When Anna Ortiz’ seven-year-old daughter Rosie asked if God had forgotten about her, Anna knew she needed to find a church home that would help Rosie understand that God could never forget about her, that God loved her. That little Rosie asked this question is telling, not only of Rosie’s bright mind but also of her difficult journey. Born premature at 22 weeks, Rosie is a living miracle. She suffered a brain bleed that led to Cerebral Palsy, a neurological condition that primarily causes physical impairment involving limitation or loss of function and mobility. In Rosie’s case, she depends on an oxygen machine to help her breathe 24/7, and she uses a walker or wheelchair to help with mobility. Anna will tell you that Rosie is beyond special, and when you see Rosie light up a room, that’s an easy thing to believe.
Anna decided it was now or never, drove across town, and walked into a room full of strangers.
When Anna mentioned Rosie’s question to a trusted friend in the medical community, that friend pointed her to University, explaining with the aid of a flyer that our church has lots of supports in place that might help Anna and Rosie. She told Anna about Believer’s Garden Worship Service, Achiever’s School and the relatively new Care Giver’s Support Group. Between her job and caring for Rosie, Anna thought she didn’t have time to invest in what seemed like a big time commitment, so she put the flyer aside. But a few days later, after a particularly tough day, Anna came across the flyer again. She reached out to Pastor Holly Wilson, who invited her to come to the Care Giver’s Support Group that was happening that morning. Anna decided it was now or never, drove across town, and walked into a room full of strangers. That morning Anna met Debbie McBride, a fellow mama who is several decades ahead of Anna in raising a child with special needs. Immediately Debbie and Anna made a connection, finding many similarities in their situations, and Debbie’s words, “I can help you” were a balm to Anna’s weary soul.
From that first group meeting and subsequent lunch, Debbie invited Anna and Rosie to come back on Sunday to Believer’s Garden Worship and to Lisa Rollins’ Sunday school class for kids with special needs. Anna says they were welcomed with open arms that first Sunday by everyone they encountered. Rosie loved playing the tambourine along with Brian Roche and the band, and Anna appreciated that the sermon from Susan Galindo and Evelyn Glazener-Cooney was accessible and applicable to everyone in the room. Anna also got connected to SOS, which stands for Share Our Struggles, an online support group that Susan and Brian started a few years ago to support parents of children with special needs.
Twenty-four hours later, everything changed. Unbeknownst to anyone, a post-surgery infection had been brewing, and Rosie went into sepsis breathtakingly fast.
Not long after this first encounter with Believer’s Garden, Rosie went in to the hospital for a scheduled surgery, which went well. While still in the hospital recovering, Anna and Rosie watched the Live Stream of Believer’s Garden for the first time. Anna says that even through the screen she felt like they connected with the singing and the Spirit. A few days later, Rosie was discharged. Twenty-four hours later, everything changed. Unbeknownst to anyone, a post-surgery infection had been brewing, and Rosie went into sepsis breathtakingly fast. Rushed to the hospital, unable to keep any fluid in her body, Rosie’s situation was dire. At 3am that Saturday night, Anna sent a literal SOS to the online support group. The doctors and nurses were unable to get an IV to stay in Rosie, and without a PICC team available for at least a day or two, the doctors told Anna that there was nothing they could do to rehydrate Rosie’s little body. And without fluid, organs fail.
Within minutes of sending the message to the group, Anna started receiving replies that folks were praying and hoping along with her, even in the middle of the night. When Susan and Brian got to the church later that morning to prepare for Believer’s Garden, the concern for Rosie was palpable. Before worship began, Brian spent time in prayer in his office, claiming victory for Rosie in Jesus’ name. During worship, in the midst of singing “Open the Floodgates of Heaven,” Brian asked all of Believer’s Garden to lift their hands to heaven with him and pray for a 7 year-old little girl who was sick and needed their prayers. Brian hoped that Anna and Rosie were live-streaming the service and hearing the prayers of the people.
Anna wasn’t sure if she was listening. But when Brian asked for everyone to raise their hands, Rosie’s little arms went above her head on the bed and she looked at Anna.
In desperation for a glimmer of hope that morning, Anna had turned on the live stream. Lying in the hospital bed next to Rosie, Anna was watching, but Rosie was too weak to keep her eyes open. Anna wasn’t sure if she was listening. But when Brian asked for everyone to raise their hands, Rosie’s little arms went above her head on the bed and she looked at Anna. In that moment, Anna knew that Rosie knew that Brian was leading her entire church family in prayer for her. Anna says, “It was an incredibly powerful moment. God was in that space, and God was in that recording. Even the message about Job, that Job never stopped praying to God, was such a timely message for us to hear. I’ve gone back and watched the archived service several times, and I can feel the Spirit of God moving and I am moved by the Spirit each time.”
A few hours later, a nurse came back to try one more time. Anna says she knew even before it happened that the nurse would successfully secure an IV in Rosie this time. And she did. Anna says, “This church has been a blanket of love for us, and then they made us a blanket!” Rosie loves her prayer quilt. She told her mom, “When I sleep tonight, I will feel all my prayers and have such good dreams.”
She reminded me that you don’t pay it back, you pass it on. You hold someone else’s hand and tell them it’s going to be okay.
Although Rosie has continued to improve each day, Anna and Rosie were still in the hospital when I met them. Anna says that Susan, Brian, Lisa, and Debbie have all been amazing support, bringing them food and encouragement and friendship during this long hospital stay. Anna is grateful that she took the leap of faith that led to these relationships: “I asked my sister how I was ever going to repay all the kindness that has been shown to us. She reminded me that you don’t pay it back, you pass it on. You hold someone else’s hand and tell them it’s going to be okay. You get to support someone else through community. I’m so proud to be a part of this community now. All because someone gave me a flyer.”
To live stream the Believer’s Garden Sunday Worship service, go to UniversityBelieversGarden.ChurchOnline.Org. To learn more about our ministries for those with special needs and their families, contact Susan Galindo, . To learn more about the Care Givers Support Group, contact Pastor Holly Wilson,