Sufficient Grace

Florence & Donald Wong 

As parents of an autistic child, we are challenged in many ways while raising Justin. The uncertainties surrounding his future have been emotionally draining for both Justin and us as his parents to say the least. But with each unique situation we face, our Heavenly Father has patiently shown us His perfect will behind it all. At times, in the mist of frustration, it is difficult to understand but God’s promises have been the source of our strength and his unfailing love has been the source of comfort.

 Justin will be turning 13 this May. Reflecting back over the years, whether in times of despair, frustration, or in times of worry free and happy moments, we have felt God’s comforting hand consoling and guiding us. We are yet again reminded of God’s promise given in Deuteronomy 31:6, “… for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you”. Truly God is faithful as we continue to experience His presence and guiding hands in our daily lives.

We have also seen God’s love through the love of the Special Needs Sunday School teachers. Each Sunday, the mood and behavior of each child can be unpredictable. The teachers not only comfort the children from their distress, but also assure the parents so that we can have a carefree worship time in getting closer with God. This group of teachers, week in and week out, has continued to interact with our special needs children. The love and care from the teachers provide the children with the opportunity to hear and experience God’s unconditional love. Many other brothers and sisters have shown us the unconditional love of God through their actions of love and support. One of them is Pastor Irene. Under her untiring support and leadership in guiding the Special Needs Parent Support Group, every child and family have deeply experienced love and care.

We have found emotional and spiritual support and have seen God’s love within the family of God. Although new challenges awaits us, we hold on to God’s promise in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Postscript

Dr. Milton Wan

This February (in 2008), Aurora got acute pneumonia and was admitted to the hospital. After twelve days, she passed away. She finished her life of 26 years. We did not anticipate her sudden departure. The grief that Renee and I experienced was much deeper and lasted longer than we thought. It was difficult for me to take it when people tried to comfort us saying (although I knew that they did not mean harm), “Now that Aurora is gone, perhaps it is a good thing, at least your burden will be lightened.” Is it true? It may be true in terms of the daily routines in the days to come. However, emotionally Aurora has left us with a deep black hole. It is so deep that our emotion has fallen to a point so low that even surprises us.

Two months have gone by, however, whenever we hear her name or see her pictures, we start crying again. Finally Renee has figured out the reason for this emptiness in our hearts. Aurora was a 26 years old “big baby”. Intellectually, she had never grown to be an adult. She did not have the ability to survive or to live independently. She was totally dependent on us emotionally and this also prevented us from helping her to be independent. She was different from a normal child, who started to become an independent individual at the age of three or four. When they grow older (especially during adolescence), they gradually keep their emotional dependence away from their parents, who have no choice but to let go. As for Aurora, we did not go through this process. The dependency of a normal three year old has lasted for 26 years for us. Now if a three-year-old child passes away, it certainly means a lot of pain for the parents based on the loss of their close relationship developed within three years. But for us, we are talking about 26 years! The emotional interdependency and 26 years of bonding is now being cut off. Our hearts are broken! The face and the voice of this 26-year-old baby have been imprinted deep down in our lives. Up till now it seems that Aurora has not left us, she is still dear to our hearts.

On the second day after Aurora passed away, I looked out the window and saw the sun shinning on the snow left from the storm the night before, I wrote a letter to my dear daughter. Here is what I wrote:

See You Again, Aurora!
(1981-2008)

My beloved Aurora,

At age 26, you should have been full of youthful vitality, balancing romantic love and an exciting career. But in the midst of this festive season, the Lord called you back to our home in Heaven. 

I remember the day when you, at two and a half years old, suddenly had a seizure and scared the living daylights out of me. All I could do was to hold your tiny body close to me. Then, yesterday, I sat by your bed and watched helplessly as you struggled to draw each breath. For the past 24 years, I have repeatedly asked this question: if some people were born to suffer all their life, what is the meaning of their living?

Then I thought of the life of Jesus Christ. Was He not born to suffer? Didn’t He die in the most painful way imaginable? I decided to remain silent.

Once, at a meeting with some seminary students, I was asked to name three theologians who had had the greatest impact on my life. I listed Hudson Taylor, the great missionary who founded China Inland Mission; and then, the Chinese theologian, Watchman Nee. But to everyone’s surprise, I concluded by saying, “The third person is my daughter, Aurora, who is severely mentally challenged.” Yes, my Aurora, in the eyes of this world, you were a handicapped person who couldn’t even pick up a pencil to draw a circle. Yet God deliberately chose you and brought you into my life to teach me valuable lessons that I could never have learned from all my doctorate studies.

In the ancient East, a wise man once told his students, “Today I’m going to introduce my teacher to you.” Everyone was anxious to find out who was the great teacher of this bright and knowledgeable man, but the wise man only took a small piece of stone from his pocket and said, “This is my teacher.” While all his students were puzzled, the wise man continued, “One day, when I was in a hurry on my way to deliver a lecture, I suddenly felt a sharp pain under my foot and found a pebble in my sandals. I stopped and got down on my knees in order to take it out. As I stopped and looked around, I suddenly discovered how beautiful the scenery around me was. A little white flower next to me caused me to realize how brilliant life could be. Previously, I had rushed along on this path, but this tiny pebble caused me to pause on my way, and gave me the opportunity to take a good look at life. Now you can see why this tiny stone turned out to be my teacher!”

My dear Aurora, you’re the small pebble in my life. When I was searching for fame and status, the difficulties and challenges you brought to my life and your physical weakness compelled this ambitious father to stop and reflect on his life again and again. Only then could I learn to understand the hurts of people and appreciate human dignity. Thank you, my dear child! You brought me back from going astray in my pursuit of success and achievements. Your genuine smiles and your tears without pretense constantly encouraged me to live an authentic life. Whenever I think of your pure and simple life, I remind myself: do we really need sophisticated entertainment in order to live a life of joy and contentment? Thank you, my child, you’re my great teacher! 

Aurora, I have always believed that you were an angel, a suffering angel, sent by God – though you suffered so much in this world, your beauty and purity never changed. Now that you have fulfilled your mission on earth and returned to the loving arms of our Heavenly Father. My girl, your daddy is very blessed – for he has had the honor to take in an angel! 

I can’t stop missing you. My heart is broken. But when I think of your smiling face in heaven, I can smile too! 

Daddy  
(2008.02.12) 

Stan Yip

There was a report by CNN this past April on Autism Awareness. The statistics showed that 80% of the couples with special needs children end up in a divorce. This is very sad. Indeed, there is a lot of tension in the families when they have to take care of a child with special needs. They are constantly confronted with numerous challenges: children’s emotional and behavioural problems, costly treatments and therapies, battles for limited government funding and conflicts resulting from different parenting styles. It really exhausts the parents emotionally, physically, financially, etc. Tension is built up constantly, setting the stage for divorce.

As Christian parents with Jesus Christ in our lives, we have to face the same challenges. With the uncertainties of our children’s future, there are bound to be times when we feel depressed and vulnerable. But the difference is we can always go back to God for His comfort. He loves every one of us, including our children with special needs. Although the sky is not always blue, just as depicted in the poem “Footprints”, He is always there to carry us through the difficult time. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.

You may find it impossible to “rejoice in the Lord always” as commanded in the Bible. But the Bible carries on and says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.

For the past eight years, I have personally experienced God’s amazing love and care. He did not give up on me even when I was weak. In the Summer of 1999, I was deeply depressed and even thought of ending my own life. God used a tape with Dr. Philemon Choi’s testimony to shake me up. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior in the psychiatric ward. After a few months, my wife also became a born-again Christian when we were attending a marriage camp. The Pastor and his wife honestly shared with us their experience that touched our hearts. God then sent us a counselor who had helped us tremendously. She also has the experience of taking care of her nephew with autism and she can totally relate to our struggles. This simply could not be a coincidence. It was indeed God’s grace.

Two years ago, I relapsed into depression. I could not pull myself off from the couch. I did not have the energy to do anything and couldn’t even sing praises to God in worship or fellowship. It was such a heart-wrenching feeling. I was blessed to have my prayer partner who kept praying for my healing during these days of darkness. Amazingly, after attending the “Louis Program” with my wife, I was totally released from the depressed mood that very weekend. I could be back to church with a thankful heart to worship God. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah! We have to learn to always count God’s blessings so that we can remain faithful with God’s promise during difficult times: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8.

Dear friends, if you have not known the Lord Jesus Christ, I sincerely invite you to come and talk to our pastors. God is waiting for you. If you have special needs children and you think their lives are worthless and meaningless, you are totally wrong. God has a unique plan for every one of us. It does not matter whether we live a long life or only for a few short months, it is our eternal lives in heaven with God that matters. There you will find no tears, no sorrow and no sickness. Although to this day I’m still not able to communicate with my son the “normal” way, I truly believe that he will have perfect health in heaven. We will be singing praises to worship God together. Isn’t it beautiful?

 May God’s blessings be with each family who has children with special needs. Amen.

Linda Chan

The scene of Erin screaming, yelling and throwing a huge temper tantrum the first time we took her to the SPECIAL gathering is still fresh in my mind. Erin even scratched Pastor Irene’s hand while she was trying to calm her down. With my heart broken and my eyes filled with tears, I had no choice but took her home.

Back then I did not know God. I dreaded every day while I took care of this constantly screaming and yelling girl. Taking Erin to Sunday School was a very challenging task. Thank God that the brothers and sisters from the Special Class are loving, supportive and patient. I believe every teacher in the class has experienced Erin’s tantrum and I am very sorry about this. However they have never given up in helping Erin. God’s love has been revealed through their perseverance, never-ending love and continuous prayer.

Then I joined the Louis Program and was deeply touched by the faith and the determination of Yolanda Wong in training and supporting her son with Autism. At the end of the program, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and started to learn how to pray.

God also touched the life of my husband, Alan, and opened his eyes and his heart. He saw Erin’s progress and found it so amazing. The way she longs to go to church every Sunday morning is unbelievable. He decided to return to God and let Jesus manage his life.

Now we are living every day full of God’s grace. We are active in church activities, such as cell group and Bible study. We enjoy the sharing, the support and the care amongst the brothers and sisters in Christ. Erin can sit quietly during our Bible study and watch the other children play. This is something we could not even dare to imagine. This is definitely a miracle. We believe that God is and will always be with us wherever we go and whatever situation we have to face. He will not forsake us. He will carry us through. 

Aline Chan

My Dear Son,

A few years has passed since you learn how to do mathematics, and understand what phonetics is all about.  There are “hiccups” in schooling as we understand how the communities around you are also in the process of learning how to help you learn best together with us all.

Walking beside you in these few years – I have struggled to grow and learn how to support you and your sister’s schooling needs. I know that our Lord is our refuge and strength, and He is always with us when we are in trouble.

As He takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, He knows that I am too weak to go through it alone.  He has sent wonderful angels such as the teachers who help to guide you in one-on-one learning settings. They also help you join with your friends in play and learn how to have fun in class.  They always reassure us time after time that “you can do it!” just like the rest of your peers when we are having doubts.  Their professional techniques coupled with their undivided love towards you made us humble to learn and focus on how to uncover your potential!

Our church caregivers and class teachers never stopped in believing you could remember all the Bible songs and verses. They dashed to tell us when you knew the Lord had parted the Red Sea for Moses. Your teachers are one in a million and they always demonstrate kindness and love towards you. They try to get to know you better even though many of them do not have children with similar challenges such as yours.

Our Lord has also sent us a wonderful cell group who models for us what “better together”, growing in prayer, love and God’s Word is all about! The aunties whom you name “marshmallows” and the uncles whom you name “mushrooms” are always there to treat you as one of their sons. I could never stop giving praises for your little brothers and little sisters from our church communities who often share candy with you, a pat on your back or stopped to say “hi”. That always brought a glow to your eyes and a smile on your face.

I have many areas of inadequacies – our Lord provided your father to complement my weakness.  With the help of your father’s family, your wonderful grandmother, your lovely aunts and uncles – there is always support to care for you and your radiant sister.

One day, I hope that you can thank our Lord in your own words, “..If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” 2 Cor.1: 6-7.

With this strength in Him, our family will learn how to walk along side other families in the SPECIAL group. We hope that we will know how to model to others the wonderful things God has done in our lives. We want to help guide others to learn, give families comfort in distress. We want to build a wonderful and loving home for you to find refuge and strength. Our partnership is with the Lord! 

There is always hope in the Name of the Lord…I cannot do it alone.. We are “Better Together”!

May God be glorified.

His love is everlasting.

Your Mom

A Challenging Special Needs Ministry

Edward Chu

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:28-31 NIV

When I look at our ministry in the Sunday Special Needs Class, we just feel like the apostle Peter who walks on the water. 

When Jesus says, “Walk,” he walks on the water. When Jesus says, “Come toward me,” he comes toward Him. 

Praise the Lord; we have faithful brothers and sisters, just like Peter. They follow Jesus’ calling to serve in the Special Needs Ministry.

With the loving hearts of the brothers and sisters in the Special Needs classes, parents can worship God whole-heartedly and know that their children are in safe hands.

Serving in the Special Needs Ministry is challenging; we do not know what the classroom will be like every Sunday. In the sunny good days, children can follow the routines such as singing, listening to the Bible stories and doing the crafts; but in the stormy bad days, the whole class can become chaotic simply because of a child’s unstable behavior. Sometimes we may even have doubts about our program; does it really work? Can we bring these children to God? Just like Peter, when he saw the wind blowing, he panic and began to sink.

God’s faithfulness will never let us sink. The Bible says Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught Peter, and didn’t let him sink. Similarly, when any of us feels downhearted, God will use other team members to encourage him or her. Through the regular discussion, training, praying and sharing, God has built a very strong bonding in this ministry team. Praise the Lord, His grace is sufficient for us, for His power is made perfect in our weakness.

Is it possible that people can walk on the water? Yes, it is true. The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus did and Peter did. God calls and asks you to serve in this challenging Special Needs Ministry, get out from your little boat, follow Jesus and walk on the water. Start with your “little faith” like Peter; you may not be completely successful; but you will experience God’s holding you through the wind in His almighty hands.

Peggy Kam

Time really flew by swiftly. My family has been coming to RHCCC for ten years. I am thankful that I could join both Phase II and Phase III expansion celebration and was able to witness God’s great and wonderful work. I experienced His presence in my life. He walks with me and carries me through every tough moment that I have had. He cares for me and grants me the hope of eternal life. He also provides me with good church leaders, and brothers and sisters in Christ. They always pray for me earnestly. My God, I am thankful to you.

My three children have been growing in Christ as well. They are under the care and guidance of their Heavenly Father. I submit them totally to God and have the peace in my heart. I just do my part as a good mother in bringing them up.

My eldest daughter has graduated from university and is looking for a job. My second daughter is also growing up healthily. She always helps me take care of her little brother. She loves him dearly. She does everything wholeheartedly, including her study. Milton has also grown up a lot. He has improved in his behavior, academic study and other areas of learning. I thank Pastor Irene and the Sunday Special Class teachers and helpers. They always try their best to teach and care for these children with special needs. Regardless of the weather, they come every Sunday morning to lead the children to worship God, to study the Bible and learn the truth. I sincerely appreciate and thank them for their dedication and support.

The Rainbow in the Valley of the shadow of Death

Andrew Lee

It was no ordinary winter for us in the year of 1998 when the doctors diagnosed that my younger daughter was autistic. I felt like falling into the valley of the shadow of death. I had not accepted Jesus then, and at this time of sorrow, I blamed God and asked “why me?”. In those days it was like living in hell. Then a brother in Christ spoke to me and touched my heart with God’s good news, and I accepted Jesus as my Saviour. It has now been a few years since I joined RHCCC and got baptized. In the process of conversion, I learnt from Bible studies and worship preaching about the meaning of “the way”, “the truth” and “love”. 

Ever since the beginning of time, there is really nothing new under the sun. Changes are in matters of life, but “the truth” is unchanging. There is a time for everything, a time to be born, a time to die and a time for the four seasons. Whether it is human beings, birds, animals or plants and flowers, each has its own pattern of life that no one can change. Each individual life, no matter it is that of an ordinary man or an emperor, can both be fantastic and troublesome.

Even though I am saved, God has not answered my prayer for my “cup” to be taken away just as He did not take it away from Jesus. It is because He has His own plan for me. Nonetheless, He has given me three precious gifts. Love – I learn that He will send angels to help me at the appropriate time. Peace – He taught me to “let go” and not to worry about gaining or losing. Courage – I have the courage to live on and fearlessly face all kinds of difficulties. The outcome of success or failure does not matter now. With an obedient heart to God, I just have to try my best to face the challenges.

Through these extraordinary experiences, I learn to be strong and courageous. I am still weak at times. However by God’s almighty hands, I can stand up from the fall and start all over again. This is how I can find the rainbow in the valley of the shadow of death. All of this is to fulfill God’s purpose in my life.

Anthony Leung

I once heard from a very respectful Pastor speaking at the church that when our Lord Jesus told his disciples not to hinder the little children coming to Him, it was because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. The Pastor then explained to us that under normal assumption, the disciples of Jesus would not have stopped any children if they were cute, clean and well behaved. The disciples most likely had stopped those children from getting close to Jesus because they were dirty, noisy, not good looking, exhibiting weird, uncontrollable and even unpredictable behaviour, or generally perceived as ‘different’ from a ‘normal’ kid. From Luke 18: 15-17 we learned that Jesus continued to tell his disciples that ‘I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ 

These children are ‘special’ because Jesus commanded us to be like them in order to enter His kingdom. Was it because of their weird appearances and behaviour or their unpredictable character?

I started to engage myself in the Special Needs Ministry six years ago. Looking after people with ‘special needs’ was not new to me because I have been doing a similar kind of job since my family migrated to Toronto 18 years ago. From this teaching of Jesus, I began to view my work as well as my ministry in the church from a different perspective. I am no longer seeing the people that I am helping or serving as ‘people in-need’, but I start to see them as the ones who will help me enter into the kingdom of God. I am seeing them as ‘Jesus’, the one who holds the key to His own kingdom, and not just treating them as my ‘clients’ or ‘students’.

I cannot claim that I have done much for these children and youth coming to our ‘Special Needs’ class. However, I can say that I have learned a lot from them through serving them every Sunday. I’ve learned from their ‘innocence’, ‘genuineness’, ‘straight-forwardness’, ‘sincerity’ & their ‘sensitivity to God’. Only at this stage I finally realize why Jesus told us in the Bible that unless we were to become as one of these children, we could not enter into His kingdom and it is very, very true!!!

I do hope that you could join me to serve ‘Him’ in this ‘Special Needs’ class and be able to have this ‘key’ to enter into the kingdom of God. 

God Bless!

Charlene Leung

My older brother Matthew Leung has Down Syndrome and he is one of the greatest influences in my life. He is loving, caring, talented in music, loves to swim and play basketball. Growing up with Matthew was not exactly easy but it helped to build my character. Through him, I can see God’s work and love so clearly.

Ever since I was young I knew Matthew was “different” and that he required more attention. If things didn’t go his way he would throw a tantrum and sometimes my parents were forced to give in. I thought it was completely unfair and I became very frustrated. It was hard for me to accept and cope with my brother’s needs. I would always think, “Matthew thinks he’s king of the world! He always gets what he wants! That’s not fair!” When I was upset I would blame God for “ruining” my life but by His grace I gradually understood the situation and learned to care for Matthew.

When I grew older I faced a different kind of challenge. My friends went out more often and sometimes I couldn’t join them because I had to take care of Matthew while my parents weren’t home. I was mad and upset that I had to miss out but God granted me the maturity I needed to put others before me. Now, when my friends ask me to go out and I have to take care of Matthew, it’s become much easier to explain and accept why I can’t. Sometimes I find it hard to tell my friends that my brother has Down Syndrome. Some people aren’t sure how to respond or act around him. It can be awkward but generally, people are nice to Matthew. Although it’s not always easy to have Matthew as my brother, I love him dearly.

It’s amazing to see God’s work and love for His children in RHCCC. Our family started coming to RHCCC when I was about 5 years old and Matthew wasn’t very social in his Sunday School class. Many mornings, it was a struggle to get him into the classroom as he felt uncomfortable but in time it slowly got better. His helpers and teachers were very patient and caring which helped comfort Matthew in the unfamiliar surroundings. God worked through members of the church to create a Sunday School class for children with special needs in September of 1998. The Special Sunday School class became a place where my brother felt very comfortable. The helpers became his friends and today, he acts as a big brother to the younger children. Over the years I’ve seen many positive changes in my brother since he has been in the Special Sunday School class. Now he has taken on responsibilities, shown leadership, become more sociable and happier. The Special Sunday School and S.P.E.C.I.A.L (a support group for parents) keep growing in numbers. It’s amazing to see the Special Needs Ministry of RHCCC grow because it shows that more families have found a place where their children can learn and worship God in an environment made just for them. 

I’m very thankful that God has brought Matthew into my life. Through Matthew, God has developed my character and allowed me to serve Him. My parents always do their best to make sure both Matthew and I are content. They always tell me that they’re thankful God brought me into their lives and Matthew’s life which is really encouraging. No matter how hard life gets, God is always there and will never give us something we can’t handle. He has a reason and purpose for everything. There is a reason Matthew is my brother, there’s a reason each parent was given their child. I’ve witnessed and experienced God’s love, mercy and grace in my life, my family, Matthew and the church. God loves all His children; He cares for every single one. The world may see my brother and others special needs children as weak, but God uses the weak to lead the strong.