“Mum, have you seen a disabled person like me driving a car?” Jeremiah once asked. His mother, Mrs Michele Liauw, did not know how to answer him then. She decided to pray about it. A few weeks later after attending mass at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, a parishioner who was also physically challenged, invited Jeremiah to view his car, and showed it was possible to drive despite being wheelchair-bound.
Recounting the times when God has shown his kindness and mercy, Michele continued: “As Jeremiah matures, he questions so much more. And when I don’t have the answers, I turn to God.”
Baby Jeremiah, all smiles at 18 months
Ten years ago, when she was expecting Jeremiah, Michele prayed for a name, and God prompted her to name her son, Jeremiah. Michele later found out that Jeremiah actually meant ‘suffering prophet’, but instead of questioning and blaming God for Jeremiah’s condition, she drew closer to God.
Jeremiah serving mass at the Church of Divine Mercy
Jeremiah’s condition was undetected prior to birth. At birth, Michele and husband Timothy had to cope with the challenges of raising a child with special needs. They encouraged each other in the process of raising Jeremiah, without knowing what the road ahead brings.
Today, Timothy and Michele are blessed with three kids – Nathaniel, Jeremiah and Joy. Just like any other family, disagreements abound and the brothers will bicker at times. But to Nathaniel, Jeremiah is ever ready to forgive, and they don’t stay mad at each other for long.
The Liauw Family. Clockwise from left: brother Nathaniel, father Timothy, sister Joy and mother Michele
Similarly, Jeremiah echoed that “Gor Gor (elder brother) takes care of me, and his jokes are always funny. He is also my inspiration to want to be an altar server. Jeremiah admitted that the training to be an altar server was not easy, especially when he will feel the urge to fidget with his watch, or be distracted by his surroundings. Cheekily, he added, “I think God called me to serve, so that he can ‘watch over me’ at the altar.” In their family time together, they enjoy attending mass and feasting on home-cooked food, especially mommy’s Char Siew dish.
A dedicated Altar server helps to wheel Jeremiah as he serves mass
As a mother, Michele constantly reminds her kids to see God in things and people around them, and even encouraged them to pray for those who may face a similar situation. Because of her strong faith, Michele has not given up hope, neither will she tire of chauffeuring, cooking, cleaning and taking care of the family together with Timothy.
Indeed, the empathy, compassion, love and mutual understanding among the Liauw family echoes what Pope Francis has written in his opening letter of the holy door in this Year of Mercy, that “Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviours that are shown in daily living” (Misericordiae Vultus, 8).
Once, Father Adam, a priest from Hong Kong mentioned a comment that stuck with Michele: “Jeremiah is a special child, a miracle from God that brings the whole family together stronger”. Indeed He has.
Jeremiah Liauw… in His Own Words
Jeremiah (affectionately known as Jere) was commissioned to be an alter server on 8 May 2016, and is now serving at the Church of Divine Mercy. He shared excitedly, “I thank God for this opportunity to serve him and glorify Him! With God’s grace and with God’s help, I could do more than a disabled person could do”.
Born with Spina Bifida – where the incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord might lead to immobility – Jeremiah has learnt how to manage his lifestyle with the help of his customised wheelchair since young. Like any other 10-year-old: he is inquisitive and agile. He is enrolled at St Joseph Institution (SJI Junior), and plays an active role as a band member.