ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay (BP) -- Steven Kunkel's nickname appears at the top of his Facebook page:
Photo by Rebecca Springer/IMB
Sugoi (pronounced sue-GOY) means "awesome" in Japanese.
"Sugoi is my catchphrase," Steven explains, "so sometimes my friends call me 'Sugoisteve.'"
But from Steven's perspective, the "sugoi" part isn't about him. It's about God.
"I always want to give God the glory for what He has done in my life," he says.
That attitude was evident as Steven stood before worshippers at a Japanese-Paraguayan house church in Asunción, Paraguay. Accompanying himself on the guitar, he sang a favorite song by Casting Crowns, a Christian praise band:
"The voice of Truth says, 'This is for My glory.' Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of Truth."
Listening to Steven sing, his parents -- missionaries Tim and Iracema Kunkel -- wiped tears from their eyes. More than anyone else in the room besides Steven, they understood what these words have meant to him.
Eighteen years ago, Steven was diagnosed with autism, a developmental disorder causing problems in behavior, communication and social interaction. At age 5, Steven couldn't speak. Today, at 23, he speaks four languages -- English, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese. And he's learning five more -- Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, Mandarin Chinese and Tagalog.
Symptoms of autism
From the beginning, doctors said Steven was high functioning. Even so, he displayed all 14 of the most common symptoms of autism.
Steven couldn't tolerate change, for example. He didn't like to hug. He preferred being alone. He avoided eye contact, echoed others' words and laughed at inappropriate times. He also had a habit of spinning himself and objects.
Today, as a missionary in Japan, Steven has only one of the 14 symptoms -- inappropriate laughter -- and it's hardly noticeable. He taught himself how to manage it through Internet research. Read More