Publicly, it seemed like Stephanie had the perfect life. She was a talented concert pianist and the wife of a successful businessman but privately, she struggled almost daily ‘against the depression and stigma that came with being the mother of a severely handicapped son’. Her oldest son, Joseph (they have five children) was born with autism. In Stephanie’s Korean culture, children with disabilities are ‘considered a disgrace and it’s not unusual for families to hide their disabled children away’. She felt incredible shame.
One afternoon, Stephanie received a phone call that would change her life forever. Joseph, 8 at the time, was in the hospital from a drowning accident while on a school field trip. In that instant, she realised the only thing that mattered was that Joseph would be alive. During the 10-minute drive that felt like eternity, Stephanie pleaded with God to spare her son’s life who was on life support. She asked God for forgiveness for her attitude.
The next morning, Joseph opened his eyes. Her prayers had been answered. Not only that, during that awful night, her depression lifted. She says, “…before I used to complain and ask God, ‘Why me?’ Nothing has changed for Joseph and yet now I am so thankful for him; so full of love towards him…he’s handicapped, and he’s a blessing”.
The knowledge of God’s love for her is what enables her to carry on. “…instead of allowing negative feelings to overwhelm her, she needs to pour out her heart to the God who loves her and who alone knows the plan and purpose for Joseph’s life – as well as her own”.
Sometime later, Stephanie met with four other mums, total strangers but in similar situations, to share their pain, loneliness and frustration. Their gathering became a monthly event. Eventually, Stephanie felt God telling her to start a Bible Study group. Stephanie knew she couldn’t have made it without God. “Sure other people comforted me through this, but true comfort and peace; you can only get that from God”.
At first, there were just 5 women: 3 Christians, an agnostic and a Buddhist. Within 6 months, the Buddhist mother made Jesus her Lord and Saviour. Stephanie was told, “You know, Joseph is a missionary. It’s because of him that you started this group and without this group I would never have become a Christian”. Stephanie wept. You see, when she was pregnant with Joseph, she prayed that God would use him to be a pastor or a missionary. Isn’t God amazing?
(A snippet from an article by Andrea Meneary on the life changing journey of Stephanie and her autistic son which is told in Stephanie’s book, “Joe’s Table: Hi, my name is Joseph, What’s your name?”).