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Rejoice in the Value of All of God’s Creations

Everyone in our lives has such amazing value. If we would only take the time to really look and see the beauty in all of God’s creations, we would see this clearly. God is the only one who can take dust and give life to it, and He creates amazing gifts – people of infinite value.

We are but co-creators, presented with this immense privilege and honour to be co-creators with God and stewards of life. We are entrusted with the care of our children who are God’s children to begin with. Children with special needs, especially, can bring forth such immense joy and beauty to the parents and siblings who care for them, and can shape us as Christians.

Everything we receive from God is a blessing. The Lim and Wang families receive this daily through their special needs children. Let us rejoice too in their blessings.

One child’s love, many children’s breakthroughs

We plan our lives as much as we can, but sometimes we find that God simply has another path for us. And while we may question the reason why when that curve ball is thrown, deep down our faith holds strong and the beauty of His plan is eventually revealed in a way we would never have expected.

This happened to Mark and Monica Lim 12 years ago when Marie, their seventh gift from God, arrived a month early.

“The paediatrician that attended to Marie at birth led me out of the delivery ward to tell me first that Marie had Down syndrome. She wasn’t sure how I would want to let Monica know that.” Recalls Mark. But Mark knew his wife’s faith was strong and she’d take the news in her stride.

“Actually, I cried each time I was left alone in the ward during the three days,” confides Monica, “not for myself, but because I was worried about what the challenges would be for Marie, and who would look after her when we are no longer around.”

Marie’s condition came with a host of health issues, including a profound hearing impairment, hyperthyroidism, alopecia and sensitive skin. It was a lot to cope with, but the couple had a strong support system in their family and friends, including those from Church. One friend, a doctor, told the couple that Marie and children like her were angels from God. In those early days, Mark and Monica couldn’t quite recognise the extent to which that statement was true, but they had faith in God and that gave them strength, trusting that “God never gives us more than we can handle”.

Keeping the baby was not in question

“I was in my 40s when I was expecting Marie and was asked if we wanted to do an amniocentesis test, but we refused,” said Monica. The couple would never have given Marie up even if they knew in the early stages of pregnancy that she had Down syndrome. “Also, I had been through nine miscarriages and didn’t want to risk another. But I must admit I had an inkling at Mass one day that maybe this baby would have special needs. My initial reaction was – I don’t want this – but immediately I apologised to the Lord. We would accept whatever God gave us.”

The lucky ones

While they accepted Marie as a gift almost immediately, Mark continued to worry about Marie’s future until one evening at dinner with a Spanish priest, when Marie was about four or five years old. “What he said that night changed my whole outlook on the situation and gave me profound peace,” says Mark. “He told me that children with special needs are the lucky ones. They go to heaven first – pure and simple. That turned it all around for me. We should be envious of her.”

Counting their blessings

Looking back on life with Marie over the last 12 years, the couple can count so many blessings. For one thing, Marie’s six older siblings, now aged between 16 and 29 years, have observed that if not for Marie, they would have turned out more self-centred.

One of the biggest challenges for the couple was finding the right place for Marie to be educated and included. “Now I understand the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady,” Monica says. “The sword shall pierce your soul. Until Marie started growing up I never really understood that. But as I watched her try to integrate with other children and being excluded from activities because she was different, I felt such pain.” She found that the schools for children with special needs were neither suitable nor what she desired for her daughter.

The couple searched in vain for a suitable solution. Monica had a career in Early Learning and had researched education for children with special needs. So she knew there was a better way. She tried to introduce the teaching to schools, but no one was willing to take it up fully. So in 2014, when Marie was 8, Monica knew that she had to take it on herself. She looked at Marie’s current needs, and they were not being addressed by anything in the school system. So the couple took Marie out of the system, and that’s how Rosebrook came about in late 2014.

Rosebrook Developmental Centre is a safe place for children, both typically developing and those with special needs, to learn together through play, drawing on the children’s strengths and building upon their natural abilities to form neural pathways in the brain. The successes that Monica’s team brings about for the children at Rosebrook are testament to how well the Rosebrook way works. The Centre is changing lives.

“God made clear, as he closed every other door, that we had to start Rosebrook,” recalls Monica. It was a calculated risk but everything fell into place really quickly and in two months everything was up and running. Rosebrook began under circumstances of great uncertainty, but three years on, God continues to make a way, despite all the challenges.”

When one door shuts, another opens

“Our vision is to build a community where people with special needs are naturally included,” states Monica. “And that is what we have started with Rosebrook. Through Marie’s unconditional love, we have been able to give others in the community the same love. We never planned to build Rosebrook. That’s been God’s hand in our journey for sure.”

Mark and Monica advise parents expecting or parenting children with special needs to be humble and ask for help when they need it. To be aware that fear does not come from God, and that the fears are far worse than the reality that materialises. Their final advice: Surround yourself with positive people who build you up rather than tear you down. Some people are more well-meaning than wise. Trust in God and know that He has the best path for you.

The Gift of Light

When the Wang family heard the news that mum Alice was expecting her fourth child, everyone was excited. She was in her late thirties at that time, so her doctor advised her to have an amniocentesis test due to the higher risk of the baby having Down Syndrome. But Alice and her husband, Kok Wing, refused.

“This child is a gift from God, and we didn’t see the point of risking a miscarriage with the test since we would proceed with the pregnancy regardless,” explains Kok Wing.

“Moreover, I wanted to enjoy the pregnancy without having to worry,” adds Alice, “and how much can you prepare anyway?”

Reactions

When Joseph was born, the paediatrician saw signs of Down Syndrome and ordered blood tests, which turned out to be positive. When the news was broken to the family, each member had very different reactions.

The couple’s three daughters, Josephine, Marie and Michelle, were over the moon. The eldest daughter, Josephine, was 10 at the time. They were all too young to really understand the implications for Joseph. They loved the idea of having a brother who was different.

Alice was calm and accepting of the situation. “I saw it as a new chapter in my life. My trust in God prepared me for this.”

Kok Wing, however, had a much harder time dealing with the family’s new reality.

“My heart was crushed. I had anxieties and doubts about what will happen next and how to cope. I wrestled with ‘Why me, God? How can it be? Where did I go wrong?’ Is this a punishment?” Kok Wing explains. “What made it worse was that I couldn’t share my thoughts with them without spoiling their joy.”

A movement of the Spirit

It wasn’t until much later when a priest asked Kok Wing to help put together a Christmas pageant that things turned around for him. The economy was down, people were losing their jobs and the community needed hope. He explained to Kok Wing that there was so much joy in children with special needs and the family’s participation would make a difference.

“During one rehearsal, I broke down and wept for the first time,” Kok Wing recalls. “I wept to the point that the choir members started to worry for me. But I knew it was a movement of the Spirit, which released my fears. After that release, it was upwards from there.”

Reflecting the value of the Gospel

The family was introduced to the Faith and Light Community, which focuses on people with intellectual disabilities. The community recognises that such people bear gifts in their hearts that “normal” people have lost.

“Their innocence reflects the values of the Gospel, which are lost in today’s world,” explains Kok Wing. “These people are trusting, forgiving, spontaneous and affectionate.”

A connector of people

Having Joseph has brought our family even closer to one another, as well as to the local community. “Many around here know Joseph, and we have made many pleasant connections through him,” Alice says.

A connector of people

Having Joseph has brought our family even closer to one another, as well as to the local community. “Many around here know Joseph, and we have made many pleasant connections through him,” Alice says.

It was Father John Baptist Tou who gave Joseph his name, meaning “light of the world”. The name turned out to be prophetic.

“His trusting and affectionate ways build bridges with people and warm their hearts. Often at Mass, Joseph will bring people to us and make us shake hands,” says Josephine. “So we’ve gotten to know the congregation better through Joseph’s light.”

Family blessings

Living with Joseph presents challenges. He is less able to perform many daily tasks such as cleaning himself. He struggles with reading and counting. He has his mood swings. Through the family’s involvement in his development over the years, they, too, have matured and grown closer together. “If not for Joseph, perhaps the family could have been different; maybe more inward looking and individualistic,” says Alice.

Joseph has taught them the joy of unconditional love, to not hold grudges and to be sensitive to the needs of others. With him, the couple is also forced to review their parenting skills. Alice explains: “We were authoritative parents until Joseph came along; he changed us for the better.”

“We hope Joseph’s example can give hope to anxious expecting mothers to keep their babies,” she adds. “God doesn’t make junk. Having a special child will challenge you to love as Jesus knows you are capable of. Just trust Him.”

Archdiocesan Commission for the Family

Archdiocesan Commission for the Family