I have been serving in the Special Needs Sunday School Class for a few years. Throughout these years, God has taught me many lessons through the children, their parents and the coworkers. I have learned to totally rely on God’s guidance and strength each Sunday as I step into the classroom. I have learned that each of the children has his or her unique and lovable personality. I have learned from other coworkers how to show love and patience to the children even when they don’t behave as expected. But most of all, I have learned from the parents who have shown their unconditional love and patience towards their children. Thank God that I can be a part of this rewarding ministry and I hope to see more brothers and sisters serve in the Special Needs Ministry too.
I found love in distress
My wife died of cancer four years ago. I brought my sons, ages 7 and 11, back to Canada. My older son is autistic. He is non-verbal and needs round the clock personal care from others. That was the lowest point in my life but praise the Lord that I found His love when I was in distress.
I got to know God’s love
Then God provided me with the opportunity to hear the good news. It helped me to reflect on my life. As noted in Micah 6:8 “…O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with you God”. The biggest difference that sets Christian apart from other religions is “Love” and “Mercy”. Because of this “Love”, I accepted Jesus as my SavioUr and my Lord.
I learned about God’s love
In the past few years, I learned about God’s love. I learned how to appreciate the strength of others and accept their weaknesses, rather than criticizing their shortcoming. Take my sons as an example. Even they are facing different challenges, I learned to appreciate them, and not to focus on their inabilities. In spite of being autistic and non-verbal, my older son has a kind heart. He likes to be around people. He always wears his smiling face. Therefore a lot of people really like him. My younger son has big round eyes. He is an honest person. People like him a lot, too. He also has good memory and strong math skills. All of them are gifts from God.
I decided to fulfill God’s plan for me
I pray everyday and am learning to walk on the path God has set in front of me. Thank God that He has always been walking by my side and opening new path for me. I started to serve the community as a volunteer. I hoped that God would use me to help other families with members with disabilities. I wanted to help them to find the appropriate social support from government or other organizations. My long-term goal is that they can have a choice to live their lives with dignity and with independency. I know this is a difficult task and is almost like walking across the Red Sea.
I will walk the rugged path courageously
I was invited to speak at an opening ceremony of a mainstream organization. I represented the parents of children with disabilities. The Minister of Children and Youth Services was in the audience. At the beginning, I did not want to accept the invitation because I did not have public speaking experience and I was not familiar with politics. Why didn’t I let other people do it? After praying for several days, I decided to go. When I first got up to speak, I was very nervous. However I was burdened to speak for these families as the services for people with special needs are lacking substantially. I started talking with my trembling voice. After a while, I became calmer. Then I started speaking from the bottom of my heart. I had the courage to say all that I had to say. After my speech, the Minister came to me and thanked me for speaking for the families. Other people also came to give me encouraging words. They also asked me about the family group that I represented.
God will make a way
If we commit all of our hearts and efforts, God will certainly provide us with a way and give us strength. He cares for us and is always with us. As noted in Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” In 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Thank you Lord for leading more people and more organizations to serve and support our volunteer work. Before I go to any meeting or any interviews with media, I always pray for God’s guidance and submit the meetings in His hands. I pray that God will provide me with wisdom so that I can share God’s love with others through the volunteer work I am involved in.
And I pray:
May our work testify our God.
May God’s love reach every family.
May more people join us to support those with disabilities.
May our community become more inclusive and more loving.
I have been serving in the Special Needs Ministry for two years. I was most touched by, not the children, but their parents. I found they are full of joy every time when they drop their children off at the Sunday Special class. I wondered, “How can a family with this challenge still be full of joy?” Having served in the ministry for the last two years, I realized that the key is exactly what Jesus has taught us – LOVE.
The environment can affect these children easily. When their emotions are fluctuating, it is fairly difficult to keep them under control. There were times when I felt discouraged and I thought I have not done a good job. Therefore I have thought of leaving this ministry. However after I have calm down, I realize all l have to spend is an hour or so with these children once a week. If this is affecting me to want to quit, what about their parents? I have really not done much as compared to them. Because of love, they take care of their children 24×7. I learned from these parents to treat these children as my own and use my best effort to help them. Then I have the joy to continue serving in this ministry. I pray that God will give me more love to serve them.
Sometimes I ask God why does he allow “autism” to occur on earth. His words come to me: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12.
What we know is indeed limited. Three years ago, my daughter was 3 years old, and all of a sudden, her left body became un-coordinated. She could not ride a bike and had hard time walking up the stairs. She could not even use her left hand to put on her mittens. After assessment by four doctors at the Sick Kid Hospital, they could not find out what exactly went wrong with her and did not know how to treat her. She needed support for her daily routines. The church, my fellowship and my cell group were all praying diligently for her. After seven months’ continuous prayer, she recovered amazingly. No specialist could explain it. But God knows everything. Therefore “do not give up”.
After years of training and treatment, Carly Fleishman, a 13-years-old girl in the States, has learned to use computer to communicate with others. She wrote this message: “I would tell them never to give up on the children that they work with.” Possibly this is what every autistic child want to tell their parents and their therapists, and also an encouragement for us as caregivers.
What we can do is as limited as what we know. However what I can offer on a Sunday is to spend a couple of hours with these special children and let their parents worship God without disturbance and without worrying about their children. I believe that this is pleasing to God.
I was touched by the booklet of testimonies prepared by the SPECIAL group three years ago. A year later I stepped out of my comfort zone and learned to serve in this ministry. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to share with you in this Volume 2 the joy that I have gained from the service. I pray to God that through these testimonies, more brothers and sisters will be inspired join us to serve in this meaningful ministry.
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.”
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.