Their son, Micah, who is autistic, could not speak until he was 6 years old. He didn’t say “Mama” until he was 11.
But at the age of 13 or 14, Micah started singing. The song he chose was Jesus Loves Me.
Today, 16-year-old Micah travels and sings with his mother, who shares their testimony with congregations across the country.
“God is using Micah to minister to folks who are going through all kinds of trials and tribulations,” said Jamie Murphy, the outreach minister at the Immanuel Baptist Church in North Augusta.
Kelley Murphy has released two albums of Christian music inspired by the family’s trials.
She’ll sing a Christmas concert at Woodbridge Baptist Church in North Augusta on Sunday morning.
The hope, the mother of five said, is to encourage and inspire.
“Over the years, it’s been our faith that’s taught us how to live a full life, with joy and peace and hope and acceptance for our own situation,” she said. “I prayed for a long time for a miracle. I just wanted God to make everything better.”
God had something better in mind, Kelley said.
Her family moved to North Augusta from Florida in 2007. At Immanuel, a church of about 150 people, Jamie Murphy teaches parenting classes, often to parents referred through the school system or the Department of Juvenile Justice, in a free, 10-week program.
Micah is a junior at North Augusta High School, while Kelley homeschools his younger siblings.
Caleb is 18, Kara is 15, Leah is 13, and Levi is 12.
Jamie and Kelley met in college in Florida and have been married for 19 years.
For 10 of those years, they’ve shared their family’s testimony at churches from Texas to Tennessee, Mississippi to Florida, and on an international mission to Romania.
At events, Kelley plays a few songs, many of which she wrote while Micah was young, before inviting her son to the stage to sing his favorite song, Jesus Loves Me.
Her first concert, however, was a disaster.
“I thought we’d just be introducing people to autism,” she said. “It was full of statistics and facts about autism. It was horrible. I told Jamie we would never do it again.”
Before stepping on stage again, Kelley prayed fervently to God.
“That night, I got my miracle,” she said. “It just wasn’t the one I was asking for.”
Micah was 5 years old at the time, and still mute. For the first several years of his life, they had participated in research studies, therapies and specialized diets in an attempt to cure his autism.
The night she prayed, Kelley said God impressed upon her heart a need to surrender Micah to God’s will, whatever that would mean for the family.
“I wanted him to be able to speak. I wanted him to be able to communicate with the world. I wanted him to grow up and get married and be a father,” she said. “That wasn’t what God had for him.”
Once they backed off of the endless treatments, the Murphys said, Micah blossomed.
Kelley, however, found that it would take several years to get past the discouragement and guilt she felt over his diagnosis.
Micah was 2 years old when their doctor suggested the family see a specialist. The specialist suggested Kelley spend more time reading to him and singing to him, in order to encourage Micah to speak.
Kelley thought that she must have been the cause of the autism because, somehow, Micah hadn’t received enough attention.
“I had never heard of autism,” she said. “I had never met a kid like Micah. I felt like there was something wrong with my mothering.”
Those thoughts later changed the shape of her ministry.
“I had kept all those things to myself,” she said. “I realized, This is what my ministry was supposed to be: I was to tell the world.”
Now, 10 years later, tears come to her eyes when she thinks about the ways God has used her family to minister to others.
“Oh my stars. Oh my stars, it’s incredible,” she said. “For 10 years, thousands of people have heard Micah’s story. There must have been more than 500 concerts. Jesus Loves Me is the song Micah always wants to share. There’s not a dry eye in the place.”
Micah, she thinks, reminds people that it’s OK to trust God.
“It’ll work out. It might not be how I want, but it’ll be better,” she said.
Kelley still wants a cure, but says that’s not the thing she prays for these days.
“We had to come to a place where the most important thing wasn’t for him to be a normal child, but the most important thing was for him to be a happy child,” she said.
Today, Micah largely is. He likes to Google himself and find videos of his songs on YouTube. He wrestles with his dad, and has befriended seniors at church.
Not once in 10 years has Micah turned down the opportunity to sing for a crowd.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s 50 people or 500,” Kelley said, “Micah is there to tell people, ‘Yes, Jesus loves me.’”