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     My name is Phillip Ward and I am the father of a daughter with Angelman Syndrome. For the first two years of her life, we were in and out of hospitals weeks to months at a time. All along never knowing if we were going to bring our child home. During this time, I helped with every procedure like OG / NG tube, spinal taps, EKGs, and EEGs. It was some of the worst times I have ever been through. Also, during this time, I was not saved and had no relationship with God or his son Jesus Christ. Yes, I did know of him and all the things he had done, I just never had accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. Then during a family reunion weekend, I finally was broken enough that God got me to the point I knew I needed him and couldn’t do it anymore without him. Right then and there in the basement of my wife's grandmother's house, all alone I accepted Jesus into my heart as my Lord and Savior. He then let me see that He was there all along with me. God had also opened my eyes to the plan he had for me during every bit of the struggles and pain. That plan was for me to start a support group and disability ministry for the men of these families, because there is nothing out there for us.

     During every hospitalization no one, not even my pastor, would ask "are you OK"; it was always about my wife and my daughter. I was never given a thought because society says as a husband, father, and a man you always have to be the strong one and never supposed to break or show emotions. Even though I was the one night after night on many occasions alone in that hospital room with my daughter; even though I knew that God had everything under control, my human side still longed for someone to ask how I was doing. Luckily for me though, I did have one amazing Christian brother who would ask if I was doing okay and his support along with God’s is what got me through these times. Even now when things have not been so bad, but still on the occasion when we have a bad month or couple of months, he still is the only one to think to ask about how I’m doing. So, I know first hand how crucial this kind of support can be to us men. Unfortunately, my family has just had to learn how to go through these trials without the support from our church and rely on God plus some family support.

     Along the way I finished a class called "Beyond the Suffering, a disability ministry" through Joni and Friends. During the class, one study tells us that 80% of these marriages will fail in the first few years. Also, that the Fathers are the ones that run out on the family because of the lack of support from family and their church. I also feel this is because of how society tells a man they must be, feel, and act. It also showed me that a lot of churches fail to support these families due to the fear of the unknown. Even our own church failed on occasions when my family and I could have used the support because this was something new to them and they were afraid to ask, "How can we help or What do you need?" This is also where some family members will fail you, because they just don’t know what to do or say.

     So that is why I have started this men’s support group and disability ministry. In hopes to help strengthen the men of these families and in return make the whole family stronger. As I have seen and read many stories, a divided lost family will never survive without the strength of God and a good support system. This is where my group will come in and become the support system with the love of God for you. I am also hoping to save as many families that God will put in my path to stop this devastating trend. Also hoping to break the huge stereotype that asking for help makes you weak. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 is a great scripture for talking about being stronger when you are weak. I will be holding meetings in person, on the web, and even go to wherever I am called or needed. My ultimate goal with this group is to strengthen you and your families by giving you the love and support of Christ.

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