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Loving Samuel:  Joy, blessing, laughter, gift

Since the birth of their son Samuel two years ago, Amy and Rich DeKorte have learned so much about Down Syndrome and experienced God’s remarkable work in their lives. In an email interview, Christian Courier asked Amy and Rich to share their family’s story.

Loving Samuel:  Joy, blessing, laughter, gift

Amy holding newborn Samuel.

Sonya VanderVeen Feddema: An interview with Amy and Rich DeKorte

Since the birth of their son Samuel two years ago, Amy and Rich DeKorte have learned so much about Down Syndrome and experienced God’s remarkable work in their lives. The couple, along with their four children, Abigail, 8, Owen, 6, Joshua, 4, and Samuel, live in Fenwick, Ontario. Besides nurturing and caring for their family, Amy and Rich own and operate Ramy Enterprises Inc. and Ramy Properties, which are property management and Real Estate investment companies, respectively. In an email interview, Christian Courier asked Amy and Rich to share their family’s story.

Christian Courier: When did you first realize that Samuel had Down Syndrome?
Amy and Rich:
We suspected it when I was five months pregnant after I had an ultrasound at Greater Niagara General Hospital in Niagara Falls. One month later, it was confirmed (99 percent) at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton.. Samuel was born there a few months later.

What was your first reaction?
Scared. Worried. Disbelief. Fear of the unknown. Why us?

What kinds of responses did you encounter from doctors and other health practitioners?
The doctors painted a bleak, worst-case scenario for us. We were educated about problems related to health (heart), behaviour, physical appearance and mental issues that could come with a Down Syndrome child. Although we understand that it’s the job of doctors to educate about all the possibilities, there was little or no positive information or encouragement. We believe doctors feel somewhat helpless with a Down Syndrome diagnosis because there’s no medicine or help they can give.
In general, what obstacles and challenges do parents who are expecting the birth of a child with Down Syndrome experience?
One obstacle is the pressure from society. Will we be accepted by society and our peers? Another obstacle is in ourselves, our own thoughts and feelings – what is life going to look like for our family?

The challenges are to stay positive, to keep the unborn baby (more than 90 percent of parents who are aware of a possible diagnosis of Down Syndrome terminate the pregnancy), and the health of the baby once he or she is born.

Samuel at age 2.

As Christians, what role did your faith in God play then and now?
Huge! First, God tested our faith. Second, we needed to trust in God to get us through those times. We knew God had a purpose in it all. We prayed that whatever happened, it would be to God’s honour and glory. We leaned on the promises of God in his Word.

God has taught us to rely on him for daily strength and has opened our eyes to see his blessings in our lives. One of the biggest blessings is seeing God’s presence in our lives. When we trust God even in the hard times – it’s not always easy! – he gives us exactly what we need.

Answered prayer is a huge factor, as well. In fact, Samuel is an answer to our prayers. Samuel means “heard by God.” This journey started when we began praying for a deeper, closer relationship with God and having a purpose in this life – and then came Samuel. We didn’t see it at first, but we saw it afterward. Sometimes we think God doesn’t hear us, but he answers and hears every prayer according to his will. God answered with better and far richer blessings than we could ever have imagined, even in and through those hard times.
Have you changed since Samuel’s birth?
Yes, we have. Now we live with more of an eternal perspective, realizing that life here on earth is temporary. We’ve become more caring for other people with disabilities, and we try to take the time to acknowledge them and make a difference in their lives. The biggest change for us was that Samuel’s disability opened our eyes to our own disabilities. Samuel wears his disability every day for others to see, whereas we often hide our disabilities. We also realize the unspeakably great joy Samuel has brought into our lives and the lives of our other children, as well as into the community it has opened up to us.

Through Samuel, God has answered our prayers to be bolder in serving him and being his disciples. God has opened up many opportunities for us to share our faith, speak of God’s goodness in our lives and bring the gospel.

How did you explain Samuel’s special needs to Abigail, Owen and Joshua? What impact has Samuel had on them?
We say little. When they do ask, we try to be as honest with them as we can. They love Samuel and he often makes them laugh. We believe that he’s taught them that we’re all born with strengths and weaknesses, and that we shouldn’t  judge, but accept all children for who they are. We’ve noticed that they’re more compassionate in serving and helping others around them. They understand that Samuel does what Samuel can in God’s time, that nothing comes automatically, and all things are a gift from God.

Samuel loves to keep up with his older brothers and sister, and do everything they do.

Have you received support from others after Samuel’s birth?
Yes. Besides family and friends, we’ve specifically received support from the Noorduyns, the parents of Matt, who also has Down Syndrome. Also, we’ve received support from Niagara Children’s Centre. It was there that we met another couple  who has a child with Down Syndrome who is the same age as Samuel. Now we’re good friends.

What are your hopes and dreams for Samuel’s future?
These are our hopes and dreams – that Samuel will come to know Jesus as his Saviour and Lord; that Samuel will be and have a positive impact on many people’s lives; that he can be a contributing member to society; and, since he loves music, that he can learn and master an instrument and/or be part of a choir or band one day.          

If you had a chance to talk to parents who have learned of a diagnosis of Down Syndrome for their unborn child, what would you tell them about your experience?
We’d tell them that we know the negative feelings and thoughts that they may be having or receiving. Then we’d encourage them to stay positive, believe in God’s promises and realize that children with Down Syndrome are not a burden, but one of the biggest blessings and gifts that they may ever receive. We’d tell them what one father told us when we had Samuel. He said that we wouldn’t trade Samuel for anything in this world. We’d also tell them that children with Down Syndrome are fun, loving, happy kids who deserve a chance like any other kid.

We’d also mention that having a child with any kind of disability will come with many appointments and possible health conditions. But believe that whatever God gives you, you can handle because he will walk and guide you through every step of the way. Not a day goes by that Samuel doesn’t make us laugh or smile!  As Winston Churchill once famously said, “Never, ever, ever give up!”  

About the Author
Loving Samuel:  Joy, blessing, laughter, gift

Sonya VanderVeen Feddema, Freelance writer

Sonya VanderVeen Feddema is a freelance writer living in St Catharines, Ont.