In our Canadian Centennial Year (1967) we saw our family grow from 3 to 5 members. Two new babies in one year. Our two adopted sons were 15 months old and close to 3 years old when our third (and first biological) son was born in December of that year. He was a lovable child like his two older brothers. He did fairly well in our grade school, loved geography and was helpful at home. He even had the honour of being valedictorian.
In high school he passed each grade except grade 12. He was (as we realized later on) not able to finish on account of an illness. Yes, we knew that something was not quite right, but did not know what. In 1984 he was still able to make a three-week trip to the Netherlands, which he enjoyed very much. In retrospect we could see telltale signs in 1983 and even more in 1984. Then in 1985, the year in which he turned eighteen, the Lord permitted this devastating brain illness (schizophrenia) to affect him almost all year in some way or other. In fact, the illness left none of us untouched. We saw several mental health professionals a number of times. Notwithstanding, our son helped around the house when there was snow to shovel or grass to cut and whenever his dad needed him in his store.
In 1986 and 1987 he also spent quite a bit of time in our local Psych hospital.
And again in 1988 he was hospitalized from February till April, and from October till December. In between, he lived at various boarding homes including a Christian one. Again the next year he spent much time in hospitals, but was home on many weekends with passes from the hospital.
During 1993 he received regular visits from a family friend and lay-counselor, who was very concerned about him. Our son enjoyed his visits very much. Later on that year he moved in with this family about 50 kilometres from his parental home. This was a very big improvement for him.
But this family obviously also needed a regular "break". It was arranged that our son would be home with his parents and younger brother every other weekend. But that proved to be impossible. He was still too sick to be at home. That is where our congregation came to the rescue. Every other weekend about 10 church families, mostly younger, took turns to host our son, including one overnight. Not an easy task, but they did it.
This is the time that we reflected once more on Romans 8:28. In the previous ten years when our son at times was very sick, we often wondered how this promise of the Lord could be true. But during these years we saw that the Lord was working it out in the abundant love lavished on him and on us. His devastating illness brought much church-love to the fore in a very practical and beautiful way.
Later on he tried living on his own, and two Christian teachers with a young family took "charge" of him, with the help of the congregation they belonged to. This proved to be another beautiful experience of devotion and love shown by the teachers' family as well as the whole congregation in that place.
Since 2003 our son has been living in a Christian home with 9 other residents all needing (and receiving!) lifetime TLC. But it was not until 2005 that the Lord, unexpectedly, permitted him to be hospitalized once more, which certainly was not a pleasant experience from him or for us. Thankfully the outcome of those three months in the hospital has been very positive. Doctors added some other medications, and since then he has been much better. He even has been working three days each week helping with egg and vegetable deliveries. About once a month he visits us, his parents (now in our eighties) just for a weekend. He still loves his books and is an expert on all geographical questions. He is helpful and thankful and a joy to have around.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).