World Down Syndrome Day is a special day for Southeast Christian Church’s Deaf and Disabilities Ministry, as well as millions of people around the world who have been impacted by Down syndrome.
Chosen as March 21 because those with Down syndrome are born with the triplication of the 21st chromosome, World Down Syndrome Day celebrates individuals with Down syndrome “to help raise awareness of what Down syndrome is, what it means to have Down syndrome, and how people with Down syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities,” according to the World Down Syndrome Day website.
Garett Wall, Deaf and Disabilities Ministry associate at Southeast, gets to celebrate Down Syndrome Day all year round.
Wall and his wife, Becky, have two children, Lily, 8, and Isaac, 6. Isaac was born with Down syndrome and has taught the Walls a great deal about God’s faithfulness and joy.
“Isaac has taught our family to have more joy and to appreciate each day for what God made it,” Wall said. “The Lord has used what some would consider a burden to show us that God’s glory is displayed in all things—in my daughter and my son.”
In fact, Isaac helped the Walls acquaint themselves with Southeast, and God used him to open the door for Wall to step into full-time ministry at Southeast.
Before joining staff in February, Wall worked in media relations at the University of Louisville.
“While I was at U of L, I kept feeling like the Lord wanted me to pursue ministry, but I had no idea where to start,” Wall said. “I thought, ‘Where does a 40-year-old guy with no seminary degree fit into vocational ministry?’ I knew God had put this burden on my heart, but I just didn’t feel equipped.”
In August, Wall was applying for a different position at Southeast, and his family started attending worship services.
It was when they began attending Southeast that they were first introduced to the Disabilities Ministry.
“We just fell in love with what God was doing in the Disabilities Ministry,” Wall said. “Having a kiddo with Down syndrome can sometimes make coming to church more difficult, but the Disabilities Ministry made us truly feel at home at Southeast.”
Though Wall wasn’t hired to fill the staff position he originally applied for, ministry leaders at Southeast told Wall not to abandon God’s call to pursue a career in ministry.
In December, Deaf and Disabilities Ministry Leader Mary Tatum approached Wall about a new position opening in the ministry that made the Walls fall in love with Southeast.
“I didn’t notice at the time, but God kept ‘dropping hints’ that Disabilities Ministry was where He wanted me,” Wall said.
Wall recalls he and his family seeing the Disabilities Ministry Hope Choir perform for the first time. He said the joy on their faces and in their hearts was infectious.
“Becky and I want our son to grow up in a community that continually reminds him of who he is in Christ and how he is able to bring God glory,” Wall said. “And as a member of Christ’s body, I want that community to be available for all families touched by a disability.”
In his new role in the Disabilities Ministry, Wall interacts with parents and volunteers to ensure that children with disabilities, their parents and the volunteers that serve them are able to connect to Jesus and one another.
“It’s exciting to be able to serve the people who have already done so much for my own family,” Wall said. “My goal in my role is to be able to equip volunteers with everything they need to be effective ministers of the Gospel, and provide peace of mind for parents and caregivers. I’m eager to see what God has for me to learn in this new role.”
Wall also has the unique opportunity to interact with the Down syndrome community outside of Southeast. Isaac attends the Providence School at Christian Academy of Louisville’s Rock Creek Campus, a school that serves children with Down syndrome by providing a unique, integrated learning experience. The Walls also are involved at Down Syndrome of Louisville, a nonprofit organization that serves people with Down syndrome throughout Jefferson County and Southern Indiana.
“We had formed a community with other Down syndrome families long before we started attending Southeast,” Wall said. “Now, I have the opportunity to use my position to help those families find resources and connect to others as well.”
The Walls have seen that although having a child with Down syndrome has unique challenges, it is a journey that has brought his whole family closer to God.
According to a medical study published in 2012, 67 to 85 percent of unborn children who are diagnosed with Down syndrome in prenatal testing are aborted in the United States each year. In European countries like Denmark and Iceland, it is almost 100 percent.
Wall said that he and his wife never questioned the gift that Isaac has been to them.
“Ultimately, God knew what He was doing when He blessed Becky and I with both of our children,” Wall said. “We have been able to see His hand throughout Isaac’s life, even before he was born.”