Brian hangs out with new friends at Teen Camp at The Salvation Army’s Hidden Falls Camp in Bedford, Indiana.

No one can blame Lainey for being a little overprotective of her youngest son. Brian struggles with high-performing autism and Asperger’s, and meeting new people can be a challenge. When a school friend invited Brian to attend a youth group at The Salvation Army’s Fountain Square Corps Community Center, Lainey reluctantly agreed to let Brian go, balancing her fear that he would feel uncomfortable with the hope that the experience would help develop his social skills.

Lt. Brandon Lewis met Brian that day, and immediately fell into an easy rapport with him. “The other teenagers in our teen group have welcomed him in,” Lt. Brandon explains. “All teenagers are a little quirky in their own ways, so I think maybe that helped a little bit. It’s like he’s been going to the community center for a decade. We love having Brian.”

As Brian became more comfortable in the teen group, Lainey decided he was ready for another new experience – heading off to southern Indiana and The Salvation Army’s Hidden Falls Camp for an annual gathering of teens from across the state.

Teens from across Indiana gather at the annual Youth Councils

Lt. Brandon remembers that first trip to camp well. “You would think that Michael had been going to Youth Councils for 25 years,” he recalls with a laugh. “The moment he got to camp and his friend introduced him to all the rest of the teenagers out at camp, it was like he’d known them for decades. Immediately he broke out of his shell – he was having fun.”

Brian heartily agrees. “I fell in love with camp. It was the best experience I ever had.” In fact, Brian loved Hidden Falls Camp so much that he came back during the summer for two week-long camps. It was at Character Building Camp that Brian also made a spiritual breakthrough. “There was a little saying they did. It was, ‘May the skies proclaim the glory of God and may the stars proclaim the work of His hand.’ That just really got to me. During church on the second to last day I just absolutely broke down because of what they were teaching about. Lt. Brandon and my mom both told me that I had been saved.”

Lts. Brandon & Megan Lewis at The Salvation Army Fountain Square Corps Community Center

Lainey has been overjoyed by this new side of her son. Faith is central to her family, and it was difficult to watch Brian struggle in his relationship with God. “With him having that experience and all that he’s had with Lt. Brandon and Lt. Megan, and getting to know new people, he’s had that ability to be able to find his way back to knowing that God does exist and He is there,” Lainey says. “Everything happens for a reason.”

In the months since that day, Brian has become even more involved in the ministry of The Salvation Army. He helps to lead a youth group, attends Sunday services, and volunteers for special projects, like painting a beautiful mural in the community center’s nursery. Today, Lainey doesn’t hesitate to say yes to new experiences at the community center. For Lt. Brandon, her reasoning is perfectly clear. “She knows that not only is Brian safe, but that he’s being provided for spiritually, he’s being provided for emotionally, as well as physically. He’s going to learn at our corps. He’s going to be supported, and he’s going to be with people who love Brian for who he is.” What mom could ever ask for more?