Many of you will have heard about a new member of our community, Stephanie Rimes, who was born at Benedictine Hospital on September 3rd. Like all parents, her mother and father waited for her a long time, and sent up many prayers before she finally came. But they never expected her to be as special as she really is.
Stephanie is not a normal child. She has Trisomy 13. She has a cleft palate – the roof of her mouth is missing – and she can open only one eye. She has a clubfoot, and the scans of her brain done at Albany Med – where she was transferred right after she was born – show other problems inside.
But as her grandfather, I can assure you that we do not have to feel sorry for Stephanie. She doesn’t mind that her face looks funny and that she is probably blind – or that she may not live longer than a few months. She has something none of us has. When you see her, you don’t say, “How cute!” Instead, you are quiet. You marvel. And right away, you think of God, and wonder why it is that He sends children like Stephanie into our midst.
In fact, He sends them for only one reason: to touch our hearts, and to change them. And it is remarkable how many lives Stephanie has already touched, in Kingston, in Albany, and in our own community. Without even knowing it, she has brought people who don’t even know each other together in prayer, and pointed them toward God.
In a world obsessed with physical perfection and material beauty, we need to welcome children like Stephanie – welcome them in the name of Jesus. That’s what he commands us to do when he says, “Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”
The apostle Paul tells us to do the same: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice! Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Jesus wants to give us his peace, and Stephanie brings this peace right to us.
How many other babies are born into this world deformed and blind and lame? How many of them are welcomed with love? When Jesus and his disciples met a man who was blind from birth, his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned – this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” And Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
This is surely the case with Stephanie. Her abnormalities come to us from God, as a revelation of His mighty works on earth. The challenge to us is whether or not we can accept these revelations, and whether or not we welcome them.
Stephanie died peacefully in her mother's arms on Sunday, October 5, 2008 at 9:15 am. She was just over a month old. Those who loved her and cared for her night and day over the last four weeks drew strength and comfort from the words of Jesus: “Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” She leaves behind four loving brothers and sisters: Damien, 11, Karena, 9, Kristen, 7, and Vanessa, 6.