Diana and Bejoy share their journey with Jesus Youth and how they realized their special calling...

Diana and Bejoy Mathew along with their three children- Edwin, Donna, and Aleena, live in Manchester, UK. Bejoy is the previous National Coordinator of Jesus Youth UK and Diana works as a Nurse in Manchester. While Diana was brought up in Goa, Bejoy grew up in Kottayam, Kerala. Having brought up in practicing Catholic families, faith was their greatest blessing.

You have been married for many years now. From your initial days of marriage, how have you seen yourself and each other change during these years?

We started our journey back in 2004. We believe that marriage is a sacred and a special relationship formed by God, and He is the centre of our married life. As time progressed, our love towards each other, selfless giving and caring has grown each day as we have come to know each other better with the help of God. We support each other to grow deeper in our relationship as well as deepen more in our spirituality. We make it a priority to help each other even in small things, to encourage and support each other. Communication is the most important tool that has helped us during these years, and we spend time together sharing our feelings, struggles, and work stress. We feel that married life is like a vehicle, which needs to be taken care of; there are times when both of us need healing, growth, acceptance, and attention from the other. And we strongly believe that if God is at the centre of a marriage, then your love will grow stronger.

Life can be difficult at times. Could you share how you support each other when times are difficult, and things seem particularly hard?

Life can’t be sweet always. We also have our difficult times which seem impossible to overcome. And yet from our past experience, we can confidently say that whenever the Lord has taken us through a difficult situation, he has also made sure that he was in control. As it says in Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Since Edwin has come into our life, blessings from God have followed.

Could you tell us about Edwin and how as a family, he has changed your outlook and priorities of life?

Edwin is our first child. When we got married, our incessant prayer was for baby Jesus to be born as our child. As I prayed for a baby like baby Jesus, I expected a very smart good-looking child. But God heard our prayers in a very real way. Edwin was born a premature baby – at 32 weeks. He was taken to the special care ward for a few days. After three days the doctors called us and told us that Edwin had two conditions – one can be cured with an operation, but the second had no cure. Startled, I asked the doctor for more details. He said Edwin has a hole in his heart and this can be repaired with a surgery. But he also has Down’s syndrome. We were both shocked to hear it as we never expected it to happen to us. We had asked for a child like baby Jesus and got a child with Down syndrome. Naturally, both of us were shattered, began crying and we just could not accept that reality. We started questioning God – why has this happened in our life? We never did anyone any wrong, and yet a child with Down syndrome??? Why us, was our main complaint to God.

Things went from bad to worse in the following days as Edwin’s kidneys failed on top all his other system failures. And he had to go through an emergency operation when he was six days old. We both waited outside the operation theatre and after 20 minutes the doctors came out and told us that they needed to talk to us. They said that while having the operation, Edwin had a cardiac arrest and as far as they could see, the baby had no chance of survival now and so they asked us to go and see him for one last time. We both went inside and saw our son on the operation table fighting for his life. The Doctor gave us two options – either to continue surgery but Edwin would not survive the surgery, or take him back to the ICU where he could be alive for another 24 hours. What could we do!! I was holding Diana and crying like a little child. God gives us a child and before the shock of his condition has fully sunk in, much more suffering is on its way. Finally, we told the doctor to continue the surgery. We went back to the waiting room and waited there to hear the bad news. We kept on praying to the Lord, telling Him that we need our son back in our life and that we are ready to accept him with all his disabilities – as he is. After what seemed liked an eternity – three-hours and 10 minutes, the doctor came out and said – “I don’t know how, this is a miracle – he is still alive but there is long way to go.”

Edwin was in hospital for 11 months and 10 days, of which he was on ventilator for almost 10 months. In the last 12 years, he has gone through 19 major surgeries, but every time it gets bad and there is no hope, our Lord keeps him safe and brings him back to our life. Over time, we have realised how God has indeed given us a child like baby Jesus as we prayed – A very special child. The Lord always sends his angels when he sends his special children into the world. And he gave us two beautiful girls – Donna and Aleena in 2007 and 2008 to look after him and support him as angels in his life. Edwin is the greatest blessing from God for us and it is a great privilege to be chosen to love and care for God’s very special child. Our life revolves around Edwin, his smile makes our day more beautiful, more blessed – not just ours, but of everyone around him. We really thank the Lord for the great blessing of Edwin in our life.

Thank you for your witness, Bejoy and Diana. Bejoy, you have also been the coordinator of Jesus Youth UK for the past three years and have been active in JY for the past many years. Could you describe some of the blessings you have received as a family during these years in JY?

When we started our journey in Jesus Youth we weren’t quite sure about the movement and its spirituality. Over the past many years, we have come to know more about the movement and this journey has helped us to grow and deepen our spiritual life. All our spiritual growth is through the movement and Jesus Youth helps us to stay closer to the Lord. The movement has blessed us with a beautiful fellowship and strong family relationships, thus becoming part of a big family (JY Family). It is such a blessing for the kids to have so many to look up and grow.

“Edwin is the greatest
blessing from God for us
and it is a great privilege
to be chosen to love
and care for God’s very
special child”

What is an advice that you would give to young people discerning their vocation?

It is extremely beneficial for young people to go through this process, of discerning and listening to God’s voice in their lives. Understanding God’s will can be challenging – you might feel excited, anxious, scared or not sure of what to do next. Give first priority to the Kingdom of God and rest will fall in its place. Keep praying, being open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help you discern your call, whatever it is. God calls and speaks to people in the midst of their daily life. By spending time with God, listening to Him, living the life you have now, removing distractions so that you can hear Him clearly, deepening your prayer life and getting help from others, having some sort of spiritual direction are some of the sure ways to understand God’s call.

Joseph Anthraper lives in Southampton with his wife Mahima and kids Anna-Claire, John-Paul and Samuel-Joseph, and loves reading, movies and theology. He is part of the Kairos Global Editorial Council.