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Light in Darkness: A Spotlight on JBVC Vancouver​

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Tommy Chu stands patiently on the conference-room stage, watching as a group of people, tapping their mobility canes against the tiles, trickle in.  They joyfully greet one another as volunteers guide them to their seats. Chu smiles broadly. It’s going to be packed.

Chu, in his buttoned up short-sleeve dress shirt, scans the room.  He brings his wristwatch close to his face to check the time.  “We should start soon,” he whispers to his technical assistant, Denis Ng, who hurries to the laptop next to the large projector screen against the wall of the stage. 

          

As the background music fades and lights are dimmed as the program begins Chu holds the microphone.  “Welcome, everyone, to JBVC Vancouver’s five-year anniversary celebration!”

Applause and joyful cheers fill the air-conditioned room as Chu and others on the stage raise their arms and smile.

Chu has been a ministry assistant for the Joy Beyond Vision Community fellowship in Vancouver since 2018.  Founded in Toronto in 2006 by Pastor Danny Leung, who is totally blind, JBVC has been helping visually impaired people (also called VIPs) on their daily living and guiding them to God.  Chu joined as a volunteer when Leung expanded this Christian fellowship to Vancouver in 2018.

“I have to laugh—not in mockery, but with thanks—when retracing my journey of joining JBVC, because of God’s miracles in my life,” Chu says.

Chu’s journey towards membership with JBVC was a rocky one. Born in Hong Kong, Chu studied economics at the University of Toronto, then went on to become an accountant and businessman. The business was a failure, as was his marriage.  Even though Chu wasn’t religious, he and his pregnant wife attended marriage counselling with a pastor to try to salvage the relationship. That failed, too.  However, Chu converted to Christianity after hearing a sermon from a renowned preacher from Hong Kong who visited Vancouver, seeking a solution to his troubles. 

Chu worked odd jobs to sustain financially and to pay child support.  However, he developed retinitis pigmentosa from two car crashes seven years ago.  Doctors predicted he would become totally blind.  The diagnosis left Chu jobless and discouraged.

Needing a job to survive, Chu attended a job fair in downtown Vancouver in early 2018.  However, he got lost while returning home from the event because of his poor night vision.  This prompted Chu to request for a mobility cane from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind for safer commuting. 

Chu joined JBVC as a volunteer after a CNIB employee there introduced him to Pastor Danny Leung.  “Joining JBVC has been life-changing,” Chu says. 

As Chu gradually becomes a full-time ministry assistant, JBVC Vancouver’s membership has grown from 10 to 60 in these five years.   Initially, Chu helped the members—who are mostly seniors with limited technological expertise—to log on Zoom to join the jointed monthly gathering with the Toronto district.  He also cared for them with regular phone calls.

When the COVID-19 pandemic halted in-person gatherings in early 2020, Chu suggested to continue to connect with the members over Zoom.  As the lockdown persisted, Chu and his team expanded the Zoom gatherings from once a month to six days a week.  The members enjoyed daily Zoom meetings with activities such as daily living support, tech talks, Bible studies, and sing-alongs.

“I’m very grateful that I joined JBVC, where all its members are in similar circumstances,” says Alan So, who joined JBVC soon after having glaucoma three years ago that leaves him almost completely blind.  “I find all the weekday activities [on Zoom] abundant, but I enjoy most learning about the skills in “The Art of War” on Thursdays and discussing about technology and living with sight loss on Fridays.  Our monthly fellowships are also fulfilling.”

Through joining JBVC activities, So also has higher self confidence and shamelessly to use the white cane when commuting.

“I learned through JBVC how to use cellphone functions efficiently to watch YouTube videos and listen to bible teachings,” says Danny Tang, a senior who joined JBVC just before the pandemic began.  A Christian since high school, Tang’s vision deteriorated at around age 40.  Tang is the activity host on Mondays and is the assistant host on Thursdays.  “I also enjoy the activities on other days.”

Alan Chow, one of the youngest members in his 40s, has sight loss due to diabetes eight years ago.  He had two eye surgeries that resulted in limited vision on his right eye and totally blind on his left eye.  “When I joined JBVC and met those who also have sight loss, I felt understood,” he explains.  “My friends would comfort me, but they may not feel my distress because they don’t share my circumstance.  Those in JBVC have personally experienced sight loss.  They can answer my questions and support my needs.” 

Chu is glad that he has gained and changed many visually impaired people’s lives in these five years, although he is too humbled to take full credit. “I prefer to help others when needed without much recognition,” Chu admits.  “We are all supporting one another in this spiritual journey.  Often, help is more two-way than one-way.

“I’m grateful for the Vancouver VIPs’ friendliness despite their hardships,” Chu continues.  “God has given me capabilities to help the members, both spiritually and in their daily living.  I’m often stunned by my ministry, and I’m happy that I have this passion to care for them.” 

The VIPs introduced JBVC to their friends with sight loss who were struggling to cope with their circumstances.  They told them about Chu’s care towards them.  As a result, the membership spiked during the pandemic to reach the current 60.   

Five years is a short span for most people.  However, it has turned Chu’s life from darkness into a marvelous light, and it has given visually impaired people vision that is beyond what physical eyes can see.  For JBVC Vancouver, the fifth anniversary is both a small milestone and a tremendous success as a packed room of participants happily singing a gospel song at the celebration event.

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