Tim Tebow and his “Night to Shine” global event for Special Needs

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Tim Tebow is a big man with a big heart. It is absolutely incredible what he is doing to lift up and show compassion to people with special needs, not just in the United States of America, but all over the world. He has set up a hugely successful ‘Night to Shine’ event in the United States. In his own words: ‘The vision of Night to Shine is to love people with special needs, it’s to bring churches together and to ultimately change the world through the eyes of people with special needs. February 8th (in 2019), will truly be a night people will never forget.’

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So what is ‘Night to Shine?’ Tim Tebow is a devout Christian. His number one priority in life is his faith in God. He has established a Tim Tebow Foundation as a Christian Ministry, an act of faith, focusing on celebrating the lives of all people with special needs. According to his Foundation website: ‘Night to Shine is an unforgettable prom night experience, centred on God’s love, for people with special needs ages 14 and older. This February 8, 2019, Night to Shine will celebrate its fifth anniversary! On one night, 655 churches from around the world came together to host Night to Shine for approximately 100,000 honored guests through the support of 200,000 volunteers! ‘ This is partnership working at its finest, aimed at loving and celebrating people with special needs.

People with special needs are given the Royal treatment. Red carpets, ball gowns, tuxedos, good food, the works. This night stands out. This event also brings together volunteers from local communities, they come to serve people with special needs. What an amazing event that reaches out in love to all those with special needs. Tim Tebow once posted a verse from the Bible on his Facebook page which sums up what he is doing for the most vulnerable sections of society: “‪Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you. ” Ephesians, Chapter 4:32‬

The lives of people with special needs have worth and value. As the chorus goes, ‘all are precious in His sight.’ My wife and I campaigned long and hard for autism in the United Kingdom and around the world since the year 2000. We founded Autism Sunday, also know as the International Day of Prayer for Autism, to celebrate the lives of 67 million people with autism. We just did it all of this for love, never for the money. We didn’t have millions to pay for expensive PR campaigns, we were just parents and caregivers, by a miracle it spread around the world, by word of mouth. Coincidentally, Autism Sunday falls just two days after Tim Tebow’s ‘Night to Shine’ event on Sunday the 10th February in 2019. Our campaigning days are over as we believe God is taking our family in another direction. Seasons come and go but hope lives on.

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We have a precious son, Charin who is on the autism spectrum, he is 23 years old. When we were in the United Kingdom Charin attended a special needs secondary school (high school). After students completed their studies in the Sixth Form, (in the UK that is Year 12 and 13), the school held an annual Prom for them, very similar to the ‘Night to Shine’ event in the United States. That was the first occasion that our son wore a black suit, bow tie, black shoes and attended a Prom – it was also the first ever occasion he danced with another special needs girl! Charin was so excited, (and we were as excited as our son, life has been a struggle for him and for us but we so thank God that he has been a blessing to us), our son knew this was something very different. He had heard about the School Proms from films he has watched and shrieked with joy when he was dressing up to attend the prom.

My wife and I found the Prom in our son’s special needs school in the United Kingdom so touching and moving. We were very proud to see our son looking so dapper and seeing his moves on the dance floor – for the first time! He also loved the food! My wife had to drag me away from the scene as I was transfixed and deeply moved! I was  thankful to God, for this moment of compassion, seeing our son celebrating and being celebrated in this way, at his first ever Prom in the United Kingdom. It was a beautiful sight to behold. I salute Tim Tebow for embracing this concept and bringing joy into the lives of people with special needs with his “Night to Shine” event. This is a wonderful act of kindness and compassion.

 Tim Tebow was born in the Philippines on August 14, 1987. He is a former professional American football quarterback and is a current professional baseball outfielder in the New York Mets organization. He has played college football for the University of Florida, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and appearing on BCS National Championship -winning teams during the 2006 and 2008 seasons. Tebow was selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft and spent two seasons with the team. He also played for the New York Jets in 2012. Additionally, he had preseason stints with the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 and 2015.

Wherever he goes, Tim Tebow shares his faith in Jesus Christ – on the football field he was known for having the verse John 3:16 on his face patches. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Perhaps his greatest success has been to set up the Tim Tebow Foundation and to launch the  inspirational “Night to Shine” event, helping churches to celebrate all people with special needs and that includes starting up a whole worldwide movement to help churches establish infrastructure – in order to welcome and support people with special needs into churches, within  a spirit of love and compassion.

When I think of Tim Tebow, this song comes to my mind. His actions on earth are a reflection of the actions of his Heavenly Father. ‘You raise me up to more than I can be,’ says the song, so I can stand on mountains – there is always hope, even for young people with special needs, their parents and their caregivers.

As a father of a young man with autism, I want to thank Tim Tebow, from the bottom of my heart, for raising up people with special needs, for bringing joy into their lives, for celebrating their lives, for showing them love and compassion with his ‘Night to Shine’ event. He is an all American hero and above everything else a wonderful servant of God who embodies Compassionate Leadership. He brings a touch of Heaven into the lives of the most vulnerable sections of society. He truly is a Servant Leader.

Here are Tim Tebow’s Top 10 Rules for Success – lessons in leadership:

  1. Pursue your passion.
  2. Strive for excellence.
  3. Focus on your goals.
  4. Change lives.
  5. Block out the criticism.
  6. Always give your best.
  7. Set your priorities.
  8. Rise after falling.
  9. Believe in yourself.
  10. Work hard.

Ivan Corea

To support the Tim Tebow Foundation, please access the link:

https://www.timtebowfoundation.org/

Photographs courtesy of Wikipedia and the Tim Tebow Foundation.

Films courtesy of Youtube.

 

 

 

 

 

The Compassionate Baroness and the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre

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Caroline Cox, a Baroness in the House of Lords, in the British Parliament, is one of the kindest, most caring and compassionate women I have ever met. She has such a heart for the most vulnerable sections of society. She has truly been a ‘voice for the voiceless’ and has championed human rights around the world – she is a woman of faith and that has been the guiding light, in whatever she has done. There are those who agree to disagree with her, but she carries on regardless, ‘speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.’

Decades ago, Caroline Cox replied one of my letters when I was campaigning on behalf of parents, care givers and people with autism – you could sense the compassion in her. Caroline Cox is no fake. She is the real deal. In 2015 Biola University in the United States of America invited a Baroness for the first time, to address 225 graduates and 725 under graduates at their Spring Commencement ceremonies. On that occasion Biola University presented her with the Chuck Colson Award for Conviction and Courage. Recipients of the award are individuals who demonstrate commitment to the unshakeable truths of a biblical worldview, as well as a willingness to act on biblical convictions, however risky or challenging it may be.

An Armenian organisation in the United States, awarded her with the ANCA-WR ‘Advocate for Justice’ award in 2018. She has always been a powerful voice for the voiceless. She is the founder and CEO of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), which combines aid with advocacy, working for people suffering from oppression, exploitation and persecution.

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In 2018 Caroline Cox asked me if I would like to accompany her and a team from HART to visit the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre in Artsakh, Armenia to celebrate 20 years of this Centre. I readily agreed because my gut feeling was that I would see something amazing here. Wherever we travelled in Armenia, people would come up to Caroline Cox and thank her for standing by them, in their hour of need.  I will never forget, as we were walking in Stepanakert, this really frail old lady crossing the road, saw Caroline and came up to her and spoke to her with gratitude in her eyes.

When we reached the Centre I witnessed the work of the staff and therapists – they were giving love, care, devotion, dedication, commitment. The Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre is headed by a gentleman called Vardan who is the embodiment of Compassionate Leadership. He is totally driven by compassion and is a powerful voice for the vulnerable in Armenia. Vardan is deeply passionate about helping and supporting the disabled in Armenia. It was wonderful to see love in action.

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I was so moved to meet with the children with autism. One little boy jumped into my arms and hugged me. It touched my heart. This beautiful place is a ‘centre of excellence, ‘ in every sense. I saw people who had suffered strokes and the therapists were teaching them to walk and talk again. I saw children with autism being taught skills which will help them to live independently, they were teaching them communication skills and so many other skills too. I walked into one room and saw very young children with autism who were being taught to prepare vegetables for their lunch at the Centre. As I left the room, a little boy with autism shouted out ‘Papa.’ It shook my heart.

Some of the people who came to this centre were from the poorest of the poor, travelling miles away from villages in Armenia, in order for the staff and therapists to help their loved ones. They are able to stay for a few weeks at the Centre and the staff teach the parents and caregivers much needed skills and strategies to help their children when they return home.

Training is given to people who need it. When I was there I saw local school children visiting the Centre – it was a learning experience for them. The place is a hub of activity, you could feel a real buzz. Vardan should be congratulated for introducing innovation, educational strategies, in service in house training for his staff – he is an amazing visionary and so forward thinking with a positive outlook on life. Sir Winston Churchill once said: ‘Never, never, never give up.’ Vardan certainly never gives up. He sees the big picture and he has acted upon it. Partnership working is important to him and he has partnered with people all over the world.

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Wherever you are in the world, please have a place in your heart for HART,  help raise much needed funds for the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre. They do so much with very little. A mustard seed has grown into a great big tree. At the moment the charity is trying to raise funds to buy a used van for Vardan (The Van4Vardan campaign), so that they could transport the differently abled to summer camps.

Having visited this Centre (as a former autism campaigner), I can assure you that what is happening here is genuine, real, innovative, a place of compassion – really supporting the differently abled. Please contact the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre, visit them, volunteer, consider financially supporting the work for the most vulnerable sections of society. HART is spearheading this wonderful work, reaching out ‘to the least of these.’ The Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre is a place of love and compassion. A diamond in the heart of Eastern Europe. A very precious place.

Ivan Corea

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Please contact the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) in London, in the United Kingdom for further information. Their contact details are on the website – please access the link below:

https://www.hart-uk.org/

https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/van4vardan

 

Some pictures courtesy of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust

 

Future leaders stepping up to serve in the community

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Future leaders from a school in the London Borough of Havering in the UK showed true compassionate leadership by volunteering in the local community. They learnt so many life lessons by serving. The school had launched the first ever leadership development program, combining it with volunteering in the local community. The secondary school students served young people with autism, sacrificing their Saturdays to work with the most vulnerable sections of society. The students came along side these young people at an autism club in Romford in Havering in London, helping them in their creative skills, sports, dance, music, in partnership with a local church. It was so wonderful to see service to the community in action in such a vibrant way – they brought joy into the lives of the vulnerable.

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The paintings of these young people on the autism spectrum were displayed in the local council chamber, featured in community magazines and exhibited at an event in a local church to mark Autism Sunday – the international day of prayer for autism which takes place annually, on the second Sunday in February. People came from far and wide to see these creative works of art from the differently abled, including the local MP, the Mayor and local Councillors. The students played a huge role in the ‘Step Up to Serve’ campaign, launched by one of the British charities under patronage of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales – they were an integral part of the #IWill campaign set up with the intention of helping young people into volunteering in their communities.

Serving the local community made a huge impact on the lives of these future leaders. When they left school and went on to follow University degrees in the United Kingdom,  they actually wrote about their experience in research papers, threw themselves into University Autism Clubs and went on to serve even more in other local communities. They displayed compassionate leadership by reaching out in love to young people with autism in the UK.

When St. Paul’s Cathedral opened their doors to people with autism with compassion

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The year was 2002, we campaigned long and hard on autism and there was a huge need to raise awareness of autism. It was such a struggle to access public services. We did it for love and not for the money after our precious son was diagnosed with autism. Parents, carers and people with autism were finding life very difficult without public services – so my wife and I set about persuading partners to come on board with a small acorn of an idea hatched in our front room in Essex, in the United Kingdom. It grew into something big – we initiated 2002 as Autism Awareness Year – this was the first ever occasion of partnership working on autism in the UK, on such a large scale – all of it was for the good of parents, carers and people with autism in the United Kingdom – the idea was freely given in order to help others. Over 800 UK organisations came on board as partners of the year. The inspiration behind all of this was our precious son, we thank God for his life and we know that Jesus loves him.

Parliamentary debates were held in the Scottish Parliament, in the House of Commons and in the House of Lord in the Palace of Westminster in 2002 Autism Awareness Year.

The British Prime Minister at the time, Tony Blair became the first ever Prime Minister in the history of the United Kingdom to mention the word autism. in the House of Commons in the British Parliament and to back and support the year. Prime Minister Tony Blair personally answered a question on Autism Awareness Year at Prime Minister’s Questions, in the chamber of the House of Commons, on the 9th of January 2002.

Photo of Ms Linda PerhamMs Linda Perham  Labour, Ilford North

“Will the Prime Minister acknowledge the success of the British Institute for Brain Injured Children, the Disabilities Trust and my constituents, Ivan and Charika Corea, in getting 2002 declared as autism awareness year? Will he ensure that the national and local bodies that are responsible for health, social services and education co-operate in the joined-up provision of services that autistic people and their families desperately need? “

Photo of Tony BlairTony Blair  Prime Minister

“Yes, I certainly congratulate my hon. Friend’s constituents and the organisations concerned. Autism awareness year should give us the opportunity to raise the awareness of this condition, which is very debilitating and is distressing for families; in addition, it should ensure that we can learn more about what causes autism. She will be pleased to know that, in addition to the measures being taken by the voluntary sector, the Government are putting more resources and research into exactly how autism occurs and how we should deal with it. “

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We also felt there was a need for the faith community to engage with parents, carers and the autism community, to reach out in love in the name of Jesus. We launched the International Day of Prayer for Autism also known as Autism Sunday in 2002 during Autism Awareness Year. This was the first ever international event on autism. It was amazing, God opened unexpected doors and showed favour as this was for ‘the least of these’ in His name. I remember walking into a restaurant with work colleagues a few months before and saw the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres having lunch with the famed BBC TV Newsnight presenter, Jeremy Paxman. That prompted us to write to the Bishop of London. He wrote back personally supporting the whole idea of Autism Sunday and we asked if there could be an event at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. It turned out that the Bishop of London, Rt.Rev.Richard Chartres had been involved with a charity dealing with autism – what a divine connection!

The Cathedral administrators got in touch with us and it was on. God just opened door after door of favour, the British press, radio and television heralded Autism Sunday, giving it wide coverage with television crews outside the Cathedral and televising clips for the evening news, across the nation. Bill Turnbull of BBC TV News had a special news item  giving an opportunity for us to invite people to the service. The ‘Thunderer,’ the London Times published the news on their Royal & Court Page.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral showed tremendous compassion to the vulnerable, by opening the Cathedral doors for the first time, to parents, carers and people with autism – 600 people turned up for the service. The Canon who took the service made a special reference to Autism Sunday and welcomed everyone. It was a beautiful moment ,celebrating the lives of all people with autism, their parents and carers. There was total freedom inside the Cathedral  – children with autism were walking up and down – that’s what Jesus would have done. As the choristers walked down in procession a little boy with autism shouted out:  ‘thank you.’ People were moved by the service and the compassion extended to the vulnerable by St. Paul’s Cathedral.

This acorn of an idea spread purely by word of mouth, without a penny being spent on expensive public relations and marketing campaigns and it is now a global event -the oldest global event, celebrating the lives of people with autism. Every life is precious and has worth and value in the sight of God. This was a celebration of life and rightly so.

Ivan Corea

Parliamentary debates in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords in 2002 Autism Awareness Year:

Prime Minister Tony Blair supports 2002 Autism Awareness Year at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on 9th January 2002:

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2002-01-09.534.2

The Scottish Parliament debate heralding Autism Awareness Year on 6th December 2001:

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/sp/?id=2001-12-06.4678.0&s

Photographs of St.Paul’s Cathedral courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Compassion To Action

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Photograph of Chris Overstreet, courtesy of Portland 2018

 

American Evangelist, Chris Overstreet, is one of the most compassionate pastors I have ever met. Chris Overstreet, now based in Portland, Oregon, was the former Outreach Pastor of Bethel Church, in California. Chris has a vision to help raise up evangelists across America and to rally the body of Christ around the Cross to reach cities all across America for Jesus.

It was a Sunday morning. My wife, son and I were on our way to church. The place was packed. My wife went to the park the car and it was absolutely full. Meanwhile my son and I went into the church to find seats. We struggled to find even one. Able bodied people were seated in the disabled seating and I hunted for seats, fully knowing that our precious son would find it difficult to stay in the service without a seat. Some people on the autism spectrum think differently – some think in pictures and numbers. I just knew what was going through the mind of our beloved son – he definitely had a ‘picture’ of a ‘seat.’ We couldn’t find one. He let out a wail as he was extremely upset that we couldn’t find seats. He went into the corridor outside and was inconsolable. We sat down on the floor. Some people walked by on the other side.

Then came a man who had heard our son cry. He came quietly, with concern etched on his face, for our son. He too was a father and he displayed the characteristics of love and compassion of our Heavenly Father. My son and I were both seated on the floor. The man who came to us, in our hour of need, was Chris Overstreet. The first thing he asked me was: ‘What can I do to help?’ Our son had cried so much that he was exhausted and thirsty. Chris Overstreet promptly got up and from somewhere brought our son (who was in distress), a glass of iced water. Then, still on his haunches, giving eye contact to our son, laid hands on him and prayed for him with all of his heart. He prayed for the peace of Jesus to invade our son’s heart and mind, he prayed for calm, he prayed for the Holy Spirit to come, right there in that church corridor. Our son calmed down. This was an incredible act of compassion.

Chris Overstreet’s compassion reminded me of a scene from that epic film, “Ben-Hur,” released in 1959, starring Charlton Heston and directed by William Wyler. There is a scene in the film where Judah Ben Hur was refused water by the Roman soldiers and fainted as a result, crashing to the ground. He cried out: “God help me!” Then this peaceful figure approaches him with a cup of water and gives him to drink. Jesus took compassion and Chris Overstreet was following the example of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He took compassion on our precious son. That act of unconditional love still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it and it is something I will never ever forget and will take that ‘picture’ with me in my mind and in my heart when we leave California.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13, 14

This really was compassion to action, which is the profound ministry of Chris Overstreet. Subsequently I had the privilege of addressing one of the fellowships at the church on the theme of “Compassion and Autism.” I appealed to all those present, not to walk by on the other side if they see a child with autism in distress. I urged them to ‘do a Chris Overstreet,’ and even if the parents or carer givers say ‘no thank you,’ still ask them: ‘What can I do to help?’ His timely and God-sent intervention that day, reflected the love and the compassion of Jesus Christ.

Ivan Corea