Family testifies to sanctity of life by caring for brain-injured son

CROWLEY The annual observance of Sanctity of Life Sunday couldn’t have been a better day to reintroduce Peter Helms to his broad circle of friends at Rock Creek Baptist Church in Crowley. His mother wondered if people would see him as their good-natured and strapping 6-foot-4-inch son or as the invalid who had experienced a traumatic brain injury.

“Would people be able to look beyond the wheelchair to see the dignity and value of my son’s precious life?”

Selah Helms

“Would people be able to look beyond the wheelchair to see the dignity and value of my son’s precious life?” she asked herself as the family entered the church.

A car wreck on July 29, 2010, took away the dreams and hopes that Doug and Selah Helms had for their son who was weeks away from entering college. Peter was on his way to work for an elderly church member when his car was broadsided as he crossed an intersection.

After months of hospitalization and intense therapy, Peter was released to the care of his parents who moved from nearly empty-nesters to round-the-clock caregivers. Siblings, grandparents and friends from their church and homeschooling community joined in the effort.

In her new book, That Your Faith May Not Fail, Peter’s Sermon, Selah Helms encourages readers to gain a vision of heaven to fortify them to walk gracefully through life’s most difficult trials. She also guides them to love their families more by investing in the lives of their children and to attach themselves to their own church families who provide strength during suffering and loss.  

Describing their family’s transition to assuming the care of their son, Helms wrote, “We had learned to suction a trach, to put a meal through a feeding tube, to crush ten pills at a time, and to administer breathing treatments.” 

At night they listened for signals that their son needed help. “We had learned to turn him every two hours and to give bed baths. We had learned passive range-of-motion exercises and upper airway anatomy for effective speech therapy. And we had learned how to place objects in his hands and cognitively challenge him to move the object we named,” she added.

Peter could not speak nor control his muscles, and his eyes didn’t always focus on the person speaking to him. And yet he would need the support of his church family to continue making progress. They had known the boy who had printed and folded church bulletins, helped clean the church building, fixed breakfast for the men’s book studies and watched after a 9-year-old whose parents did not attend church. With their prayerful support and practical ministry, they shored up the pastor’s family.

Recalling that day of returning to the church her husband had pastored since 1999, Selah Helms wrote of the affection shown to her son. One mother told of missing him playing basketball in her driveway, another elderly woman assured him of her frequent prayers, and men took turns shaking his hand and filling him in on the news of their own lives.

“We belong to a hardy church family that responded to Peter and his needs with dignity and love,” she wrote. “Even as an invalid—especially as an invalid—Peter would need the support of his church family. We would all, as a church family, have a front-lines role in the battle for the dignity of human life.”

As care is extended to those who are weak and cannot speak for themselves, Helms offers encouragement to treat every person with “the dignity due God’s image-bearers.” In doing that, she shared, “We shout to the world, seen and unseen, the sanctity of the lives God has entrusted to us.”   

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