Today’s post was contributed by Cynthia Tam, President of Village Eulogia out of Scarborough, Ontario. She is also the General Manager of Camp Eulogia. Cynthia is a pastor with professional background in occupational therapy.
Welcome to Holland (link here), written by Emily Perl Kingsley, describes in a vivid way the surprise and adjustments families need to make when they learn of their child’s disabilities. Disability affects the whole family. It no doubt challenges the relationship between the parents, but it also affects the siblings and the extended family. Some families were drawn closer as they support each other on the journey. Others, unfortunately, are affected in more significant ways. For instance, divorce rate amongst couples with children with disabilities are higher than the general population. This situation points out that support is necessary before demands for care put a significant strain on family relationship. A healthy family is crucial for every person in the family, but it is particularly important for the children in the families – disabled and non-disabled alike.
The awareness for the need to support families with children with disabilities is what motivated me and other members of the core team at Village Eulogia to found this organization. Over the years, we have been working to strengthen relationships between couples, parents and siblings, and parents and children with disabilities. As we work alongside the families, we began to experience disability as a gift from God. Through disability, God taught us more than we ever imagined. Our volunteers often say to us that they experience the transforming power of God as they serve the children and their families. They learn from parents what unconditional love looks like. They experience the pure joy of a child with disability; and they witness how God ministers to the families. As a group, we experience what it means to be a Christian community.
Disability is a life-long challenge. As the children with disabilities grow up, their care needs do not often decrease. In some cases, they might even increase. Yet as the children grow into adulthood, aging will catch up with their parents. At Village Eulogia, as we grow up with the children we started off with, we begin to realize that what families need is more than occasional respite care and an annual summer retreat. The support needs to be available year round and throughout the lifetime of the person with disability and his or her family. It is not a task a small organization like ours can or should take on. What the families need is an extended family and a loving community that the local churches can offer. With that insight, we are joining other Christian organizations involved in disability care to reach out to churches; inviting them to be places of belonging for families with children with disabilities. God gifted Village Eulogia with a team of people with professional training and experience in working with children with disabilities. It is our desire and prayer that God would allow us to share our expertise and experience with churches as they welcome families with children with disabilities into the life of their churches.