Sometimes, all it takes is a moment of clarity to hear the voice of God. That was the case when Esther Lee reached out to Annie,* a girl in her Sunday Bible study class.

Annie, 13, had been diagnosed at a young age with autism spectrum, a neurological and developmental disorder that affects interaction, communication, and learning. She had been prescribed ADHD medication, yet she often spent class time fidgeting and distracted. 

“This challenged my biblical perspective, as this label has affected not only myself but others to have a determinism attitude toward her,” says Lee, a master’s student in biblical counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

While sharing the Romans Road with the youth group one Sunday this spring, Lee remembered from a prior conversation that Annie had not been sure of her salvation. Lee decided that, after class, she would meet with Annie and bring up the topic of her faith in conjunction with the Romans Road verses—a collection of verses in Paul’s epistle to the Romans that offers a clear and structured path to Christ.

“I began sharing the Gospel in a simple manner with eye contact,” says Lee. “To my surprise, Annie was intently listening as she was recognizing her current position of not being reconciled to God. She did not get distracted nor go off topic, and I saw her eyes understand the message. In my heart, I was encouraged by the Holy Spirit, giving Him the glory for what was happening in her heart.” 

Lee gave Annie the opportunity to accept Jesus that moment. Annie said she wanted to do so, but Lee wanted to be clear about the cost of obedience. 

“I explained the life that follows Jesus with Matthew 22:37-38, and explained that it would take sacrifice to deny herself to make Jesus Lord over every aspect of her life,” Lee says. “I also talked about the path to baptism and its symbolism and command by Jesus.” 

Annie remained focused and calm, listening.

“We prayed together as she followed after my words,” Lee says. “And then, to continue to confirm her decision and understanding—just to make sure!—I asked her follow-up questions: ‘If you died today and you were at the gate of heaven in front of God, what would you say?’” 

Annie answered, “I will go to heaven because Jesus died for my sins and saved me.” 

Annie later shared her decision with her mother, who asked Lee if she was certain that Annie thoroughly understood. “I saw in her mother’s eyes the same cautiousness and worry that I had before I started sharing the Gospel,” Lee says. Her mother said she would talk more with Annie and discuss the possibility of baptism on Easter.

In the next two weeks, Annie’s behavior changed, Lee says—“sitting and listening with her Bible study book out, no fidgeting and no distraction. She was present and listening in participation.”

Annie’s mother asked Lee to speak with Annie again about the importance of baptism, to affirm that she understood. “I saw it as her mother needing confirmation,” Lee says. She reviewed the Gospel again with Annie.

“After a 15-minute discussion and response, I saw her heart really wanting to follow Jesus,” Lee says. “I was so overwhelmed with joy again.” 

“In the end, I saw a heart transformation before my eyes,” says Lee. “And as a biblical counselor, it really opened my eyes to the power of the Holy Spirit in bringing the fruit of self-control.”

*Name changed to protect anonymity.