JAMs’ ministry and RAYZ’s second GO Conference, held on May 10, looked into the needs of the sibling of special needs children.
The dynamics of a family with special needs children are vastly different from those of other families. While parents pay special attention to their child with special needs, they have to ensure that their other children are not neglected in the process.
To help church workers and family members navigate this challenging terrain, City Harvest Church’s JAMs ministry (a ministry supporting the intellectually-challenged), together with CHCSA’s RAYZ service for special needs individuals, conducted the GO Conference 2014, which focused on the perspectives of siblings of people with special needs.
Titled “Remember Me”, the four-hour conference provided a platform for siblings, parents and experts to share their personal experiences with their family members who have special needs. In the closing session, Lily Yong, the pastor in charge of the JAMs ministry, shared a message to encourage the congregation and ministering in prayer.
One of them was Andrew. He shared that his younger sister Priscilla always wore sunglasses because she suffered from high low dramatic emotion (one form of autism). While Andrew struggled with her condition when he was young, he really loved Priscilla and eventually realized that there was nothing to be ashamed of.
Andrew shared that one of the verses he held close to his heart was Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
The next session, “Connecting Heart” saw two mothers sharing their experiences. No matter how busy they were, they never complained because of the love they have for their children. They shared that while it is not easy, they know that God has a plan for their family and the only way to handle the children is through reading and applying the Word of God.
ME AND MY SPECIAL SIBLING
Karina Chai, a consultant educational psychologist shared her perspective on people with special needs. “Autism is not a sickness but another way of thinking,” she explained. Chai also said that growing up with a sibling who has special needs has its benefits.
Firstly, a child growing up with a sibling with special needs may face more situations that demand flexibility and problem-solving skills. Secondly, they learn to build their character at an early age: sensitivity to others, insight into someone else’s life, ability to get along with others, tolerance of differences, compassion and patience, among others.
“These are characteristics which will serve them well in other situations,” Chai said.
MY BROTHER’S KEEPER
“You don’t choose your family; they are God’s gift to you as you are to them,” said Yong as she rounded up the conference with a message. She shared from 1 Thessalonian 5:8, which says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
When Yong started the ministry, she knew that God had spoken to her clearly that this is what He wanted her to do with her life. She believed that wherever God guides, He will provide. She encouraged the audience to believe that God will provide a plan for them as well.
“Everyone is unique. The fact is, everyone has special needs. Accept them with a heart of gratitude,” she said.