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November 22, 2012

Noah’s gift: A story of faith, hope and love

CULLMAN — Born Oct. 3, 1997, he was special from the very beginning. As he grew, he quickly won everyone over with his captivating smile. Even as a young child his love and joy in music was an inspiration to all who knew him. And he loved people with a genuine passion.

His name is Noah Todd.

His story is one of faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.

Noah enjoys playing drums, anything to do with the world of nature, sports — especially football — and playing baseball on the Field of Miracles. And people.

Noah was born with a rare genetic disorder called monosomy 8 and trisomy 10. His dad, who is St. Andrew's Methodist Church minister, the Rev. Jonathan Todd, and his mom, Susan Todd, have known that he was special since his birth. “Noah is a member of a group in our world that is given the classification of ‘People with Special Needs’,” says his father.

“But when one looks at people like Noah, you can say without a doubt that they are people with special gifts.”

The gift of love is very present in Noah. His love for others is genuine and sincere, it comes from the heart. “In a very real way Noah embodies the love of Christ for others,” said Rev. Todd. “He is accepting of all, compassionate without restraint and filled with humility.”

It is evident to those who have come to know him, that Noah’s love for people is contagious. He never meets a stranger. “During each Sunday worship service, Noah begins by making his trip around the Family Life Center or the Sanctuary and in his unique way says good morning to all,” explained his father. “He sits with us, he smiles and looks intently at us with his dark brown eyes.”

Noah doesn’t communicate in the usual sense, but he shakes hands, gives high fives and fist pumps. In this way Noah serves as a genuine gift of hospitality. No training is necessary for Noah, it just comes naturally.

Rev. Todd notes that Noah has been given the special gift of music appreciation. “It is very apparent that he loves the opportunity to participate in the Sunday worship service,” said Todd. “He is not a back seat observer, instead he is up front, on the first row, standing with the praise and worship team or singing with the chancel choir.”

“Noah claps his hands to the beat of the drums and would play the guitar if he could get to it,” laughed his father.  

In his own way, he sings the songs of worship with the choir. Sometimes, on rare occasions when the music is just right and the song is special, Noah will dance. “It is easy to say that Noah is gifted as a special worship leader,” explained his dad. “If the music is inspiring, the pace of worship is dragging or the preaching is good, well, Noah will let us know.”

In many ways, Noah has carved out a special niche in the congregation of St. Andrew’s church. “In this way he can express his love to God and service to others,” said Rev. Todd.  

Due to his special gifts, Noah has been embraced with love, included in all aspects of church life and given the freedom to be who God has created him to be.

To honor the many ways God is at work through the congregation of St. Andrew’s and in the life of Noah, a special fund has been created called Noah’s Gift. On Noah’s birthday each year he gives a gift in the amount of his age.

Noah’s Gift is a special fund which seeks to honor the many ways God is at work through the congregation of St. Andrew’s and in the life of Noah Todd.

Noah’s birthday was Oct. 3. This year he turned 15. On Sunday, Sept. 30, Noah gave a birthday gift of $15 to St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church. It was Noah’s special way of giving back to God and to St. Andrew’s the gift of life and love that has been shown to him.

On Sunday, Sept. 30, the congregation joined Noah and individually gave $15 to St. Andrew’s Church. Now, the church has followed Noah’s footsteps, and on each member’s birthday they all give a gift in the amount of their age. Each time a gift is given to Noah’s Gift it goes to the “Pay it Forward Campaign” and is used to pay down the debt on the Family Life Center.

Since that time, through the generosity with which people have responded to Noah’s Gift, the donations have far exceeded all expectations. The total year to date contributions toward the Noah’s Gift fund has reached $32,287. “This is awesome and definitely a work of God,” beamed Rev. Todd.

“His hands may be small and his bones fragile, but his heart is big in compassion and his smile strong in love,” said his father. “There is no doubt that God lives large in Noah.”

Noah is not bashful when it comes to sharing his life with others. Each Sunday he chooses a different friend to sit with. If there is not a seat available then he will make one. No matter how tight the space between two people might be, Noah will wiggle and giggle his way into the center of attention.

Special events do not affect Noah’s desire to be a part of the moment. “At the recent wedding reception of Christine Chamblee and Rico Nishimura, while two people were dancing Noah walked up to the young couple, moved their arms apart and joined right in,” smiled Rev. Todd. “The two became three and the three became four until a whole circle of young adults and children where moving to the music in celebration.”  

Perhaps the word “celebration” best defines the excitement of this his parents and his brother Ian, concerning the success of Noah’s Gift. “The generous spirit with which people have given is truly inspiring,” said Rev. Todd. “The way in which God uses gifts big and small is astonishing.”

The Todds and the congregation at St. Andrew’s invite you to contribute to Noah’s Gift in the following ways: (1) On your birthday you can give a donation to St. Andrew’s church in the amount of your age; or (2) on the Sunday before Oct. 3, each year, you can give a donation equaling Noah’s age. (This coming year Noah will turn 16).

All contributions donated to Noah’s Gift will go toward the “Pay it Forward Campaign” and will be use to pay down the debt on the Family Life Center. “Please prayerfully consider sharing in the life of God through Noah by participating in Noah’s Gift,” asked Rev. Todd.

Please mark your donations as Noah’s Gift. “Thank you for your generous support of Noah’s Gift,” said the Todds.

Donations can be sent to St. Andrew's Methodist Church, 615 Main Ave. SW, Cullman, AL. 35055.

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