Members of the Wildwood Ward in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, have come to understand what is taught in Hebrews 12:12 - “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.” The learning opportunity comes from a 42-year-old member, Cora Killan. Her “teaching” abilities do not come from a university degree or from a gifted intellect. In fact, it is because of her disabilities that her influence is felt. She cannot speak, she has intellectual challenges and she must deal with severe physical handicaps.
Cora and her mother, Liz, joined the Church in Nanaimo, BC. Cora's first Church assignment was as a greeter. When the two women moved to Calgary and then to Saskatoon, each ward provided similar opportunities for Cora.
Before Liz became a Latter-day Saint in 1997, she says that most people never acknowledged Cora. “My role as a mother to Cora was validated when I joined the Church. Before that people thought I should have Cora institutionalized so I could ‘have a life,’ but members of our church had a totally different view. Cora is a valued and loved member. Our ward members tell me that they can’t wait until resurrection day when Cora can be perfect and teach us all.”
Cora is known not only for her disabilities but for what she can do. She welcomes visitors to the Family History Centre with smiles and does her best to reach out to all who come there. Sister Karen Bennett proposed the idea to use Cora as a greeter. “Cora is positioned just outside the door,” says Sister Benett. “She wears a nametag and loves that. If anyone forgets to speak with her or to sign in, she lets them know! We also give her the responsibility to pray for the success of the Centre and she takes that seriously. She really likes her assignment and gets excited when she sees the people she recognizes.”
Liz is pleased with Cora’s popularity. “People in our ward all know Cora, even if they don’t know me. If she is not there, they notice and ask where she is. It makes me feel really good to know they care.”
In British Columbia, a lower mainland ward integrates and helps another member with special needs. When Jeral Prasad was a baby in Fiji, he contracted meningitis, experiencing high fevers that damaged his ears, rendering him deaf. A cochlear implant now provides partial hearing for the 20-year-old.
As his friends and acquaintances have learned, Jeral has an outgoing personality, but without adequate hearing, he has difficulty communicating. Nevertheless, his gregarious personality is not diminished. At Church and in other social functions, he greets members and strangers alike with enthusiasm. As he struggles to pronounce words clearly, Jeral’s peers, Josh Teixeira and other young men, act as go-betweens to help him talk with others. “When Jeral goes up to someone to say hi,” Josh explains, “we will take turns ‘translating’ for him saying ‘Hi, I’m Jeral, what’s your name?’” When playing young men’s sports, Jeral’s peers provide opportunities for Jeral to handle the ball and to score. During service activities, Jeral always comes along with his big smiles and his encouragement to keep working.
“Jeral does his absolute best and works hard in all his priesthood duties,” says Josh. “He sits with the priests at the sacrament table. While he can’t say the prayer, he helps to break bread or passes the sacrament.”
By integrating this young man, Delta Ward members are uplifted. “Jeral’s smile is infectious. When he smiles, you have to smile back!” says Josh. “He gives hugs to everyone and they all hug him back.”
“Jeral is excited about the support he is getting in our ward,” says Jeral’s father, Jonas Prasad. “Bishop Carlos Teixeira has been working with the youth to learn sign language. Other members of the ward are learning to sign as well. Jeral is comfortable in the ward, especially with the youth. He feels he is part of the group.”
As Jeral comes to the pulpit to express his feelings in Fast and Testimony meeting, his father speaks for him while Jeral signs. During one meeting, he told the congregation, “I want to go on a mission. My friends in Church, Josh and Justin, are going on a mission. I would like to be like them.” Jeral spoke about the first four principles of the gospel. Brother Prasad explained that this was the first time in many years that Jeral publicly expressed his testimony. “With everyone helping him, Jeral has a new excitement for the gospel and for life.”
“The effort by the ward has built and strengthened us as well,” says Brother Prasad. “Jeral is handicapped; he’s deaf. The whole ward learning to sign is showing love just as Jesus did. You can feel the love and see the tears in the members’ eyes because of the love offered.”
While we bless the lives of those we love and serve, so special people return those blessings by helping us become a little more like the Saviour.
Links: No One Left Behind