Recently my wife and I attended a very special 40th birthday party. Stephen was born with multiple disabilities, both physical and mental. He was Carla and Franco’s first child and the full extent of his disabilities only became apparent after he was born. A doctor at the hospital, who realised the implications of Stephen’s disabilities and, no doubt, wanted to help, advised Carla and Franco to leave Stephen in the hospital and carry on with their own lives. They didn’t take his advice.
The challenges of caring for Stephen were very great, but Carla and Franco committed themselves to his care. Although Stephen cannot speak he has always known that he is loved. His mother has gladly given her life to caring for him. She is a wonderful example of motherhood and unconditional love. Caring for Stephen has not meant social isolation but has brought a wide circle of friends who have played a part in encouraging and supporting Stephen and Carla over the past 40 years. Stephen now lives in a house in the community with a wonderful team of carers. More than 100 people came to his 40th birthday party including family members, friends, social workers, carers and other disabled people.
When Stephen was in his early teens Carla met some Christians who began to help with Stephen’s care and shared with her the good news about Jesus. As a result Carla experienced God’s love in Jesus and became a Christian. Soon after Stephen became seriously ill and lost his sight. He was so ill that it looked as if he was going to die. Carla and Franco prayed to God for his help. They remembered how a man called Jairus came to Jesus pleading on behalf of his 12 year old daughter who was dying. Jesus responded to Jairus’s urgent request and healed the little girl.
One evening Carla and Franco and the church leaders met to ask God to make Stephen well, although, at that time, the future was very uncertain. God heard their prayers. Stephen began to recover and now 25 years later is really well. He knows God’s love for him and is a member of the church family. He loves coming to the services. At the birthday party everyone sang Stephen’s favourite hymn, “Living he loved me; dying he saved me; Buried he carried my sins far away! Rising, he justified freely for ever; One day he’s coming – O glorious day!”