According to the Canadian statistics, 1.5% of all children in Canada have a severe or very severe disability. 1 in 66 children are on the Autism Disorder Spectrum. My son is one of them, and if you are a parent of child with special needs like me, there may be days where you feel all alone in your struggle, losing faith in God or even feeling isolation in the faith community.
Every child is made in the image of God, has a divine capacity to reason, to understand, to care, to love and to lead. (Reggie Joiner)
Mark 12:30-31 “Love your neighbors as yourself” is our church motto for the year of 2019. The Pastors at North Toronto Chinese Baptist Church set the dates March 30-31 as “NT Special Needs Awareness Days” to raise the awareness to those families who have family members with special needs.
We invited Rev. Cynthia Tam who is the national coordinator for disability ministries for the Christian Missionary Alliance. She shared the three-folder model of the special needs ministry to educate our leaders. In the afternoon, she trained our volunteers who serve children with regards to the practical and effective strategies.
On Sunday, Andrea Foster who is the director of disability ministry along with three other parents of children with special needs, shared their testimonies in all three-languages (Chinese, English and Mandarin) services. Additionally, all the pastors wore something blue to show their support on the awareness Sunday.
Andrea also led a children’s program called “Everyone fits”. We set up three learning stations: “Visual impairment station”, “Quadriplegic station” and “Everyone fits station” to allow children to experience what it means to live with a disability. Andrea shared her testimony with the children about how God used her experiences to bless others and encourage children to be more acceptable and more proactive to care for the people around them.
In summary of the awareness days, being a parent of a special needs child, it was a blessing to see that my church is willing to open and learn the different needs of diverse groups. At the same time, being children’s pastors, God acted profoundly to our children and the next generation. They are more accepting, and they are more open to different cultures, backgrounds and shapes of people than we are. If our children and next generation are able to accept them, what about us?
Catherine Chan is on the pastoral team at North Toronto Chinese Baptist Church serving in Children’s Ministry.
Learn more about Andrea Foster and the resourcing she offers here.