“I knew God gave him to me”: Mum who started Zoom worship for her son and other children with autism
by Christine Leow // July 15, 2022, 1:50 am
Ling Sheue King (right) with her husband, Goh Kheng Guan, their daughter, Wei En, and son, Xin Wei, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Xin Wei loves worship songs and considers Jesus his best friend. All photos courtesy of Ling Sheue King.
When her son Xin Wei was younger, screaming was the only way he could communicate. Xin Wei was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) before he turned two.
Said Ling Sheue King, who has a daughter a year older than Xin Wei: “The moment he opened his eyes, he would scream and shout.
“I’m like xiao (crazy). He would pull my hair, shout and scream.”
“Give him food, he would scream. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, he would wake up, screaming and crying. We didn’t know why. There wasn’t a single night that we could sleep well.”
Going out was a challenge. Xin Wei would spin, shout and scream as coping mechanisms. At times, he would even bite his parents.
“Taking the MRT or the bus, I’m like xiao (crazy). He would pull my hair, shout and scream.
“In the bus, everybody would know he was there because he would scream and shout. It was as if everything was not right.”
The challenge of going to church
Attending a church service was almost impossible. Once a full-time ministry worker before she had children, Sheue King, now 52, found that she could no longer worship God corporately with Xin Wei in tow.
“In church, some people don’t really understand and would ask him to sit still. So, I zidong (considerate). I bring him out because if I stay, he would disturb others.”
Sheue King had to contend with attending Sunday School for toddlers even though Xin Wei was by then a pre-schooler.
“We think these children don’t understand, but the Holy Spirit can talk to them.”
“People would look at us and say, ‘Big kor kor (big brother) is here.’
“It was very hard for me. At one point, I asked God, ‘It’s so tough for me to come to church. Yet, I can’t even sit during a service. Then, why bother?’”
But her deep conviction that corporate worship “in the house of the Lord” is vital kept her going back.
“I told God, ‘Though I cannot sit down and worship You, I want to teach my son that he has to come to church to worship God. I want to let him know that people go to church to worship God.’
“So, even if I can’t sit down, I would still take him rather than stay at home. It’s worth the effort.”
When Covid raced across the globe, shutting countries in its path, churches in Singapore closed as well. Even as services struggled to go online, Sheue King knew that those for children with special needs would not be a priority yet.
She decided to organise a Zoom worship service for children with autism. Together with three prayer partners whose children also had special needs, Sheue King started Royal Kids Worship in April 2020. They meet every Friday at 8pm for half an hour.
“We got a few songs, watched a video of Bible stories. We said we would try it out for a few weeks.”
Within a month, the group opened up to other families with children with special needs. It started with their friends. Then, friends told other friends.
Two years in, there are now 26 families involved, including some in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Said Sheue King: “We want our kids to worship our God Almighty, believe and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. We want them to love the Lord with their hearts, mind and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).
“Though they can’t talk and communicate with people, and we think that they don’t understand, but the Holy Spirit can work, can talk to them.”
A special boy
Even though raising Xin Wei was challenging, Sheue King knew right from the start that her baby boy was God-given.
When she suspected she was pregnant with her second child, she had taken a pregnancy test. But it had come back negative.
“So, I went and prayed. After I prayed, I heard a voice telling me to wait another seven days before doing another pregnancy test.”
Sheue King waited.
“But I was naughty. So, I tested on Day 6. Nothing. Yet, in my heart I knew that it was seven days. The next morning, I went and tested again. It was positive.
“I knew God had given me this child. I was very assured this was from Him.”
So, when Xin Wei was diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder), Sheue King only cried for half a day.
In reality, Sheue King and her husband, Goh Kheng Guan, now 56, had suspected for over a year that something was not right with Xin Wei. He had trouble drinking milk and could not eat solid food, even though he was able to maintain eye contact at six months. By 18 months, he no longer looked people in the eye and he still could not talk or even stand up.
“When he can’t sleep and would scream, I’d sing In the Name of Jesus and within five minutes, he would fall asleep.”
“After crying about the diagnosis, I decided that I wouldn’t cry anymore. God must have a greater purpose,” Sheue King said. “He is a God that blesses. He wouldn’t give us something that is bad. He is a God that I can trust.
“I asked God, ‘What next?’ God told me he is God’s son. He gave me a dream in which I was helping my sister look after her son. I kept going back to my sister to consult her because it was her son.
“When I woke up, God told me, ‘I am the Father of your son. You are his earthly mum to help Me take care of him.’”
So, in the early days, when engaging Xin Wei was difficult, Sheue King did not waver. He could not do things other toddlers could. Sheue King even had to hire someone to teach him how to play with bubbles.
“It was so tough. But I told God, ‘You have to take charge.’”
Whenever managing Xin Wei got too difficult, Sheue King would get down on her knees in prayer.
“Every night, I have to pray. When he can’t sleep and would scream and shout, I would sing In the Name of Jesus and within five minutes, he would fall asleep.”
A heart of worship
Now 14, Xin Wei likes worship songs best. He cannot speak Mandarin but he enjoys watching Mandarin and English worship videos as well as songs from Veggie Tales.
“Music is how he connects with God. Sometimes he can wake up and worship God from day till night. He enjoys worshipping God.
“His favourite songs are Christ is Enough for Me, I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, Jesus You are Beautiful and Use Me Jesus. When I hear that last one … wah!
“I believe he knows about God.”
Although Xin Wei cannot speak, he can say simple words. His first word was neither “mum” nor “dad”. It was “Jesus”.
“God has made Himself known to him.”
“From very young, you ask him, ‘Who is your best friend?’ He always answers, ‘Jesus.’”
When asked if he loves Jesus, Xin Wei would always answer “yes”. Even though he sometimes gets his “yes” and “no” mixed up, he never does so when he is asked about loving Jesus. He can even say the Sinner’s Prayer in Mandarin even though he cannot speak Mandarin.
“God has made Himself known to him.”
Because of her son’s response to music and worship, Sheue King is convinced that music is the key to reaching children with autism. This belief is the underpinning for Royal Kids Worship.
Pure hearts turned to God
Each week at Royal Kids Worship, apart from worship songs, there are Bible stories and memory verses.
“When you hear them pray, it is so touching, so powerful.”
“We do memory verses in a different way. I use songs to teach them the words. So, when they know the song, they have memorised the verse.”
Much of what Sheue King does in these sessions is drawn from her years of experience in the children’s ministry. She was in the ministry when she was in her 20s and had been in charge of the children’s ministry and Bible study when she became a full-time worker in her church.
“We simplify the content and use short sentences. It may seem boring to regular kids but it works for these children.
“We have to be repetitive with different things. We use PowerPoint slides, videos and lively songs all to bring across the same message.”
Now, Sheue King even gets the children at Royal Kids Worship to open and close in prayer.
“Some of them, their mummies write out the prayers for them to read. Some pray on their own.
“When you hear them pray, it is so touching, so powerful. They have pure hearts that trust God.”
And God added to their numbers
In the last two years, not only has Sheue King seen the children step up, she has also seen God provide in terms of manpower and money.
“Maybe half in the group cannot go to church because of their kids.”
When organising each worship session became too tough to do alone, Sheue King prayed for help.
Someone from her cell group who did not have children with special needs volunteered to do the PowerPoint slides for each session without even knowing about Sheue King’s needs.
Another friend from her prayer group volunteered to help pick out songs for worship. Sheue King’s husband then edits the songs so they are shorter.
“Our children hunger for God’s Word. We start at 8pm but some log in as early as 6.30pm. They will remind their mummies to log in. Those who cannot talk will cry till their mummies log in. Then, they stop crying.
“One kid, his mum asked him to eat durians but he told her, ‘Wait’. When she asked, ‘Why wait?’, he told her that he wanted to attend Royal Kids Worship first.
“They look forward to the worship and they participate freely. Some dance and worship.”
One reason the Zoom sessions have worked out so well is because the children are able to worship in their own homes. The comfort of a familiar environment helps tremendously with children with ASD who thrive on routine.
“We thought that we were going to do it on our own but God just provided.”
Another reason Royal Kids Worship has been growing in popularity is because it meets a need.
“Maybe half in the group cannot go to church because of their kids. But they want their kids to come to know God.
“Two years ago, I met one mummy who didn’t take her son to church. She came to me and asked, ‘How do I let my son know about God? I don’t know how to teach him.’”
Now, the group even has children who do not have special needs. These come from countries where the churches have not entirely returned to in-person worship and so the children have no Sunday School to attend. There is even one who is not of the faith.
Last Christmas, the numbers swelled to 50 simply by word of mouth. As part of the celebration, Sheue King sent those who signed up for the worship session a hamper of sparkling juice and cookies.
“Someone heard about what we were doing and sponsored us. We thought that we were going to do it on our own but God just provided.”
The journey ahead
Royal Kids Worship has also been supporting a pastor in Batam and his ministry there.
“We do fundraising. Although we are very cham (pitiful), some are worse off than us. So, we raised funds to bless these people in Batam. We managed to raise $3,000.”
“We want our children to give glory to our God.”
Though the Covid threat has abated and churches have opened up, Sheue King has no intention of closing Royal Kids Worship.
“It’s very hard for our kids with autism to go to church. The journey to church is already very tough. It’s hard to take the kids out. They will scream in the cab, have a meltdown. When they get to church, they cannot blend in.
“So, many of the mummies don’t go to church. I have a heart for these mummies. With Royal Kids Worship, at least they have something to spur them and encourage them: Your journey is tough but you can tap on God, depend on God and look up to God for help.
“I hope the mummies will see our God is a powerful God who loves them.
“I also hope they will be encouraged and see that they are not journeying alone. They have a group of friends who walks this journey together with them.”
What started out as a way to bring worship to children with autism is growing into something bigger.
“We started out wanting our children to worship God, to love God. Now, we want our children to give glory to our God.
“I will carry on till God says ‘no’.”
“When others see our children and the miracles in their lives, they can see God’s glory too.”
There have been small miracles that have meant a great deal to the families. Children who used to jump around during the worship are now able to concentrate during the half hour of Royal Kids Worship.
Sheue King sees each of these as opportunities to glorify God.
“That’s why I won’t stop doing Royal Kids Worship. I will carry on till God says ‘no’.”
To join Royal Kids Worship, sign up here.
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