Calvary Chapel Lebanon

God Revealed Through Down Syndrome

Ted: Through Down’s Syndrome, Shining God’s Light

Testimony by Sue Keller
Photos by Tanya Hoover

Sue is the wife of Thom Keller, pastor of Calvary Chapel Lebanon, PA. This is the testimony of the impact her younger brother, who has Down syndrome, has had in the life of her family and church.

On April 16, 1963, the day my brother Theodore William Klein was born, the skies of Pennsylvania were completely sunny and bright, with just one dark cloud rising from the horizon. Some may have thought that cloud was caused by Ted’s birth. But instead, we discovered that on that day, God had slipped a negative slide into the projector; in actuality, the skies of Pennsylvania were completely dark and overcast—with just one brilliant ray of sunshine breaking through. That was the day Ted was born. He was and is that break in the clouds. And through the years, that cloud-break has become larger and larger with his brilliant beam of sunshine touching more and more people!

family portrait

Pastor Thom Keller of Calvary Chapel Lebanon, along with his wife, Sue, enjoys sharing life with Sue’s brother, who has Down syndrome.

Ted, or “Theodorable”, as he is affectionately called by his siblings, is the youngest of 10 children; he came to live with my husband Thom and I in 2001, following the death of our parents. Not only did he transition beautifully into our home, but also into church life at Calvary Chapel Lebanon.

One of the sweetest sounds in our home is Ted singing along with his praise and worship CD. He sings with great volume, passion, and gusto, always about three seconds behind, typically off-key, and with his own interpretation of the words. If his door is open, listening is surpassed by the privilege of “watching” him worship.

When Ted noticed that Thom spent a good bit of time reading and studying the Bible, he desired to do the same. You will often find Ted reading God’s Word and copying it onto notebooks and tablets. There was a time in the car when Ted and I were discussing the pros and cons of watching professional wrestling, which he had done since he was 15 years old. The goal was to help him understand that some of what is said and shown on professional wrestling was not pleasing to God. It was obvious he took issue with my comment, so after a slight pause, he responded with, “Well, I read in my Bible that Jacob wrestled with God!”

Ted in Sunday school

Ted, who looks forward to his weekly Sunday school sessions, asks a teacher for help in finding a scripture in his Bible.

On Sunday morning, he is dressed and ready to leave an hour in advance with great anticipation of seeing his friends, attending Sunday School, and giving his world-famous hugs to all who are open to them.

Our children’s director, Somer Parker, wrote: “One touching moment that characterizes how well Ted reflects the love of Jesus occurred in the children’s ministry wing on Sunday morning. One of our children, who suffers greatly from emotional trauma, was having a very rough morning, and just couldn’t be comforted or calmed by any of the volunteers. He was rampaging through the hallway, just a torrent of unfocused energy.

Ted shares verse with classmate

Ted shares a verse he found in his Bible with a classmate.

“But the second that he saw Ted coming down the hall, the waves calmed and the winds settled, and he ran into Ted’s warm hug. And he stayed settled well after. The tender hug and always kind word that Ted has for those he loves (and that happens to be just about everyone!), quell hostility and rage like nothing you’ve seen. And through his hug he speaks a million words of love and comfort into the hearts of those he embraces. There is no place on earth where you can be closer to Christ than inside one of Ted’s hugs. Ted stands at about 5 feet, 2 inches tall, so it doesn’t make sense; but when you’re hugging him, you feel small in his arms. It’s something special.”

Ted with church member

Ted is deep in thought with a member of his church, Calvary Chapel Lebanon.

Several years ago, the son of our dear friends had an accident, and his life was in jeopardy. Ted, Thom, and I were with his sister as she prepared to join the rest of her family at the hospital. She later told us, “Ted embraced me and when I went to pull away, he pulled me in again, so I let go, and collapsed into his hug. It felt like Jesus was hugging me.”

Thom recalled a conversation he had with Ted several years ago. “Ted and I went out for breakfast on a Friday morning. That coming weekend he was going to be playing in a large Special Olympics soccer tournament in Philadelphia with scores of teams attending. As we were talking about the tournament, I asked if he thought they’d do well. He said, ‘We’re going to win the tournament.’ I said, ‘Ted, we really can’t know that.’ He said, ‘I know we’re going to win.’ I said, ‘Ted, how do you know that?’ He said, ‘I prayed and asked God to win the gold medal.’

Ted hugs man

Ted looks to embrace a man from his church “When you’re hugging him, you feel small in his arms. It’s something special.”

Ted hugs lady

Ted wraps his arms around a woman from his church in a joy-filled hug.

“Trying to make this a teaching point, I said, ‘Ted, we can’t really pray that way. We really should not pray to win.’ He said, ‘I can.’ Undaunted, I pressed on, ‘But Ted, what if the other teams also pray to God to win; what will God say to them?’

“Ted responded, without giving it a second thought: ‘He’ll tell them “Good luck!”’ I laughed so hard I almost cried. But here’s the kicker—they won the whole tournament! So I don’t correct Ted on his prayers anymore. I simply ask him to pray for me.” A natural comedian, Ted delights in making others laugh. There was the time the three of us were sitting at the kitchen counter laughing about something. When Thom stopped laughing, Ted imitated his laugh, which caused Thom to laugh again, followed by Ted imitating Thom’s laugh, and on and on it went! Ted’s imitation of Thom’s laugh was remarkable! We were all in tears from laughing so hard!

Ted fellowships with group of ladies

Surrounded by women sharing his abundant joy, Ted enjoys the moment.

Ted talks with church goers

Ted enjoys a good conversation with a woman and young man at Calvary Chapel Lebanon.

When Thom kisses me, Ted is quick to say, “Where’s my kiss?” as he lowers his face waiting for Thom to kiss the top of his head. Always the competitor, he counts the number of kisses I receive versus how many he received and belts out a laugh when his count is higher than mine.

Ted laughs with family

Ted shares a moment of laughter with Pastor Thom and Sue. She said, “We were all in tears from laughing so hard!”

An insightful woman was observing Ted at a church function and commented to me that Ted gives everyone permission to have fun! Spend enough time with him, and you will understand her statement.

Psalm 139 tells us that God’s workmanship is marvelous and that every day of our lives was recorded in His book. I thank God for allowing me to be included in the pages of the book of Ted’s life. This beautiful man, whom we love dearly, has been the source of immeasurable joy to our family and friends!

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.