Fields Of Life. Ch. 9.
Remembering those early days after Judith’s death, I was so thankful for the dear folks who befriended me at Bethel Community Church in Newport, South Wales.
I was to learn much later that some folks in the church had wondered how they were to cope with, or care for someone like me.
After-all, it wasn’t every day that a man came into church, who, at the age of thirty, had just lost his wife, was a transplant recipient, and also happened to be totally blind!
Mind you, perhaps some folks just saw my blindness, and maybe they knew of nothing else.
Nevertheless, the folks there made me feel very welcome.
I felt immensely blessed.
Indeed, when it became obvious that I planned to make Bethel my spiritual home, it wasn’t long before I became part of the worship team.
However, it seemed that Paul Dando, the pastor, realised that maybe I had something more to offer.
As time moved on, I was also invited to become part of the pastoral team.
This would be a brand new challenge for me – and so, after considering this, it wasn’t too long before I took up the post of “Visitation Pastor.”
As a result, I began to visit folks at their homes, relating with them, listening, sometimes putting things into perspective, and always drinking plenty of tea!
Once a week, other church members came to pick me up from my home by car, and would come with me to visit the people, and for their help I was so truly thankful.
Amongst the drivers was Kim, a retired policeman, Sarah, who was married to Jonathan – the church sound engineer, and Hazel, the pastors mother.
Another plus at Bethel, was the opportunity to be part of a home-group.
In fact, it got to the point that I wasn’t just linked in with one home-group, but also leading two others.
And in addition, other home-groups in the church use to invite me to have some input.
The home-group set-up helped me to integrate with folks within the church, and as a consequence, I got to know them better.
And they got to know me!
TRAVELLING ACROSS EUROPE:
Ministry for me also included taking some trips abroad.
Trips to Poland and Hungary were part of the excitement that lay ahead.
I must interject an important note here: Paul Dando had little or no experience in guiding a blind man, for this reason, this took a bit of getting use to!!
There was one occasion: We were in the centre of Cardiff, and Paul walked me onto an escalator without telling me, thus, I felt the earth move beneath my feet!
On another occasion: We were inside the church building at Newport, and he walked me into a cast-iron column.
Anyhow, on my first trip to Poland, Paul Dando, Elwyn Phillips and myself travelled over three thousand miles.
The adventure began with the roughest ferry trip on the North Sea, from Folkstone to Rotterdam.
At this point, I didn’t mind sighted guide, but unless I had complete confidence in the person guiding me, I would prefer to use my white-cane at the same time.
Anyway, while Paul was trying to guide me around the ferry, suddenly I sensed that the roller tip on the end of my white-cane had disappeared!
What was I going to do?
This was just the beginning of the trip, and more importantly, the roller tip was quite expensive to purchase.
What is more, I had no spare, and there wasn’t any chance of getting another on route.
So, with great urgency, we had to re-trace our footsteps.
The pure thought of continuing the journey without a roller tip wasn’t an option for me!
Incidentally, while all this was happening, our friend, Elwyn, experienced sea-sickness on the upper deck!
And so, as Paul and I searched the ferry on the choppy sea, we eventually found the roller tip underneath an open stairway.
What a relief!
At any rate, after what was accepted as being the roughest ferry trip across the North Sea, and driving hundreds of miles across Europe, we finally ministered in one northern city.
LADY IN PINK:
There, Paul and I stayed the night with the pastor’s
elderly mother, who we always knew as the “lady in pink.”
With Paul taking the lead, and me holding his elbow, we finally arrived at her flat.
But, wen the Polish lady saw me, she was overcome with emotion.
As she took hold of me, and elbowed Paul into the wall, it felt as if she had lifted me up off my feet!
Suddenly, without any warning, I felt like a sack of potatoes!
Equally, when she led me into her lounge, I couldn’t feel my feet touch the floor!
Much to Paul’s astonishment, she then began to wait on me hand and foot.
Later, as I sat there in the lounge, I was informed that the layout of the flat was situated in a way where the rooms were multi-purpose.
It became apparent that in the day-time the room would be a lounge, and in the night-time it would turn into a bedroom.
Paul later informed me that all Polish flats, and all rooms were like this.
Anyhow, I had my own room.
Paul was in his on a bed settee.
Elwyn experienced kindness at the same time but in another place.
We had travelled all day across Europe, and had ministered in the evening service, and now, at last it was time for sleep.
But as I sat on the edge of my bed, ready to get undressed, I sensed that somebody else was in the room.
Who could it be, I wondered.
I knew it wasn’t Paul, as I had previously heard him go along the hall-way into his own room.
Thrown into a state of uncertainty, I called out to Paul.
After a long awkward silence, he eventually came to my aid, and I asked him if there was someone else in the room.
Much to my surprise, he said, “Yes, the Polish lady,”
It seemed that she was waiting to help me take off my clothes!
The last thing that I was going to do was to remove my trousers with her in the room.
As I chewed over the predicament before me, I asked my friend, “What are we going to do?
To my dismay and horror, Paul replied, “I don’t know, I’m going to bed.”
Some friend, eh?
Then, the lady began to speak to me with a handful of sentences in Polish.
As the confab unfolded, it didn’t make any sense!
I didn’t know any Polish.
She didn’t know any English!
In despair, I found myself replying to the lady with a slight adjustment to the volume in my voice.
Speaking to her as if she was hard of hearing,, I exclaimed, “Well, good night then!”
Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, she spoke another handful of sentences in Polish.
And, once again, I exclaimed, “Well, good night then!”
I couldn’t emphasise my reply more strongly, but somehow she didn’t understand me.
I certainly didn’t understand her!
As this was happening, I thought the dear lady may have known some German, so in despair I tried to remember the German translation for good night.
However, with much embarrassment, the only words I could find were, “Well, good night then!”
Obviously, my memory failed me, and even as I tried to utter the words with an accent, it just made matters worse!
As a last resort, having a go at sign language – yep, you’ve guessed, this didn’t help either!
What a dilemma!
Meanwhile – do you think my friend came to rescue me?
As I desperately looked for a way out, I could hear him chuckling in his room down the corridor!
This embarrassing experience seemed to go on and on for ages!
And then, suddenly I sensed the lady had gone.
This was my chance, my opportunity to get ready for bed.
With little delay, I was able to get undressed, yet, as I jumped into bed – she returned to switch the light off!
Sometime later I was taught the Polish for good night – dobranoc.
Sounds like – dobrahnots!
Since that moment, whenever we hark back to the various times we spent travelling together,, always at the top of our list of musings is the lady in pink.
So, pause where you are, and ponder the wonders of God.
The Voice Bible.