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KUALA MENGGATAL – In gratitude to their spiritual adviser and friend, Fr Francis Tsen, the little community of Bukit Harapan got together with friends and supporters of the community to celebrate the 48th anniversary of his priestly ordination, and to thank God for the gift of his friendship and unwavering support for them, at Bukit Harapan Jan 9.
After the Thanksgiving Mass, which was presided by Fr Francis and concelebrated with Fr Felix Chung, the scrumptious ‘family meal’ was shared among the community family members, supporters and friends in the like of a big happy family.
On being approached by Catholic Sabah, Fr Francis agreed to share on his journey with the Special People of Bukit Harapan, and here it is ….
“I want to open a Home for Special Children” – those were the first words of Anne Keyworth when I first met her on her return from a 3-year Live-in-Course at Aberdeen, Scotland and Wakefield, England. She had graduated as a Curative Educationist from Camphill Institute and was full of enthusiasm and conviction that God wanted her to devote her life to the care and rehabilitation of Special Persons in Sabah.
Such was the guiding vision shared by Anne and so, with the assistance of an eager group of friends, BUKIT HARAPAN was duly registered under the Trustee Incorporation Ordinance 25 years ago, with the aim of providing ‘Care, Love and Rehabilitation’ to the mentally handicapped.
Bukit Harapan officially began its existence at a vacant house located within the compound of SFX Church, Keningau. Five Special Children were taken in and with the help of two co-workers and a budget of RM7000, the Home began its service to society. From there, Bukit Harapan moved to its second Home in Putatan, then to its third one at Jalan Saga, Likas where it operated for some 16 years before it moved to its present premises seven years ago at Tuaran Bypass, Kuala Menggatal. Thus, in brief, is the story of Bukit Harapan.
What I would like to share here are some reflections from my involvement and association with this HILL OF HOPE COMMUNITY since its inception.
The Home tries to meet the many and varied needs of these Special Persons, be it physical, intellectual, emotional or spiritual. The need of concrete and constant support and encouragement for Anne and the co-workers was clear right from the beginning as this was not just any usual work or job but a special calling to serve, and thus, the reason for my commitment to the mission of the Home. Despite the usual ups and downs encountered, the Home has persevered faithfully through all these years with the help of God. After all, the Home has from the beginning been acknowledged as His Home for these Special Persons.
To Anne, I owe a deeper discovery of who and what these Special Persons are. Before, I would just glance at them with curiosity, perhaps with some trepidation, at their strange and sometimes bizarre behaviour, such was my misconception about them. I would keep my distance, leaving it to others to deal with them. However, I slowly got to understand and accept the “frustrations” they must feel, not knowing and not being able to express themselves in a normal manner. I began to perceive that, despite their ‘handicaps’, they are created by the same God, equally loved and destined for eternal glory, equally entitled to our respect as human beings, perhaps deemed more special by the Creator.
Secondly, I am now able to consider these Special Persons as precious GIFTS to me first of all, to their families, and to our society. Because of their disabilities, they constantly remind us all of the many gifts of mind, body and soul that we enjoy, gifts that are often taken for granted, yet often wrongly used or not put to use for better purposes. We need to say sorry to our loving Creator. A constant contact with Special Persons invites us to deep gratitude for the many gifts we are endowed with. Do we also realize that anyone of us can likewise become ‘handicapped’ because of some sickness or an accident?
A third point is this. I prefer to use the term ‘SPECIAL CHILDREN’ because, in so many ways these Special Persons remain like children – simple and innocent, trusting and thankful, happy and joyful. They are usually very loving persons, reminding us of what we are called to become by the Lord Jesus: unless you become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. They teach us humbleness and joy of spirit, they teach us trust in God the Father who will always take care of our needs. As a matter of fact, Bukit Harapan has, from the beginning, entrusted its need of funding to God, believing that ‘He will provide’, and sure enough, there has always been sufficient funds to keep the Home running, faithful to its mission to these often shunned members of our society.