May 2013

I wasn’t intimidated. Well, perhaps a bit.

Late afternoon, the day before we set off for Spring Harvest my phone rang. It was the national director of a charity – we had both been asked to speak on a certain subject at Spring Harvest [at different sites] and he was calling to see how I was planning to cover the topic.

As the event started the following day my talk was written and in my head, so we easily discussed some of the things I planned to say. Encouragingly he responded positively and when he asked if I would be willing to email my notes to him so he could include some of my thoughts I happily did so. He ended the conversation saying that he would send me some of his notes too.

The seminar title was ‘Supporting people through the onset of disability’. My plan was to share my story, to highlight some of the complexities that blindness brings to my life - practically, relationally, emotionally and spiritually. I would then move on to share some ‘hand holds’ that I find helpful, how God fits in and how I fit into God. I was also going to emphasise that other people face trickier challenges and may have much better solutions to share, and so I would leave time for those attending the seminar to contribute too.

Early that evening his notes came through – they included several long and detailed documents, a MA thesis and a 40 slide PowerPoint presentation containing facts, figures, statistical analysis of the growing problem, how the present NHS and Social Services models are insufficient, detailing the biblical mandate to help the poor and needy, two audio clips of theologians discussing how disability and God can co-exist, solution diagrams… my PowerPoint presentation containing 4 slides, one of which was the seminar title and my name!

I wasn’t intimidated. Well, perhaps a bit.

It was too late to change my plans, I arrived praying and trusting that God might somehow use my story despite the lack of multiple facts, figures and diagrams. Then just before the seminar began a lady from my previous church breezed up to me and asked how things were going; the family, church etc. She then apologised that she could not stay for my seminar but wished me well and then added… “out of all the disabilities out there, I reckon blindness is one of the easier to cope with” Then off she trotted.

People. Don’t you love’em!

Two minutes later I embarked on the seminar that used my story as the major backdrop. The audience was not many: 47 people, several in wheelchairs, a blind lady and others wanting to better support family and friends facing disability.

I started. I finished. I think it went well. And then it began.

Immediately after the seminar continuing to the final day of the conference, over 20 of the 47 people who attended the seminar separately sought me out, stopped me and spoke about the seminar. Some thanked me for my honesty, some were relieved that they were not the only one who struggled, some said they felt freed because “I don’t know” is a real, valid, ‘Christian’ answer and others felt more equipped and determined to keep going.

People. Don’t you love’em!

What we say often impacts more than we think.

In 1 Peter 3v15 we read “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

I think often we shy away from answering, not because we are ashamed of Jesus, but we don’t know what to say, or we are afraid we will get it wrong. Here’s a handy tip that seems to work well - start with what you are an expert in, your Jesus story. Share how and why you trust Jesus – don’t worry about being fancy and theological, just start the conversation by sharing your experience of Jesus and allow God to do the rest..
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