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Do Good

Everyone deserves a moment with God: Special needs and the Church

by | 27 July 2017, 12:07 PM

Several years ago, a life group in Hope Church Singapore found itself with four unique cell members – each of whom had special needs. With no experience in caring for people with special needs, a few leaders in Hope Church decided to meet and pray over this life group’s new situation.

They then set out to serve and disciple their Friends – this is how members with special needs are addressed – through informal meetings. 

Thus was birthed SHINE, a ministry that now conducts a church service for almost 20 people, which includes both Friends and their family members.

“God goes before us – we just follow,” says Edison, one of SHINE’s founders. It’s a bold and radically different sentiment from what he once thought in private: “Can’t ‘they’ just go somewhere else?”

Edison setting up tables and chairs for the service.

Edison is the first person I meet early the morning I visit the church. He’s a large, cheerful man in his 30s, preoccupied with moving dozens of chairs and tables around the auditorium we were in.

As he offers me a firm and sweaty handshake, I notice Yingqi and Tivona – SHINE’s co-leaders – also working hard alongside him.

I realise they aren’t even setting up for their Friends yet — service would not begin until much later. SHINE’s volunteers are setting up for a session they call Heart Prep — a short thematic study of the Bible and a time of prayer for the service ahead.

There’s an air of excitement and anticipation in the air.

After Heart Prep, we proceed to the ground floor, by the busy main road. Eventually an old battered bus pulls in, filled with Friends who disembark to ebullient high-fives by Aaron, an experienced volunteer who had been waiting with a well-worn wheelchair.

The wheelchair is for Ah Wen — one of the more challenging Friends who SHINE serves. Ah Wen is in his late 20s, severely autistic and non-verbal. Ah Wen isn’t physically disabled, but he needs to be strapped to his wheelchair because he hits people when he’s moody.

Ah Wen has to be strapped to his wheelchair to prevent himself from hitting others or himself.

He also has to wear a helmet because when he can’t reach other people, he hits himself on the head, either with his hands or whatever he’s holding. Ah Wen is a very large man – he’s taller than everybody in SHINE – and he’s very strong.

That morning, Ah Wen refuses to get out of the bus. His mother looks on for a minute, before trying to pull him onto the wheelchair. But when she attempts to do so, Ah Wen resists, tugging at her blouse with surprising force.

After they finally manage to move him off the bus, Ah Wen has to be held by male volunteers as they strap him into the wheelchair, tying his hands to its armrests as gently as they can. Such physical restraint is practised with love in SHINE, with the consent of Ah Wen’s mother. It’s for his safety — as well as the volunteers’.

Once he is fully secured, we head up to the service upstairs.

With Ah Wen safely taken care of by SHINE volunteers, his mother collapses into a chair, relieved to finally have some time to herself.

As we wheel Ah Wen to the lift, we pass by a group of youths who glance over furtively. They can tell that Ah Wen has special needs, and are visibly uncomfortable with his grunting and involuntary shaking. None of them will look him in the eye.

Ah Wen is the biggest and loudest person in the church’s hallway – yet he is invisible. That breaks my heart.

As we enter the doors, Ah Wen’s mother sighs, “这两天我真的受不了了.” The last two days have been unbearable.

I can’t even begin to imagine her daily routine with Ah Wen — even just getting from the bus to the lift was an ordeal. For such caregivers, coming to Hope’s SHINE ministry must be an indescribable relief, like stepping indoors during a storm.

With Ah Wen safely taken care of by SHINE volunteers, his mother collapses into a chair, relieved to finally have some time to herself. Every morning the struggle begins anew, but for these 3 hours in SHINE — it’s like there’s a divine ceasefire. 

I’d never seen it this way till now. A mere 3-hour “sacrifice” for some of us might well be the most treasured and anticipated block of time in the lives of these Friends and their loved ones.

Edison and Yingqi with Ah Wen.

Worship begins, and strangely enough I can no longer hear Ah Wen acting up. He isn’t grunting anymore, the way he had been on the ground floor. I glance over to see Yingqi and Edison kneeling by his wheelchair.

They stay with him the whole service, praying over him, just being with him. Not once do they leave his side.

Whenever Ah Wen grows restless and starts to shake, Yingqi holds his hand and reassures him gently. She is a petite young woman, and it’s a beautiful display of kindness and boldness.

Ah Wen stomps his feet, and Edison intuitively knows that he wants a leg massage. He crouches in front of his wheelchair to ease his discomfort.

Witnessing such acts of love, I realise I’m seeing the people I first met earlier in the morning in a new light. To my mind, they’ve transformed into superheroes of the faith, all in the span of a few hours.

If God won’t turn His face from any of us, why should we look away from others in His church? How could we?

After worship, I ask Tivona if there are cases of Friends they are unable to take on. “There are no rules and no exclusions,” she says, although SHINE volunteers must exercise wisdom in the way they minister to various individuals.

Despite the caveat, I see unconditional love in her answer. 

My mind is filled with thoughts as the service ends and I head home on the train.

When we walk into a room before our Father God as His children, does He love one more than the other? Does He look at an athlete admiringly but pretend a person like Ah Wen isn’t there? 

If the answer is no – and surely it’s a resounding no – then we, too, must love all our brothers and sisters equally.

If God won’t turn His face from any of us, why should we look away from others in His church? How could we? 

Edison and the SHINE ministry volunteers.

I think back to something Edison shared during our conversation. It was about a dream he had about Ah Wen.

“It was me and Ah Wen in heaven. And Ah Wen looked at me and said, ‘Edison, thank you. Thank you for all your help to me when we were on Earth.’

“And I just cried and cried. I woke up crying.”

I see now that the need is so great. The harvest really is plentiful (Luke 10:2).

Some of us still perceive our Friends as people with broken minds, broken bodies. But we are all broken vessels – and in the spiritual realm I don’t believe they’re any more broken than we are.

So it makes perfect sense that we worship one God, under one roof, as one Church.

SHINE is a Special Needs Ministry from Hope Church Singapore. It aims to embrace people with special needs in God’s love, empowering every individual to be whom God has created them to be. It runs services every fortnight, on Saturday mornings. For more information, contact


Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.


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Do Good

Here I am, send … him

by | 14 August 2017, 5:05 PM

 “But Moses said, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send somebody else’.” (Exodus 4:13)

Early last year I was jogging along my usual route, to the bridge by the river. When I got there, I took my headphones off and, in the corner of my eye, I saw a migrant worker sweeping up leaves.

The first thought that came to mind was: Pray for him.

I simply began to pray. I offered up the usual words: “Lord, be real to him and let him find You. Send godly people into his life – send them his way that he may know You.”

But as I was praying, I felt a sudden weight in my heart which seemed to say: Maybe I am the one who should go. I should be that guy I’m asking God for.

I pray these prayers so often. But behind such prayers, there was a part of me that was hiding from what He’s called us – me – to do: Love one another and share the Gospel.

Please send somebody else. That’s what I’ve been praying.


I walked over to him. I greeted him, shook his hand. And we became friends: Sambak from Tamil Nadu, and Gabriel from Sengkang.

I didn’t really know what to say beyond the usual small talk, so I thanked him for keeping our country clean as he flashed a warm smile, nodding.

It was time to leave, and I said “Goodbye Sambak, see you.” He replied enthusiastically: “Tomorrow!”

Please send somebody else. That’s what I’ve been praying.

That night I wrote a letter with a verse, and put it – along with some money – into a red packet for Sambak. In the morning, I made the short drive to the bridge, praying along the way that God would help me to find Sambak.

I got out of the car and walked to the river, where Sambak was standing, at the promenade. It was just him and I at the water – a strange providence must have cleared the crowd for a conversation. We shook hands and I explained that as it was Chinese New Year, I wanted to bless him with the red packet.

He took it with both hands, with delight – but I had the distinct sense that he valued our new bond forged more than the money. I managed to pray with him, and he even introduced his friend Valaidum to me.

I see now that as I took a step of faith into Sambak’s life, God moved and blessed him through me.


Later as I drove home, I listened to Evidence by Elevation Worship, which features the church band playing a musical backdrop to Pastor Steven Furtick’s exhortations. The impassioned Pastor was shouting at the top of his lungs:

“We’re not waiting on the move of God, we are the move of God! We can’t stay here, we gotta go. We’ve got a church to keep, we got a God to serve. We’ve got a Gospel to preach. We’ve got broken hearts to bind. We’ve got hurting people to heal! Move, Church!”

It made so much sense to me. We must pray constantly, but we must also move.

This isn’t strictly theologically-sound practice, but because I had met Sambak at 9:12am, I decided to look up 9-12 in Romans 12 when I got home. In it, Paul says: “Do not be slothful in zeal”.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:9-12)

I realised my prayers were just that at times – slothful in zeal. I speak of change and desire it – yet am too lazy or unwilling to do anything about it myself.

At the end of the day, what is faith without deeds? (James 2:14-26)

We must pray constantly, but we must also move.

I write this without being legalistic. Neither am I on a performance treadmill. Prayer is amazing, but our work as disciples doesn’t stop there.

I believe there are times when it isn’t enough to just pray. We also need to move for God, and actually do what He has called us to.

Let’s be that guy we’re praying for God to send.


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Life on the edge of the spectrum

by Samuel Zechariah Goh | 5 August 2017, 4:30 PM

This article was written by a reader in response to Everyone deserves a moment with God: Special needs and the Church.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have superpowers? Or heightened senses? You might not have realised it, but there are such people around you.

Much like the X-Men, their gifts come at personal cost. These individuals are equally misunderstood as the heroes portrayed in the comics.

And as a person with high-functioning autism, I am one of them.


I don’t look any different from you. However, I do express myself very differently and have an amplified level of empathy. My ears often pick up the smallest things you might mutter.

I know, it does sound a little creepy.

Because my autism is mild, I was fully aware as an adolescent of my tics, quirks and abnormal emotional intensity. But as my church leaders and peers did not know how to look after and love someone like me, I often felt like a problem to be solved.

But I was often just misunderstood.

I’ve been called out for “wanting attention” when I had my anxiety episodes. Those episodes occurred whenever my self-condemnation got out of control in my mind. My brain would frequently go into overdrive, whirling with nothing but thoughts of never measuring up – that I was unloved and uncared for.

I often felt like a problem to be solved, but I was often just misunderstood.

And although my leaders were certainly aware that I had mild autism – they weren’t equipped to navigate my “episodes”. All I wanted was for someone to reassure me – to love me in my darker moments – but how do you love a problem?

A turning point came two years into my post-secondary education. I was participating actively in my cell group then, but I still felt left out somehow. I even felt left out in the service team I was a part of.

During one of these service team meetings, I looked out the window of the building we had our gatherings in and I was tempted to jump down – all I wanted was for them to care about me.

The silent cries of my heart were unexpectedly answered on the way home that night when one of the service team members asked me if I was okay. I knew that it was grace finding me, right when I was about to fall.

It doesn’t sound like much, but that was all I needed – for someone to show me that he or she cared.


Many years on, I’m still learning to accept who I am – to own my condition – and truly find my identity in Christ. I am who I am by the grace of God.

But what I’ve learnt from the early chapters of my life is that youth ministries should invest in equipping their members to care for those with special needs. I wish my church friends had known how to walk with me in love, instead of writing me off as another troubled youth just “asking for attention”.

What might it really look like if the Church wasn’t just a museum filled with good people – but a hospital for the broken?

There are many like me who go unnoticed – they might even be people who aren’t on the spectrum – who have troubled histories, baggage and nowhere to go.

They need Jesus like we all do. They need the Church too.

We’ve probably heard this quote many times before, but what might it really look like if the Church wasn’t just a museum filled with good people – but a hospital for the broken?


Now that I’m in university, I’ve been placed in a new varsity cell group in church. My leaders take good care of me and I’m surrounded by people who truly accept me. But I still feel for those who are walking the path I once did.

My heart cries out for young people like myself who are so pressured to put on that same “cool” face in church that they might be wearing every day in school just to look like they belong.

This is my dream for them: That they would come as they are and find unity amidst diversity. I desire this too for the lost, the broken and the misunderstood – that anyone who struggles with mental illness would never be made to feel like troublemakers.

I want to see such individuals embracing their superpowers, their gifts, and becoming living testimonies of God’s grace.

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27)

Even now, I am also learning to embrace who I am rather than suppressing that side of me. I’m letting God into my life, and He is using what I saw as mere stumbling blocks to build His kingdom.

He is turning them into the platform upon which I can stand and tell everyone of all He has done.

If you identify with what I’ve shared, I want to encourage you: Don’t despise who you are. God created you, and you are not a mistake. Don’t hide your tics or be ashamed of your disabilities. Own them.

Your brokenness in the eyes of the world shall one day be a weapon for His glory.

Your life will be a testimony of the miraculous power of Jesus Christ.

Make it count.


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What’s killing your kindness?

by Ng Jing Yng | 2 August 2017, 4:58 PM

Ever wondered what motivates you to do good? The key word here is “motivate”. The motivation, the impetus, that adrenaline that keeps you going.

The motivation behind human behaviour has always been a topic that fascinates me. It led me to the study of “behavioural economics”, where I learnt about policymakers tweaking policies to overcome stubborn human inertia.

For instance, to “nudge” couch potatoes to run, pairing them up with a gym goer buddy will help. To “nudge” people to pay their taxes, send them reminder letters emphasising they are the minority 10% who have yet to pay their dues.

As much as behavioural economics have helped to elicit pro-social behaviour, the conundrum that behavioural economists still face is sustainability.

However, as much as behavioural economics have helped to elicit pro-social behaviour, the conundrum that behavioural economists still face is sustainability. Remove the ‘nudge’ – the letters, the gym goer buddy – and human behaviour slips back to status quo.

I can attest to this just as much. I am not a naturally sociable person and I shrink in despair at networking events. But I forced myself to do it because it was part of my job as a reporter, or in actual fact, the fear of missing out on an exclusive story.

I am also not a naturally kind person, but I feel obliged to be kind to someone I dislike in hope that he or she will repay the favour one day.

At the end of it all, it is all about utility, the utility you can get out of someone that drives me to do good. I am guilty of this.

I’ve been reflecting on this over my past year pursuing my graduate degree at Oxford University. Oxford is a most peculiar place. You meet the brightest of minds and the most creative of souls, but it can also make you feel like living in an imaginary utopia sometimes.

Take my class for example: I have peers who played a key role in political revolutions, stood alongside presidents in electoral campaigns or are living in exile because they stood for democracy in their countries.

Nevertheless, during gatherings, there was never once we recalled an individual and his or her great public speaking skills or amazing econometric capabilities. Instead, it was kindness – kindness to others was the common theme that ran through our conversations when we spoke about others who touched our lives this past year.

Kindness don’t always come intuitively to us. Pride, selfishness and a whole string of other sins stand in the way. I’m not sure what keeps my peers going but it was God’s love that eventually won me over.

I learnt to be kind not because I expect a favour in return. I learnt to seek out the lonely because God came as I was trudging through my darkest times. God’s love inspires me to keep the momentum going.

“I kept looking at ‘what’s next, what’s next’ … but all this while, I forgot to look up.”

During my second term in Oxford, I was trapped emotionally and physically. The readings kept piling up and internally, I kept fighting against an overwhelming sense of inadequacy as I continuously held myself up against my peers. I was looking for something, someone to validate my worth. It was a relentless search that trapped me a vicious cycle.

Liberation finally came through an evangelical session. I wasn’t planning to go initially due to piles of readings waiting in my room but something in me said to go for the first 15 minutes. I went and stayed on for two hours.

The passage shared was Luke 15: 3-6. 

“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’” (Luke 15: 3-6)

The speaker spoke about his law career, having worked his way up from a poor town to Oxford University and earning his name in the law fraternity by winning lawsuits after lawsuits. But then he said: “I kept looking at ‘what’s next, what’s next’ … but all this while, I forgot to look up.”

Likewise, I was looking at the next essay, next reading, next distinction, everything but up to God. Despite this, He came looking for me. I can go on telling of the multiple occasions He came looking for me – when I was down in the pits, when I slipped into sin and even when I rebel.

God’s unfailing love for an undeserving me is my motivation. His love gives me the impetus and provides me with the adrenaline to do good.

This is how I now find myself writing this piece in Kenya, where I’m currently doing my internship at an NGO dealing in children’s welfare. I strive to do good. Even when it means going out of my comfort zone or overcoming my stubborn inertia.

As Eric Liddell said: “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

When I do good, I feel God’s pleasure.


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My way or a higher way?

by | 27 July 2017, 3:49 PM

The way we are in bad traffic — or in any trying situation for that matter — reveals a lot about our character. 

For instance, here’s some simple advice: if you’re thinking about marrying someone, observe him when he’s stuck in traffic. Or when she has to deal with bad Internet.

In these sort of scenarios, you’ll be able to learn if this person is kind and patient — or the sort to put down service staff at Singtel just to get a compensation voucher.

The point is, in situations such as when we’re driving, we get to choose if we react or respond to our circumstances. Each of these decisions goes some way into shaping who we become (Proverbs 1.31).

Personally, I’m still not the best Christian on the road. On my worst days, I’m entitled, I’m impatient — I’m angry. But on the better days where I responded — instead of reacting — God has done incredible things in my life.

In situations such as when we’re driving, we get to choose if we react or respond to our circumstances.

Here’s an example that stands out in my memory: in 2014, I would drive to school everyday, and there would always be an accident along some stretch of the highway. This was usually before 10am so that meant there’d be congestion — and a lot of inconvenience.

And as I drove, I’d always see an ambulance creeping up on the right at some point or another. I never thought much of it — I mean, accidents happen — normally I’d just get through the jam it caused and complain about it later to my classmates.

But one day, in the middle of another jam, it dawned on me that I could pray for the person inside who was hurting, maybe even fighting for his life. Or for that person who was desperately waiting for the ambulance to get to him.

So on that particular day, I chose to look past the inconvenience, respond well and pray.

I prayed for the wounded person’s healing and that he would come to know God in some miraculous way. I prayed again the next day, when another ambulance invariably passed me. And the next as I sped by the scene of an accident. And so on.

It wasn’t something I used to do, but I suddenly found myself praying every day.

My prayers soon began to stretch beyond the confines on my car. Eventually, I was praying for people I walked by on the streets — children, young people, old people, handicapped people. It didn’t matter.

Months passed as I prayed and prayed and prayed. A singular question began to grow in my heart: Where do all these prayers go?

I developed a faith conviction that every single word uttered in prayer to God is heard by Him.

I began to ask God if they mattered at all. Were my prayers making a difference? I didn’t want to be merely performing a ritual or going through the motion as I drove. (Short answer: they really do — see Revelations 8.3-4.)

By this point, I had been praying fervently for close to a year now. And on one of the days I was on worship team duty, an acquaintance approached me during the altar call. She said she had a word from God for me:

“God hears. He hears your cries.”

I can be pretty cynical as a person, but that was a game changer. From that moment on, there was a spark lit within me. I developed a faith conviction that every single word uttered in prayer to God is heard by Him.

My daily prayers became a lifestyle — a lifestyle developed from a single decision, made one morning in heavy traffic.

I think it’s really cool how God began to turn my life around from that one moment in the car. Things started to change. I began to care for others, and I would pray for them — try and meet their felt needs.

I began to do things I would never have done in the past — things on God’s heart that had been so unattractive to me.

I often wonder what kind of person I’d be now if I had simply chosen to complain about traffic in my head — just like all the other days before that first prayer. I’d rather not know how many ambulances God would’ve mercifully sent my way before I finally did things His way.

What I have learnt while driving is that simple decisions can have profound impacts and consequences.

*     *     *

A year after that change in me, I was driving near my place when a truck driver suddenly swerved into my lane. In all honesty, he could have so easily pinned me against the road barrier.  I was so angry for my life — he almost killed me! I was still shaken as I pulled up at the next red light.

As the car came to a stop — even in the fury of my heart — I felt a small, calm voice in my heart say:

Pray for him. He needs to be safe too. Pray for him.

I was so angry at this person. I wanted to be carnal about the whole thing. I wanted to react in the flesh: sound the horn for a good thirty seconds, get out of the car and find a way to end up on Stomp — but somehow I obeyed, and I prayed.

Father, please have mercy on him. Help him to be safe too. Let us both return safely to our families. Lord preserve his life. Thank you Father. Lord, grant us journey mercies. Lord have mercy …

As I finished the prayer, I noticed the song on the radio had changed since the near-accident. Hoobastank’s The Reason was playing, and I listened to the chorus in tears:

I’ve found a Reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
And the Reason is You.


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When the well runs dry

by | 20 July 2017, 9:33 PM

A job hazard for a writer is the fact that I feel like I have to continually draw from the well of my soul. It makes sense as a writer – that’s where you’d think most of the great stories come from.

But if you follow that logic, a day will come when I’ll run out of stories – I could potentially exhaust my reserves of life experiences, highs and lows.

It’s not exclusive to writing as a ministry. For instance, I know cell leaders who come up with fantastic care plans for their sheep, and dream big ideas for growth and multiplication.

But when either these plans fail or they start to run out of capacity to do everything planned, they end up burning out – wringing their hands in frustration at lost sheep.

When we reach the end of ourselves, we need to honestly examine if we’ve been leaning on the vine – where God’s strength and wisdom flows – or if we’ve just been drawing from their own wells.


Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

The vine doesn’t need the branches, but the branches need the vine. Just as we need God, we need to remain in Him if we are to bear fruit – or indeed if we are to live at all.

It’s tempting to believe we are capable of bearing fruit ourselves. It’s tempting to look at the number of salvations our events have gained, or the number of followers on our Instagrams, or the pageviews on our stories, and quietly believe we are the ones making all the difference.

It’s tempting to believe we are capable of bearing fruit ourselves.

Eventually, we get to a point where we believe the good work we’ve accomplished is all because of us.

But the truth from the Bible is that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. We simply cannot bear fruit of eternal value by ourselves. My “well” doesn’t run dry when I run out of great stories – it runs dry when I am not abiding by the vine.

I’ll tell the best stories when I’m daily sitting by the feet of He who gives me the words to write.


If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (John 15:6)

The warning isn’t just that we won’t bear fruit. If we miss the point, and fail to abide in Jesus – if we no longer depend entirely on him for life – then we risk death eternally.

We remain in God by walking closely to Him, devoting unhurried time to His Word and communion with Him.

We remain in God by utterly depending on Him, acknowledging that we are nothing apart from Him.

In Him, our finite time on earth has infinite potential for the Kingdom.

If we do these things – walking closely with the Lord and bearing fruit for God’s glory – we can then expect to be pruned (John 15:2). The Greek verb for “prune” is kathairó, which also means “to cleanse” or “to purify”.

Pruning – painful as it can be – occurs because the Gardener loves His good branches, and desires to be glorified (John 15:8) by the fruit we bear, by our growth.

In Him, our finite time on earth has infinite potential for the Kingdom.

God may weed out certain mindsets, activities or even people in our lives – so that He can give us more of Him.

We should earnestly desire this pruning, that we might better abide in Him.

To truly abide (ménō) is to never depart. Can you imagine a life where we are ever leaning upon the Vine, pleasing the Master of the vineyard with the sweet fruits of lives – wholly and inextricably devoted to Him?

I can tell you what that would feel like, according to John 15:11 – your joy will be complete.


Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.


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Everyone deserves a moment with God: Special needs and the Church

Here I am, send … him

Life on the edge of the spectrum

What’s killing your kindness?

My way or a higher way?

When the well runs dry