Living with Jack
On the 5 January 2002 we had twin boys, Jack and Sam. Twelve hours following the birth our joy was replaced with shock and sadness as Jack was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome. During this emotional roller coaster God blessed us both with a peace and trust in Him as well as a deep felt love for both our boys.
Due to misconceptions our early thoughts of Jack’s Down’s syndrome were negative and of something that would only present problems and difficulties. Jack is now eight and we have come to appreciate that it is integral to who Jack is, forming part of his character and personality that we love. We don’t often think about him having Down’s syndrome, he is just Jack, our son, and he is exactly how God made him and meant him to be.
Jack is generally happy and content, when he smiles his whole face lights up. He has a fantastic sense of humour and always makes people laugh and smile. He lives very much for the moment, never looking back or worrying about the future. Whoever he meets he seems to touch in a very special way.
Church and school
Jack is very much part of our church family but it took a long time for him to cope in a whole church situation. He used to walk in to the service and shout, ‘Bye John’ (our pastor), and run straight back out again, much to the amusement of the congregation! It has taken lots of patience, persistence and prayer but now he sits quite happily. He goes to Sunday school and we are amazed at his memory for Bible stories. He enjoys climbing into the pulpit after the service to read the Bible and give out hymns. (He has no hesitation doing this even when we visit other churches!) He has also recently volunteered himself to put away the projector at the end of the service, thankfully with significant help from one of our deacons. Jack also attends church youth club where he proudly helps to register all the children. We are thrilled at these very practical ways in which he can be part of church life.
Jack loves school. He is very much accepted and part of the school community. It is lovely to see the children around him being so caring and helpful towards him. It was a real answer to prayer and demonstration of God’s faithfulness when he was recently blessed with a Christian one-to-one teaching assistant. It has made a real difference and he has made so much progress. He has a great male teacher who was not impressed when Jack told him he looked like Cliff Richard!
Each day’s different
There is never a dull day living with Jack. You just don’t know what will happen next. When he met his Dad’s boss for the first time (the managing director of a national company) he pointed at him and shouted, ‘You’re fired!’ – thankfully he saw the funny side! A couple of weeks ago Jack was found packing his suitcase. He said he was going to America with our pastor’s daughter who was apparently buying the tickets. He is always singing and dancing and is currently obsessed with the musical Oliver, and after 1,000 viewings the whole family know it word for word!
It is such a joy to watch Jack develop. His progress is always in small steps but each one takes so much effort and is a massive achievement for him. He received the ‘man of the match’ trophy in his football team a couple of weeks ago because he finally managed to kick the ball during a match. He held the trophy high over his head and everyone clapped. That was one small step for man but one giant leap for Jack.
There are hard days when Jack is particularly stubborn and doesn’t co-operate. Or days when you are constantly fighting other people’s preconceived ideas about Down’s syndrome but God continues to be faithful and provide. His grace has proved to be sufficient for each situation we face.
Lessons we’ve learned
We have learnt so much from having Jack in our family. He is always content with what he has, never asking for anything. On Christmas morning he needs constant reminding that there are more presents in his sack whilst being thrilled and satisfied with the one he’s just opened. This often puts us to shame when even as Christians we can be materialistic in our thinking.
He has opened up a whole new mission field for us. We are meeting families and individuals through Jack that we would never have met. He also challenges us to share our faith with the people we meet. We were sitting in a packed doctors’ waiting room and everyone was silent when Jack said aloud, ‘Come on Dad, tell everyone about God’s kingdom’. What a challenge! Jack is also a constant reminder of the simplicity and universality of the gospel. It is for all, regardless of disability or intellectual ability.
Life with Jack has challenged us in ways we could never have imagined, and we’re sure will continue to do so. It has raised many questions for us about church and people with disabilities; we would like to finish by challenging you with those questions:
- Are our churches actively involved in reaching out to people with disabilities? What activities are provided for them? The Bible is full of stories of our Saviour meeting the needs of people with disabilities and ultimately dealing with their sin. It’s a significant mission field.
- Are our churches providing the correct support/respite for families within the church who are caring for children and adults with disabilities?
- Are our churches actively encouraging the participation of people with disabilities in church life and service for God?
Andrew and Sarah Street are members of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Cardiff.