The Love We Have

How You Strengthened Liam's Family

When Chris and I had our son Liam, it felt amazing to have this little person who was basically us. He was someone who enveloped who I was, and who Chris was.

We knew we would give him the most love we had, and engrave in him our morals.

When Liam was three, Naomi started feeling pins and needles in her arms

At first, I’d just shake it off. But it progressed, so my doctor sent me to every specialist he could. No one could figure out what it was.

At first, I’d just shake it off. But it progressed, so my doctor sent me to every specialist he could. No one could figure out what it was.

It got worse and worse. I couldn’t feel my feet, I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t talk. I started hallucinating. After three days of not eating, the ambulance took me to emergency.

It turns out I had encephalitis, pneumonia, and kidney failure. And I have a neurological disorder, which causes complete paralysis in all four of my limbs.

I was coded — which means a patient is dying. The neurologist said to me later, “You were almost dead.” I was really that close.

Naomi stayed in the hospital for weeks, then a rehab facility for months

Being separated from my family was hard. And not being around had quite the impact on Liam. For a time afterwards, whenever we’d go out, he’d say to Chris, “Dad, don’t forget Mom.” He was scared I’d be left behind.

When I finally came home, we had a $5,000 bill from the hospital. We had Chris’ wage, but my disability benefit hadn’t kicked in. With other bills coming in, we had to cash in all my RRSP savings just to catch up.

Then, one of our foster kids had a psychotic break. Before, he was great. But his condition changed overnight, and he got violent.

Then, one of our foster kids had a psychotic break. Before, he was great. But his condition changed overnight, and he got violent.

That’s when we decided to stop fostering. We couldn’t put Liam through that. We ended up living on one income; one disability benefit of $13,000 a year, for three years.

Though permanently living in a power wheelchair brought change, Naomi’s optimism never wavered

I’ve never felt sorry for myself. I know there are far worse things that could’ve happened. I believe that it wasn’t my time — otherwise I wouldn’t still be here.

When I was in rehab, a nurse asked me to talk to other patients. She said, “You uplift everybody. It’s who you are. Do you mind?” So I went around in my wheelchair, talking and joking.

It’s always been my foremost instinct to help people. I used to work in the medical field, and what I loved most about it was caring for others.

That’s why I feel blessed. When I look at where I am, I’m thankful for the capabilities I do have, and the ways I can still offer help — like giving resources, and helping file for disability tax credit.

From the get-go, Liam has embodied his parent’s incredible virtues

We’ve always felt very lucky that Liam is the person he is. In our situation, it could’ve been far more difficult if he ever lashed out. But he’s never been like that.

Instead, he’s punny, caring, and genuinely grateful. He’s someone who always helps. And he doesn’t know how to be mean. Of course we’ve tried to instill those in him, but it’s also just in his nature.

“We have always told Liam to be his own person”

He’s also super intelligent. At three and a half, Liam taught himself to read. Chris had an inkling he might have Asperger’s, because he’d fostered kids with it. At first, I thought it was detrimental — but after learning more, I realized it isn’t.

When he was diagnosed with mild autism, the doctor said, “Liam had us in stitches. What a great kid.” We felt relief right then and there, knowing the label wouldn't outcast him.

That didn’t change anything for us. We just continued encouraging Liam to be himself, and not follow the crowd.

Not long after, we signed him up for camp through UGM’s sponsorship program — giving him more opportunities to connect with other kids.

Liam is also who he is because of his faith, discovered at summer camp through UGM’s sponsorship

Camp Luther has a lot of great things to offer, but what really sparked my curiosity my first year was learning about God in chapel.

This will be my tenth year at camp, but my favourite memory overall is from my second summer. Christianity finally made sense to me, and I decided, “Yes, I’m all in. I’m Christian now.” Just like that — eight years old.

This will be my tenth year at camp, but my favourite memory overall is from my second summer. Christianity finally made sense to me, and I decided, “Yes, I’m all in. I’m Christian now.” Just like that — eight years old.

One thing about Asperger’s is that you tend to fixate on certain topics. And for me, that’s been my faith. I got a backpack with a Bible from UGM that year. I read it so much — opening and closing it — that the book of Genesis fell out a few years later.

My favourite verse is John 16:33. It says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” It reminds me that I can make it through. For example, with my Asperger’s, sometimes I don’t get social cues. Others might judge, but all I’ve gotta do is keep being myself — because Jesus faced his bullies, and loved them too.

Today, my faith keeps me holding on. At 17, there’s this constant feeling of everything about your future being thrown at you. But in all that stress, the best thing I can do is keep holding on, and have God tell me where to go.

Because of camp, Liam also has invaluable, life-long relationships

What I’ve always loved about camp is that the staff know, love, and care for you. Relationships are built over the years.

When I became a Junior Leader last year, I got to see the other side of that. I learned how to put in care for campers, and the hardships that come with it. It also felt good putting my faith into action — planting seeds in younger kids, and seeing them bloom in their hearts.

Now, I don’t just have camp friends — I have a camp family. A lot of them live in my city, and go to the same school, same church. I’ve built some really strong bonds.

Though Naomi and Chris are proud of the young man Liam is today, there are no two people more perfect to be his parents

Chris and I want Liam to make his own decisions, so we were delighted when he came home from camp and said, “I’m Christian now.” We did everything we could to support him — buying magazines, Bible crosswords, and going to church together.

I can tell that at church and summer camp, Liam feels accepted and unconditionally loved.

We’ve always told him, "Family is who you surround yourself with.” And I think that’s why he’s such an amazing person today — because of his community.

“Family will always be the most important thing”

No matter what happens, we just feel blessed to have each other — and especially, to have such a great son.

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“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

As we all go through a challenging season of perhaps fear and unknowns, I am reflecting on what it means to have hope, and am reminded of Jesus’ words above. While I’m sure none of us ask for troubles in life, Jesus says that we shouldn’t be surprised they happen. He doesn’t say this to dismiss the confusion or chaos we feel; but instead, to invite each of us into the peace He’s offering—which is far greater, and far longer-lasting than the hardships of today.

Though COVID-19 may be one of the most severe crises we’ve faced, at Union Gospel Mission, we’re seeing that love far outweighs the fear. The community we serve is among the most vulnerable, but you have responded to the surging needs with incredible compassion. Because of you, more people than ever are finding help and hope at UGM. Not only are you providing critical care like daily meals, food hampers, and emergency shelter, but you’re also offering connection—which can be one of the most valuable gifts right now.

From all of us at UGM, we sincerely thank you. Thank you for your ongoing care for the community, and thank you for being part of the UGM family. We are in awe of your outpouring of love during this pandemic; your kindness is revealing how deep of an impact can be made when we come together. Thank you for binding our community together amidst a troubling time—we are inexpressibly grateful.

With gratitude,

UGM President's Photo
UGM President's Signature

William B. Mollard
President

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