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1. A Special Gift From God

Chapter 1

A Special Gift From God

Pearl Bong, March 2002


My husband and I, together with our ten-month-old daughter, moved from Jakarta to Singapore in July 1990. We were as aliens in a strange land for we did not know anyone in Singapore. Three months after settling down on this island-nation, I discovered that I was expecting again. It was God’s will for us to have our second child for we did not plan for that at all.

Towards the seventh month of pregnancy, I was suffer­ing from some physical discomfort, and was told that the baby will arrive sooner than expected. Indeed the baby arrived prematurely. On the day of his arrival, I could barely hear his faint cry. Later we received the news from the doctor that the baby’s lungs were not fully developed. There was an infection in his lungs and he was unable to breath normally. The doctor told us that the baby had to be placed in a ventilator until he recovers, at a cost of about S$1000 per day to keep the baby alive.

I saw my baby in the intensive care unit. There were so many tubes going through his nose and mouth, and he was crying in pain. I longed to hold my baby in my arms but I could only stroke his head gently. Fear began to creep into my heart. I began to doubt, and said to myself, “Will my baby survive this ordeal?”

Day and night I wept before the Lord, pleading with Him to save my baby. A week passed and the doctor finally managed to cure the infection in his lungs. She gave the green light for my baby to be transferred — finally! — to the incubator. That was the first time after his birth that I held my baby in my arms. I cannot describe the joy of my heart at that moment. All I knew was that God had heard my plea, and I was grateful to Him.

During that time, my husband and I were not attached to any church, for we were in search of a church where we could worship the almighty God Yahweh. Beyond that, we were seeking God’s will for us here in Singapore. We did attend one of the Baptist churches, but we were not regular members yet. No one in that church got to know us, for there were about 400 people attending the Sunday Worship Service. At that juncture, we did not get support from anyone, and all that we could do was to pray that God would have mercy upon us and help us through that difficult moment. Indeed God was good to us, and finally the long awaited day had come for us to bring our baby home after ten days of treatment in the hospital. Praise the Lord for His mercy and love!

On the day our baby was discharged, he looked so tiny. I could see that he was reduced to skin and bones due to the pain and suffering he went through. It really pained my heart to see him in this state. Nevertheless I thanked God for letting him live. God knew the limits of how much I could bear, and He would never allow me to be tested be­yond that. Indeed this baby brought joy to all of us at home. I thanked God for allowing me to experience the power of His love.

We named our baby boy Brendon. As I observed Brendon, he was a cute and quiet boy who was very adorable, and had big eyes. Most of the people we met could not stop admiring his adorable face. We delighted in God’s gift to us. Brendon was a quiet boy and seldom gave us problems.

A most crushing news

On his third birthday, something unexpected happened. Looking back, I thank God that in His timely intervention, we discovered that our son was not what we had thought him to be. A psychologist confirmed that our son is suffer­ing from a lifelong psychological disorder called “autism”. We had no clue as to what autism is all about. After we were given a detailed explanation, we were shocked to learn that it was an incurable psychological disorder. An autistic individual lives in a world of his own. He cannot socialize, and may have severe speech disorders. We were told that he would have to attend a special school for an interven­tion program, which would cost about S$1600 per month.

It was as if my beautiful dream was shattered. I burst into tears at that instant. It was the darkest moment of my life. I returned home that day in a state of devastation. I stared at my son for as long as I could remember, yet I saw no traces of abnormality in him. He was very handsome and did not have any abnormal features. It cannot be true that he is autistic! I wept and mourned before the Lord.

I was caught in a dilemma, and could not accept the fact that he is autistic. Many questions and doubts came into my mind. I could not eat my meals and was totally listless for about two weeks. I remember that my husband was in a state of depression, too. Our daughter Sharon was five years old at that time, and was too young to understand what was happening.

Nevertheless, I thanked God that we found Christian Disciples Church that year (1994). I was facing an intense struggle between God’s will and my own will: I could not understand why God had given me three wonderful years of raising up my cute little boy, only to discover he was not a normal kid three years later. Was God playing a prank on me? It was very painful for me to accept what was happen­ing. I could not submit to God’s will at that moment for I did not understand His will for me. I wanted to give up my Christian faith and return to my old way of life.

I blamed myself for what happened to Brendon because I was the one who gave birth to him. On the other hand, I could not understand how a God of love could inflict so much pain on His loved ones. It was difficult to see that He is a God of love who will never forsake us.

God’s reassurance

I earnestly prayed that God would reveal His will to me, and He did. Lo and behold, I chanced upon an article in a newsletter which had a story about the angels of God discussing with God as to whom they should give a special baby. God’s reply was that the special baby will be given to the one who can shower him with special love and care.

Immediately I under­stood that Brendon is a special gift from God, and that God will enable my husband and me to raise him up in accordance with His will. The Spirit of God led me to study the account of Job’s life. Job suffered not because he sinned; all the evil things that happened to him were within God’s control. Although Job suffered, he did not blame God.

The Word of God spoke to me at that moment and I was lifted up by the power of His love. I was deeply touched by His concern for my plight and I knew He cares so much for me. As it is written in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those … who are called according to His purpose.” (NASB)

I thanked the Lord for enlightening me. I then decided to follow the Lord no matter what happens. Deep within my heart, I believe that God’s grace, power and strength will enable me to press on. As Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” I was determined to live a victorious life with His strength.

However, I realized that I had not died to the old man completely, which means I must say goodbye to my old way of life (Romans 6:6). As a result of that, I constantly faced a struggle over the thought that Brendon is autistic because I sinned. I earnestly prayed for assurance from God. Once again God heard my cry, and one day He sent one of His servants to our house. He is a missionary and he prayed for our whole family during the visit. Through that prayer, my husband and I received the assurance from God that it was not our fault that we have an autistic child. It was as if we heard God’s voice speaking to our hearts and we were both in tears as the Holy Spirit touched our hearts. It was the first time I witnessed my husband in tears. We thanked God for the assurance of His love for us and that He will carry us through each and every stormy period.

After that prayer, I could sense that the Lord had lifted all my burdens away. He had turned my mourning into joy; there was an inner peace within me that I had not experienced for quite a while. I praised Him over and over again. He is the Good Shepherd who has directed me out of the valley of darkness. I could feel God’s love enveloping me. Although my heart was unsure as to how to raise up this child, I was determined to surrender my whole family to the Lord. I knew that God is in control and that only He knows what lies ahead, for He holds the future. I knew that the path ahead will be difficult, but deep within, I was certain that God’s grace and power is sufficient to carry me through. As His Word has promised in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

Struggling with Brendon’s behavior

We enrolled our son in a special school immediately. He was totally unable to speak at that time and had severe behavioral problems. In the first term, the teacher had to train him to sit and pay attention during lessons. Brendon had a short attention span and could not sit on the chair for even one minute. He would engage in some unusual behavior and could not understand a single word. He did not even know his own name. We tried very hard to teach him the word “wait,” and it took him months to understand the meaning of that word.

I recall the frustration and anger within my heart when­ever we were at public places. Eyes from all directions were staring at us as if we were hopeless parents who did not know how to discipline our son. In each moment when my son was impa­tient and misbehaved, I cried out to God, but God seemed far away and did not come to my aid. I was full of anger because I felt I was being tested beyond my strength, yet the Word of God says we will not be tempted beyond our ability to bear, but God will provide the way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). But where is the help? What is the way of escape? I could not give thanks to God at all. Each time that happened, I sinned, for my heart was angry with God. I failed to understand what God was trying to teach me.

On many occasions, I lost control of myself for I could not stand my son’s behavioral problems. I lost patience with him, for he could not understand a single word of what I said. Due to his inability to understand, he was unable to follow instructions.

Once I was so angry with him that I caned him; I threw the footstool on the floor and it broke apart. I remember him crying in pain. I hugged him tightly, and I was weeping with so much pain in my heart. I told the Lord that when I caned my son, it hurt him physically; but I was hurt even deeper, for it was as if a sharp dagger pierced through my heart. I knew I had failed the Lord and had fallen into temp­tation. I pleaded for God’s forgiveness again and again.

Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, I joined the train­ing program at church, and began to understand what commitment is all about. I learned the importance of total commit­ment and that one has to live a life that abides in Christ constantly (John 15), for apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5). I knew I was treading on a difficult path and have to be courageous. In my own strength I will not be able to accomplish anything. Only by the grace of God will I be able to win every single spiritual battle. I was determined to pursue the Lord even though I had failed the test time and again. In His time, the Lord showed me that the attitude of a true disciple is to serve. He is our master and we are His slaves. I stopped demanding that God be at my beck and call whenever I am in need.

As I have shared, my son cannot talk. We consulted speech therapists. We sought help from psychologists and many experts in this field. I began to realize that I was searching everywhere in the world for a solution to my son’s problem. We spent lots of money only to buy some comforting thoughts that we were doing something for our son. I consulted the teachers on how to teach my son, and I spent most of my time preparing teaching materials for him. All I had in mind was to do everything possible to make him “normal”. There were many disappointments as we saw that our son still remained speechless and was not making much progress.

Reconnecting with God

It was then that God revealed Himself to me once again. He asked me, “Why are you seeking a miracle cure for your son in this world? I am the answer.” I was stunned. Truly, I have been drawn to this world, thinking that there is a solution to my problem somewhere. In fact the answer is with Him who holds the future and is in control of every­thing.

Indeed the Lord is good all the time. He knew my spirit­ual state at that time. I was slowly drifting away from Him, yet thinking I was still treading on the right path. However, the Lord had never given up on me. He enabled me to see that I must surrender all to Him and be totally committed to Him. I realized that my commit­ment to Him has to be 100%, for no partial commitment will ever save me. I was remorseful for all that I had done and I repented before the Lord once again. I began to expe­rience God’s power of transformation at work within me. All that I wanted to do was to know Him more, and to understand His perfect will for my life. I committed my son and my whole family into His hands, knowing that God will supply all our needs in His time and in accordance with His will.

I learned the importance of being absolutely honest with God. I told the Lord it was beyond my ability to under­stand my son. I pleaded before the Lord to show me how to communicate with him.

A hopeful start

Amazingly, my son came to understand the word “wait” and to know his name. My heart was overwhelmed with joy although he knew only one word. That was enough to assure me that God is able. It was a miracle! I stopped pre­paring teaching materials, and confessed before the Lord that it was beyond my ability to teach my son. I asked the Lord to teach my son in line with what He will permit him to learn, in His time.

As the days went by, we were told that it was almost impossible for him to have any speech, and that we must teach him sign language to enable him to communi­cate with us. Ever since I entrusted my son to the Lord, I stopped listening to others’ opinion for I had decided to follow God’s instructions.

In 1996, the Lord prepared my son for a special treat­ment called “Tomatis Treatment” to help him to articulate. There were parents who sent their kids for this treatment and had no results at all. So it was wonderful to see another miracle in my son’s life. He began to say words although without clarity of speech. But in May 1997, he was able to call me “Mummy” for the first time! That truly melted my heart; I cried before the Lord with tears of joy. That was the best Mother’s Day gift for that year. Once again, the Lord had turned my mourning into joy, and that joy was indes­cribable!

It was also in that year that my son began to join us at mealtime. For many years, he would refuse to eat any­thing but potatoes. He would eat potato chips and French fries only.

But God was very gracious to him. He took care of my son for I could see that he looked radiant and healthy. Our friends and relatives wondered what food we were feeding him because he appeared very strong and healthy indeed. We knew it was by God’s grace, love and mercy poured upon my son that he could be a healthy boy despite the unbalanced diet.

The Lord removed his fear of new foods and he began to sit at the dining table with us. I waited almost four years for my son to eat a meal with us. That was another miracle! Wow! I thanked the Lord that we are, at last, a complete family at the dining table. Praise the Lord!

Throughout the years, I could see how the Lord provided teachers to meet my son’s need. On a few occasions, we came across some unqualified teachers. I guess those were the times in which our faith was being tested. We had to look to the Lord for help, and He showed us His unfailing love and faithfulness. He removed those teachers and assigned new teachers to teach Brendon. We saw God’s mighty hand at work; He sorted everything out so beauti­fully. Moreover, I realized that my son progressed much more without me spending time teaching him. That was truly amazing! The Lord taught him through many ways.

We could also see that the Lord enabled my son to com­municate with us through writing. In 1999, we discovered that he had a photographic memory for words. He could write out any length of words after taking just one glance. Although he had minimal speech, he could communicate with us through writing. We praise and thank God for the skills given to my son. He is also very talented in drawing. He could observe every single detail of the things around him and draw them with much clarity. God has been very good to my son despite his psychological condition.

A year later, God opened his vocal cords to enable him to speak. He was able to speak simple sentences with clarity. We taught him to pray and to sing praises to God. The desire of my heart is that my son will know there is a God who has been constantly helping him, enabling him to do things which are considered impossible in the sight of the world. I prayed that someday he too will testify with his own lips that God is real.

It has been seven years since we discovered our son’s psychological problem. Life has not been easy for all of us at home. My husband and I experienced a very unique and special love from God, which motivates us to love our son. We have become God’s channel of love to our son. Without God’s power and grace, we would not be able to survive all the hardships in the past seven years.

We also thank God for giving us a daughter who is able to bear with her brother at all times. Although she had to miss out on a lot of fun and enjoyment at a young age, yet she did not complain and blame her brother. I am amazed how God worked in her heart at such a tender age that she could be so mature to understand and cope well. I could see God’s mighty work in her life, too.

After experiencing God’s reality on so many occa­sions, I appreciated Him for putting me in impossible situations. I have experienced God’s strengthening my faith through each and every trial. I felt that I have grown spiritually. If my son’s psychological problem could be cured through worldly means, I would have solved all his problems in my own strength. Precisely because it is incurable, I had to be totally submissive to the will of God. Indeed how true are Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “… for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (NASB) It is when we are weak that we can become God’s channel of power, such that His power may be manifested through us and that the world may know that He is the true and living God.

As I end my sharing, my husband and I would like to give all glory, honor and praise to our God who is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen.


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