Emily Makes a Speech

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Surprising in its spontaneous simplicity, Emmy, a mentally challenged young girl made a speech the other day that made adults cry and children celebrate.

My youngest four kids are involved in a competitive speech and debate league and Mondays are “club” days.  Emily – Emmy is no stranger to us.  She has been cheerfully tagging along with her big sister for months playing with dolls or games or wheeling her friend Cari around in her wheel chair while the club members work on their speaking skills.  Cari doesn’t speak, but Emmy normally keeps up the conversation with basic and repeated phrases.

“What are you going to do today?” is usually the first thing Emmy says to me when she sees me.  “What are you going to do tonight?” is what she normally says when it’s time to go home.  She doesn’t always listen for the answer, but she always asks.

But this past Monday something was very different.  Our youngest club members (our “Juniors”) were having their big “competition”.  All of these 6-11 year olds were dressed up in their very best “tournament attire”.  They had all practiced and memorized their 5-10 minute speeches.  There was palpable energy and everyone enjoys watching them give their speeches and giving them helpful feedback.  There was excitement and Emmy knew something was up.

She came to me after things had already started and said, “I want to go in there” meaning she wanted to go into one of the rooms where kids were giving speeches.   It’s courteous to wait until a speaker is done before entering the room and I was in the middle of something, so  I said, “Emmy, we’ll have to find the Junior’s coach, she’ll tell you when you can go in.”  Then she said, “I want to make a speech.”

I wasn’t sure what I was hearing.  “Uhh… OK, we’ll still have to find the coach.”

I needed to finish what I was working on so I didn’t get right up to help her find the coach – but that didn’t matter – Emily found her.   “I want to make a speech,” she said again.

Emily had found the coach in the midst of an “Impromptu” round – a competition where students pick a topic out of an envelope and have to make up a 3-5 minute speech on the spot.  Emily chose “cookies”.

Her speech was only a little about cookies – it was really about what Jesus means to her.  It was a little disorganized and didn’t follow all the “rules” we set up for speeches, but it was beautiful.

Emily simply loves Jesus and knows that He loves her.  Her determination to participate with all the other kids was remarkable.  At the beginning of the year she hardly spoke to anyone and here, a few months later, she was standing in front of peers telling them about her life with Jesus.

Emmy came out of the room beaming.  “I made a speech,” she told me in her straight-forward, halting way, but that couldn’t hide the fact that every muscle she possessed was smiling.  The adults standing around were truly happy with her, but then the younger kids started coming out of the room.

“Emmy gave a speech!”  “Emmy got up and spoke!” was the repeated news.  THEY were just as happy as she was!  Emily couldn’t stop smiling, but several of us got teary.

God reached out to our little speech and debate club on Monday through a child society pushes to the side.  He showed us that His work in her life is real and meaningful.

And He showed us that His work THROUGH her life is effective and powerful.

Emmy’s mom wrote us thank-you note the next day, but it is we who are the ones who need to give thanks.

Thank you Emmy for a great speech, but thank you the most for showing us a little bit of God’s glory.  You’re a treasure.

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