Anthony Finds Faith with Help from Bethesda

Bobbie Jo Upton never gave up on helping her son pursue his spirituality.

Bobbie Jo wanted to build a foundation of faith for her son, Anthony, a young man who relies on mostly non-verbal communication.

“In a life filled with so many more daily challenges, it is so much more important to teach them about Jesus and His saving grace,” Bobbie Jo said.

Bobbie Jo’s faith in her son was rewarded in May, when he was confirmed in Christ alongside another young man at Trinity Lutheran Church in Davison, Michigan. “It felt amazing to see Anthony be confirmed,” Bobbie Jo said. “The congregation was so supportive. They were so proud of him!”

A “God thing”

Discovering the curriculum that led to her son’s confirmation was a “God thing” according to Bobbie Jo. Several years ago, she was at an autism awareness dinner at her congregation when she learned Bethesda Lutheran Communities had a confirmation curriculum for people with developmental disabilities.

A group of people Bethesda supports came from Frankenmuth, Michigan, to sing and a Bethesda ministry consultant talked about Bethesda resources. That day was the beginning of a more than two year journey for the Uptons.

“I spoke to our pastor and asked him if he thought it would work and if he would be willing to try,” Bobbie Jo said. “Thankfully, he was.”

Putting together a plan

The first step was purchasing Building on the Rock, Bethesda's comprehensive guide for preparing people with developmental disabilities for first Communion and confirmation.

The hard part was finding someone who would step forward and lead the confirmation lessons. Luckily, Bobbie Jo had someone in mind—Ms. Kathy, a fellow member of Trinity Lutheran.

“She would watch Anthony while I was playing in the praise band,” Bobbie Jo said. “She just fell in love with him and I thought she’d be the perfect person to shepherd him through this experience.”

Ms. Kathy agreed and the plan was put into motion.

Breakfast and Jesus20160424_161526

Anthony and Ms. Kathy would adjourn to a local McDonald’s every other week for breakfast and to review the lessons in Building on the Rock. Confirmation instruction typically takes one year, but Anthony and Ms. Kathy worked for two years to get him to his confirmation day.

“He always knew when it was the week of confirmation class,” Bobbie Jo said. “He would talk about it all week long.”

Sometimes Anthony would pace and walk around, but as the time went on, he became more and more engrossed in the lessons. “After a while, he was talking about bread and wine and Jesus Christ,” Bobbie Jo said.

Eventually, they’d practice things like taking communion to ensure Anthony was prepared for his big day and beyond.

Confirmation Day

When the day finally arrived for Anthony’s confirmation, he was excited. Anthony was confirmed alongside another young man, with his mom and Ms. Kathy by his side. Bobbie Jo said, “It felt amazing to see Anthony be confirmed. We were so proud of him!”

Anthony and his family hosted a joint celebration alongside the family of the other confirmand. The party had a big turnout. “The congregation was so proud of Anthony,” Bobbie Jo said. “He was watching Will, the other confirmand, and he knew what to do when people came up to congratulate him. He really enjoyed every minute of it."

Anthony’s achievement is already inspiring others. “I had coffee with another mom who has a child with disabilities,” Bobbie Jo said. “She saw Anthony’s picture on Facebook and wanted to know more about his confirmation and Building on the Rock.

“He is a sweet young man who loves God and showing others that love.”


At Bethesda, we believe all people can receive God because we are all wonderfully made. We work to break down barriers for people with developmental disabilities to become part of their church and ensure they are welcomed in the word and sacrament.

Want to support this vital mission to ensure people like Anthony gain their eternal salvation? Make a gift today!

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