iDespite cerebral palsy, rejection and homelessness, Wesley Wee, who sells tissues, is thankful for life. All photos courtesy of Wesley Wee.

Despite cerebral palsy, rejection and homelessness, Wesley Wee, who sells tissues, is thankful for life. All photos courtesy of Wesley Wee.

I stepped out into the bright sunshine, all smiles. My friend and I had been discussing Matthew 25:40: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” How inspired I felt to love as Jesus loves!

Then I saw him.

Neat stacks of tissue paper. An unfamiliar face against a wheelchair. But I didn’t slow down a beat. My only thought: If I had small change I would, but I only have $50.

Matthew 25 had flown out of my head.

The moment I walked past, I felt a clear jolt prompting me to turn back. I u-turned, walked to the man in the wheelchair, and handed over the note with a “God bless you”.

I couldn’t understand his slurred speech, but I did take his name card.

That was how I first came to know Wesley Wee, 40.

Wesley’s parents detested him and did not even bother naming him.

Born as a “blue baby”, Wesley suffers from severe cerebral palsy. He is mentally able but physically dependent. Unable to speak intelligibly, walk, control his movements, or independently use the toilet, he feels trapped in a body he cannot control.

From birth, Wesley’s parents detested him. He recounted bluntly: “They wish I had never been born.” They did not even bother naming him.

Wesley grew up in suffering, pain and shame. Frustrated by a son who could not walk or talk, his parents would whip him, strangle him, and kick him as he lay on the floor. When he defecated in his pants because he could not reach the toilet in time, he would be left in his faeces.

When his family ate together, he would be kept in his room, hungry and isolated. To this day, the physical scars remain. But Wesley said: “The scars that hurt most are in the heart.”

Rejected by parents

“My parents were not the kind of people who could accept a disabled child and in their hearts they rejected me,” related Wesley in a book that he wrote over five years. “They didn’t want to take care of me and asked my Grandma if she would look after me instead. She agreed.

“My Grandma was my mother’s mother and she was the only one who really cared about me in those early years. She loved me, protected me, and looked after my physical and emotional needs. She fed and bathed me, dressed me and, later as I grew older, helped me with my physical therapy exercises.

In the midst of a childhood filled with fear, the only saving grace was learning about Jesus in church.

“I never felt that love and care from my parents so, not surprisingly, I always wanted to be with my Grandma. I knew her love for me was real from the way she cared for me and nurtured me.

“She never physically hurt me, as far as I can remember. She would clean me up carefully and slowly whenever I urinated or had excrement in my pants. Through all of this, she never at any time made me feel unloved.

“During those early years, I stayed with my Grandma, who lived in my uncle’s house, during the week, and moved back to my parents’ house on the weekends. My mother could not wait to hand me back on Sundays and there was a stark difference between the days I spent with my Grandma and those spent with my parents.”

Wesley’s grandma also was the one who insisted he be allowed to go to school. When he was about five he began therapy sessions at the Spastic Children’s Association of Singapore (now the Cerebral Palsy Association).

Over five years, using his big toe, Wesley painstakingly typed out his life story. In Finding Happiness Against the Odds, he revealed his deepest struggles and God’s unfailing goodness.

At one point, Wesley returned home to stay with his parents. During this time, Wesley’s mother was about to allow a stranger to take him to Malaysia to “cure” his legs. His grandmother found out about it from a relative and, on the day Wesley was to be taken away, she burst into the house, stopped the mother’s plan, and took Wesley to stay with her.

He stayed with her for a number of years and this was a relatively happy time for him.

A hope 

On a number of occasions his parents brought him along to a Catholic church. That was where he heard about God and Jesus who died on the cross.

“Mostly I was confined to the house, so I was always glad to be able to go out, especially when it meant going to church,” said Wesley in his book. 

“I was too young to understand much but I do remember a few things that the priest said. I remember him saying, ‘God created us, God is powerful and He can do anything. He hears us when we pray to Him and we can talk to Him about anything.’

“I felt that I could relate to Jesus, who was hurt, kicked and crucified by people who did not understand him.”

“I remember the priest saying that God sent His son Jesus to die for our sins. It reassured me to know that there was someone out there who was powerful and could help me, and this gave me hope. Although I did not understand it at the time, I was going to need that hope over the next few years.”

In the midst of a childhood filled with fear, the only saving grace was learning about Jesus in church.

“During those dark years, I would always curl myself up in bed, crying, and I would pray to God to help me, even though I did not fully understand who He was,” Wesley told Salt&Light.

“I felt that I could relate to Jesus, who was hurt, kicked and crucified by people who did not understand him. There was often a voice in my head telling me that ‘He’ would help me and that things would get better.”

Yet life was to take yet another spiral downward. When Wesley turned 18, his beloved grandmother died. Under the care of his mother who called him a good-for-nothing who ought to die, Wesley became depressed and suicidal.

“I was emotionally so low,” Wesley recalled. 

During that low, Wesley attempted suicide twice. On both occasions Wesley’s mother found him unconscious at home and called for an ambulance to take him to hospital. 

He often wondered why his mother took him to the hospital instead of letting him die.

It seemed God had other plans in store. 

Transformed by love

For many years Wesley had stopped going to church, until one day a friend invited him to a Catholic church in Serangoon.

With another chance at life, Wesley resolved to pick himself up, learn computer skills, and go to church again.

She comforted and encouraged Wesley by reading the word of God to him every time he cried.

He attended the church for four years.

During that time, a church friend bought him his first electrical wheelchair. He knew that his prayers to God had been answered.

He desired financial independence (1 Timothy 5:8) and, with few other options, Wesley started selling tissues.

The hours were long and people were often scared off when he tried to befriend them. Others bullied him. Sometimes, when he was alone outside, pain and loneliness would overwhelm him.

In those darkest moments, he once again met God in prayer.

“I heard a voice speaking to me, telling me that ‘someone’ would come and help me. I just needed to be patient. From the calmness and reassurance of that inner voice, I persevered to live on,” Wesley said.

Lorena and Wesley on their wedding day.

His cry of faith was answered when, through a mutual friend, he came to know Lorena, a Filipina.

Lorena said: “My heart felt so much compassion for him. I wanted to talk to him and encourage him to see the goodness of God.”

She comforted and encouraged Wesley by reading the word of God to him every time he cried.

In time, Lorena became Wesley’s wife.

“These were hard times and we cried a lot in despair. We prayed earnestly to God for a place to stay.”

“Why am I with Wesley?” Lorena considered the question before replying.

“Because I feel compassion for him but, more importantly, because I feel love for him. I love and accept him as a part of my family and will always be beside him,” she said simply. “It is more of a blessing to give than to receive.”

To be with her husband, she moved from the Philippines to Singapore but was unable to get a job. They were financially strapped and had great difficulty finding a place to stay.

Wesley recalled: “People would tell us that Lorena could stay but they would not accept a disabled person … she would never agree to this and would join me in sleeping on the street. These were hard times and we cried a lot in despair. We prayed earnestly to God for a place to stay.”

Their prayers were answered when God sent them a pastor who gave them a room to stay at minimal rent.

Pastor Gideon, the pastor of the church they were attending at the time, came up to them one Sunday and said that God had spoken to him, asking him to help them. He rented a room to them.

Against the odds

Through these trials, Wesley’s budding faith in God blossomed.

“It was through Lorena, my beautiful wife, and her kindness, that I really came to know God. This was the same God who had spoken to me and reassured me when I lay bruised and battered in bed,” Wesley said. “I have come to experience the joy of love for myself.”

“I keep encountering hurdles at every turn … but God sustains me and gives me strength each day.”

As he experienced God’s love, Wesley began to see himself anew. God set him free of past bondages, he reflected, so that he could “see how God fearfully and wonderfully made me through His own image and likeness”.

With that, he finally found the freedom to forgive. “Because God has forgiven me all my sins, I unconditionally forgive my mother, my father and my family who had hurt me … and pray God’s blessings upon them,” he said.

As his life transformed under The Potter’s hand, Wesley developed another dream: To glorify God through his sufferings.

Over five years, using his big toe, he painstakingly typed out his life story. In Finding Happiness Against the Odds, Wesley brought to life his deepest struggles and God’s unfailing goodness.

“I feel compassion for him, but most of all I love and accept him,” says Lorena, Wesley’s wife.

“I want to share that there is a God who is merciful and loving, who always protects, gives hope and has a plan for each of our lives,” Wesley said. “I keep encountering hurdles at every turn … but God sustains me and gives me strength each day.”

For Wesley, his biggest thanksgiving is simply life. By sharing his story, Wesley hopes for the day when no one avoids the needy and disabled, but everyone has compassion for each other.

Indeed, as Christians may we boldly live out the call to love in Matthew 25, and may love transform our lives, so that on that final day our King will say to us that as we did for the least of His brothers, we did for Him. (Matthew 25:40)

If you or your church would like to connect with Wesley or purchase his book, Finding Happiness Against the Odds (available in English and in Chinese), you can connect with him at www.wesleycan.com

About the author

Lee Chia Ming

Chia Ming is a Catholic and a lawyer. She finds joy in music, reading, furry animals and the great outdoors. She often asks God to give her eyes to see the divine in the ordinary, beauty in the dross and Christ in all persons.