Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:4

Dexter and Bella Alcedo have a habit of meeting needs. When disciples from their birthplace, the Philippines, need clothing and books, they send it. Financial support? They provide what they can. That is why it was no surprise when this couple started a special needs ministry right from their living room in 2014.

They are one among several families in the North Valley Sector of the North Region of the Los Angeles International Church of Christ that have children who are living and thriving with special needs.

“Dexter and I had been going to a support group in Santa Monica and it was once a month meeting. We liked the idea of meeting with other parents with children with disabilities. It was very helpful and informative,” said Bella. “We thought of creating one for our ministry since there are few parents who have similar journeys as ours – different needs, but similar struggles.”

Known as Parents Refreshing Parents or PRP, the group meets once a month and is considered a “trusted circle” where parents openly share their struggles and exchange information about local, state and federal resources that offer an array of services for families. The heart of the ministry, though, is creating a safe space for parents to share.

“We discussed how we wanted this group to function and what our needs were as special needs parents,” said Denyce Moreno whose 15-year-old son has autism. “I attended the group because it is important to have a support group where you can talk to others who can relate to you and your journey as a special needs parent. We also wanted to network with others to find information about IEPs [individual education plans].”

According to California.gov’s website on teacher credentialing, special needs includes multiple impairments. The four major categories are physical conditions such as chronic asthma, muscular dystrophy and epilepsy; developmental conditions like dyslexia, autism and Down syndrome; behavioral/emotional conditions such as bi-polar and attention-deficit disorder, also known as ADD; and sensory conditions like blindness, limited hearing and deafness.

Bella and Dexter’s daughter Alaina was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months old due to a lack of oxygen in the brain at birth. She also has a genetic disorder called Triple X syndrome, a rare syndrome that only affects women. Recently she was diagnosed with Dystonia an abnormal muscle tone resulting in macular spasm and abnormal posture typically due to neurological issues.

Today, Alaina is 10 years old and while non-ambulatory and non-verbal, she is mentally sharp and actively engages in Kids Club at Church and is one of the first to raise her hand to answer questions.

“When we were told about her condition I wasn’t shocked to learn about her diagnoses. I was very accepting as to what it was about because at eight months old she began her daily therapy,” said Bella. “I was faithful and hopeful that things will get better and easier. I kept thinking, “Maybe when she turns three years old she’ll walk or talk but that didn’thappen. Five years passed, still hoping that she’ll walk and talk but that didn’t happened either. My faith was slowly beginning to doubt.’

The group has made a difference for many of the participants. “We really connect on a deep level and find it refreshing to share our highs and lows with one another,” said Denyce. “We have had moments of laughter and moments of tears.” What started out as an outreach by a few families is now a groupled by North Region Elder Greg Lotane and his wife Denise whose adult son is deaf. The discussion group meets every four-to-six weeks. These are child-free meetings that include Bible lessons and sharing.

“It’s a healing place where parents are feeling heard,” said Denise. “Sometimes these parents can feel overlooked. Here it’s about a feeling of belonging …a feeling like they are being seen.”

Consider joining this Facebook group for disciples who have special needs families.