome was my fixed routines.
As a minister I had to learn to be fixable and able to adjust my schedule to meet the needs of the congregation. I have over 10,000 Scriptures memorized including 22 complete books of the New Testament. One of my rigid patterns is doing my memory work after work at 4 pm each day. I have learned as a minister unforeseen events can occur so I must be fixable and willing to change the time of my memory work.
By overcoming these five challenges and developing my ministry skills I was able to mentor and intern under internationally known evangelist Dr. Jack Van Impe and also guest speak at Pastor Rod Parsley’s church to an audience of over 6,500. I have also preached the gospel in fourteen countries. This past year marked my thirteenth year as professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry.