For Miah…

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For Miah…
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Few people would be willing to leave what many would consider paradise, especially when it means moving thousands of miles away. Jacob and Kerri Emmons, however, didn’t hesitate.

“As a parent, you’ll do anything for your kids,” Jacob said.

Jacob and Kerri moved with their daughter, Miah, from Hawaii to the Louisville area in January 2022 after learning about the Shine Disabilities Ministry at Southeast. Miah, 17 at the time, has Down syndrome, and opportunities for community were sparse.

“It’s been such a blessing for Miah,” Jacob said.

Kerri added that Shine has opened an entirely new world for their daughter, one that wasn’t available in Hawaii.

“We were just so starving, I think, for more with her, and we felt like life going forward needed to be more about what was for Miah,” she said.

The Emmonses learned about Shine through their oldest daughter, Morgan, who already was living in Louisville, where her husband, Calhan, had grown up. Having visited a couple of times, they just felt that things were different in this part of the country.

“One thing that we did notice all the time was that Louisville seemed so ‘family.’ There was just kind of this element where family unit was important. In Hawaii, children with special needs, specifically kids with Down syndrome, you don’t see them there,” Kerri said.

Kerri and Miah were supposed to visit Louisville again in August 2021 for Miah’s birthday, but Kerri suffered a heart attack a week before the trip. Kerri made a full recovery, but that experience changed the way she and Jacob looked at life.

“It’s short and things that you think matter, actually they don’t matter. They’re nothing,” she said. “Family matters, the Lord matters, your walk with the Lord. So, I started to see things (through) a different lens as I healed.”

Kerri was hesitant to travel alone with Miah so soon after her heart attack, so Jacob joined them for their rescheduled trip in September. It was during the two-week visit that God began opening their eyes to the possibility of moving to Kentucky.

“It was just beautiful and felt very healing, and the wheels, I feel like, started to really spin,” Kerri said.

Perhaps the most memorable moment came during a visit to a Southern Indiana orchard, where the Emmonses saw 10 other kids and adults with Down syndrome, something that would have been rare in Hawaii.

Jacob and Kerri returned home knowing their time in the Aloha State was ending. They narrowed their possessions to 20 large plastic totes, put Jacob’s successful landscaping business up for sale, shipped their truck to the mainland, and prepared to say goodbye to their middle daughter, Mckenna, and her husband and son.

Kerri said leaving family was difficult, but she was comforted by the words of a friend who didn’t even know the Emmonses were considering moving to Kentucky.

“She said she felt like the Lord was telling her that we had sown in our daughter’s garden, our daughter in Hawaii, for so long that it was time to sow in Morgan’s garden and Miah. That was huge for me,” Kerri said.

It didn’t take long until Jacob and Kerri received confirmation that they were making the right decision. In November, Morgan shared a Facebook video announcing the opening of the Shine Café.

“We watched this promo video for Shine over and over,” Kerri said, adding Miah instantly knew it was the right fit for her. “She was just like, ‘I’m going there. This is for me. I’m going there.’”

Those feelings only grew stronger—not just for Miah, but also for Kerri and Jacob—as Morgan researched the Shine Ministry.

“Mom, this is for real,” Kerri recalled Morgan saying. “They have classes for her!”

After leaving Miah with Kerri’s parents in Los Angeles, Jacob and Kerri flew to Seattle, where they had shipped their truck. They then drove back to Los Angeles, picked up Miah, and, on January 2, 2022, made the 2,100-mile drive to Louisville, arriving during a winter storm.

While Miah immediately connected with Shine, including serving at the Shine Café at the Blankenbaker Campus, Jacob and Kerri felt more comfortable worshiping at a smaller church. However, as Miah got more involved at Southeast, so did Kerri and Jacob, quickly feeling a sense of community they didn’t think possible at a large church.

“Coming here to Southeast, I was blown away by just the gift of hospitality this church has,” Jacob said. “You walk to the front door, and someone opens the door, ‘Good morning!’”

“They just soaked us in,” Kerri said of everyone connected with the Shine Ministry. She added, “We came for Miah, but Shine’s been for all of us.”

Kerri volunteers with Miah at the Shine Café on Sunday mornings. Besides greeting guests with coffee, cookies, and other treats as they arrive for worship each weekend, Miah serves at the Shine Café on Tuesdays, which also includes time for discipleship and fellowship.

“When I come here, I feel joyful,” she said.

Miah has jumped in with both feet, also attending Camp Freedom—Southeast’s Summer camp for individuals with special needs—and playing on the church’s Special Olympics softball team.

“Miah counts down to every next thing that’s at Southeast—literally,” Kerri said. “So, if Sunday is coming, we’re counting down to Sunday. If Tuesday is coming, we’re counting down to Tuesday.”

Since moving thousands of miles from “paradise,” the Emmonses have seen how God has blessed every step of their journey. Jacob has successfully relaunched his landscaping business, Kerri’s parents have also moved to Kentucky, and Miah has found community, not only at Southeast and Shine, but through Down Syndrome of Louisville.

“It’s been fun to see how faithful God is when you are obedient,” Jacob said.