“I try not to worry about Nathan. At the end of the day, I do what I can and leave the rest to God.”
Tip, Darwin, Australia
Physically, Nathan looked like any other skinny kid but early on, we knew he was different. As a toddler, he had minor developmental delays and in primary school, he was a little slower at some things, which often made him a target for bullies. We also noticed he took things literally. Mum used to say to us kids “If you miss the bus you’re walking to school!” We knew she didn’t mean it, but Nathan didn’t. One day after missing the bus, he started walking to school. We never had a specific diagnosis, but recently, tests revealed Nathan has multiple cerebral dysfunction, which we believe stems from a lack of oxygen to his brain during mum’s labour. Despite his challenges, Nathan has lived his life to the fullest with lots of support from our family of seven and a miracle working God.
When he was 13, Nathan crashed his bike into a streetlight and because of his high pain threshold, he never complained. The next day, his arm was black and blue, so mum took him for an X-ray. Afterwards, the technician said: “There’s an old fracture but it’s healed!” Mum was confused, “Nathan’s never broken his arm before,” she told him. Then it twigged. After prayers the night before, God had miraculously healed him. Nathan talks about seeing angels as a little boy. It’s this childlike quality we all love about Nathan. He’s always got a smile and a hug for anyone and takes people just as they are.
When I turned 30 and Nathan was 31, mum and dad went overseas, and I became his carer. This meant dropping him off and picking him up for his volunteer role at Foodbank or taking him to doctors’ appointments or checking he makes it home from Pilates. I help him navigate social situations. I guess you could say I’m his social secretary — although at times, he thinks I’m being the bossy younger sister. A big part of my role as a carer is analysing situations and mitigating any potential for things to go wrong. I’m also studying at Hillsong Bible College and working part-time, so it’s a busy schedule; and on top of that, I battle with chronic fatigue. I try not to worry about Nathan. At the end of the day, I do what I can and leave the rest with God.
I love that our church has a ‘come as you are’ approach and doesn’t treat Nathan any differently to anyone else despite his intellectual disability. Because he feels so accepted, he has volunteered in nearly every area of church: Kids, production, CityCare pack and wrap at Christmas, and now hospitality. Since Hillsong Darwin launched six years ago, Nathan has had a chance to try out lots of different things and find what he likes to do. It shows me there is a place for everyone to volunteer. Nathan takes his role so seriously and sees himself as the gatekeeper of the auditorium. I was recently chatting with one of the leaders just prior to the service and Nathan appeared, tapped the team leader on the shoulders and said, “Six minutes until service time.” We both laughed.
He currently serves on the host team, which works perfectly because there aren’t too many variables and the people on his team treat him with dignity and respect along with a little bit of fun banter. They tease him about his choice of football team, which always gets interesting when State of Origin is on. He teases them right back. For me and the rest of the family, we can feel safe knowing he is surrounded by people who love him. Even though we serve in different areas, I am still around as his carer to help him navigate new or tricky situations.
They say it takes a village — and over the past 43 years of Nathan’s life, I have seen so many people who have looked out for him — from my close-knit family of seven, who are now scattered around Australia, to the team at church and our Hillsong Connect Group Leader who takes a genuine interest in Nathan. As soon as we get photos of our niece in Melbourne who we haven’t seen in three years because of Covid, Nathan will always proudly show his Connect leader. We often talk about a safe church as one that protects children and teenagers, but to me, a safe church is also about protecting the vulnerable like my brother, Nathan.
This week is National Carers Week, and we celebrate and honour all the incredible carers out there. You are loved!
Tune into Hillsong Church this December to see more of Tip and Nathan’s incredible story.