A place of hope for all

By Dwayne Todd

At Bethany Home in Malaysia, the love of our Heavenly Father is on offer in abundance, regardless of ability, ethnicity, religious background or social status. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia established Bethany Home more than 50 years ago to care for those living with disability and to reach out to all with the saving […]

At Bethany Home in Malaysia, the love of our Heavenly Father is on offer in abundance, regardless of ability, ethnicity, religious background or social status.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia established Bethany Home more than 50 years ago to care for those living with disability and to reach out to all with the saving message of the gospel. In a culture that looks down on those who suffer, this is a place of refuge and hope inspired by the forgiveness and new life offered in Jesus’ name.

Like all good partnerships, our partnership with Bethany Home is one of blessings flowing in both directions as you will hear in the following story of a recent visit by students from Immanuel College, Novar Gardens, South Australia.

Bethany 2019

After six months of preparation, fundraising and getting to know each other, we flew out of Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur, where we spent a couple of days. We headed to Bethany Home and attended the evening worship, where we were greeted by some of the staff and students.

We worked in a variety of classes including Level 1-6 academic classes, special needs, work skill, therapy and physio. We visited the Lighthouse Training Centre where older students work on putting handles together for pot lids, creating bookmarks and organising and selling second-hand clothes. They can earn an income from this in a workplace environment.

Activities included:

  • helping the students during morning exercise, gardening, cleaning, sports activities, hydrotherapy, arts and craft
  • assisting in setting up and running the sports day carnival
  • creating activities to run with the classes
  • eating at the Bethany Café
  • painting murals after school hours
  • running devotions with the staff in the mornings
  • sponsoring and building a new herb garden
  • visiting the group home for dinner and playing games with the students.

Our Immanuel students immersed themselves in the culture, formed bonds and supported each other. They demonstrated love, care and a genuine want to support and assist the Bethany students whenever possible. They formed some great connections with the students and staff in a short time.

Working at Bethany gives you a new perspective on life and an appreciation of the difficulties that people with disabilities face. Despite their challenges, the Bethany students turn up to school every day with a smile on their face, willing to do their best without complaint. We can learn a lot from their attitude to life.

Here are some reflections from a few of the students and staff from Immanuel about their experience:

The reason why I applied for Bethany was because I wanted to help others, little did I know that Bethany would teach me so much in such a short amount of time. The amount of love, kindness and generosity I experienced at Bethany is one which I cannot begin to explain. This experience has taught me so much about life and how to make the most of every situation and moment. The simple smile or high five can make such a difference to someone’s day. It truly is the little moments in life, which matter the most, as they say when you look back you realise that they were the big moments. I am forever grateful for this wonderful experience and I urge everyone that has the chance to go on this trip as it is truly life changing. Zoe Stopford

Bethany was a lifetime experience that has changed my life forever. The smiles and laughs of the staff and children is something I will never forget. Bethany now has a very special place in my heart forever and an opportunity I’ll always be grateful for. Ella Davey

I really enjoyed seeing some awesome friendships develop as well as a noticeable change in the girls as their minds opened up and they developed a new sense of empathy and understanding. You could tell when they were working with the students at Bethany, and through the daily journaling and reflection time that they really understood what it meant to embrace difference and act with compassion. Naomi Cunningham

I spent a morning at Lighthouse, which is the workplace for the advanced students. Sitting next to a student, I attempted to assist with his task, screwing the nuts and bolts onto the handles. The boy was unimpressed, not wanting my company; he ignored me. An hour passed, and I decided to film my experience on my phone. The phone immediately caught the boy’s attention, and at first, he was hesitant, but he began smiling for photos and having lots of fun. After breaking the ice, I began playing small games. I would steal his handles, add them to my pile so that he would have to steal them back. This made him laugh hysterically, making his task exciting and different. This experience affected me most, the small actions I took, allowed the boy who struggled to smile, an outlet to enjoy his task. I was touched, it reminded me about the importance of appreciating the little things, it also made me grateful for the lucky life I lead. Zara Hancock

The most simple way to describe Bethany Home is ‘Amazing’. The student have taught me so much about everything I have to be grateful. The staff and teachers are so kind hearted and loved having us around. Bethany Home is an extraordinary organisation and accept all students for themselves not their disabilities. I was on this journey with 9 other students who all enjoyed the experience as much as I did. It was good to know how different the lifestyle of Malaysia was compared to Australia. I am so thankful for the little things in my life that aren’t always recognisable. My favourite memory of Bethany would have to be giving my Bethany top to a student called Heigh Shang. His smile was so bright and he was so happy to accept my shirt. Anika Walladge

It’s hard to put into words what an amazing experience going to Bethany Home in Malaysia was. There were many highlights from spending time with the kids, bonding with our group and exploring Malaysia and its culture. One of the best parts of Bethany was connecting with all the kids, and in particular there was one little boy called Li Zhi, who I gained a special relationship with. He was one of the sweetest little boys I have ever met. Although he was non-verbal, we always held hands, danced together and did activities such as drawing and writing. My favourite thing was when he smiled because it was the cutest little smile that just warmed my heart. At Bethany Home, I really learnt that with all the students, you don’t focus on their disabilities but their personalities and what they can do. They all had different levels of education and Bethany provided special care for each of these areas. Bethany was an amazing experience that will stay in my heart forever. I’ll forever be grateful for this experience and what it has taught me. Olivia Chudleigh

Bethany Homes is a place full of wonder and happiness. Everyday I was greeted with smiles and laughs. It was incredible to see just how grateful the students and staff were, even though they had so little. One of the students I met was Melvin, he is 31 years old and has depression. This is due to him being born with a disability that has spread across his face and has caused his lip to increase in size, and for him to lose most of his vision. Due to his disability, Melvin’s parents abandoned him when he was born. All the students of Bethany Home were exceptionally patient and understood that the teachers and Bethany Pilgrims were there to help them. One of the boys I worked with was called Satish, and he was very patient with me. He struggled to speak so he found it easier to gesture to himself and around him to get his points across. He was very cheeky and would blow kisses to us when he left each day. I never saw him without a smile on his face. Jade Rawson

This story was also published in the August 2019 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.

If your school would like to know more about how they can connect to the mission of God through a LCA International Mission service-learning and ministry partnership, you are invited to phone Erin on (08) 8267 7300 or email erin.kerber@lca.org.au. For more information, go to www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/service-learning/

Read more stories about school partnerships and school service-learning at www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/local-partners/schools/

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