“For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7
The youth minister at my home church has a friend named Al. Al is blind, but he sees more clearly than I ever have.
Al grew up in a children’s home for the blind in Minnesota where he lived five days out of the week. The children bullied each other, and all were deprived of every day time with family. Al attended the school for 13 years, and began attending Abilene Christian University in 1988. He soon gave his life to Christ at 21 years of age.
“[Being baptized] was the greatest thing in the world. I felt like a five year old, when I was five getting a Christmas present or Birthday present I always wanted. From there, life changed. I realized that God does have a plan for me.” – Alan Bastyr
Al does not know what he looks like. He doesn’t have a favorite color or outfit he that he thinks he looks best in. He can’t read a menu to choose his meal at a restaurant, and he doesn’t push his food away because it looks distasteful.
Al easily trusts. To him, it doesn’t matter what anyone looks like. It doesn’t matter what he orders to eat as long as it tastes good, and color means nothing. Al shows God’s love in a way that we all should – he isn’t picky.
Al goes with it. He has traveled to several countries like Israel, Haiti, Taiwan, and the Philippines. He has been to most of the 50 states, reaching out to others through mission trips and youth camps. He treats all people alike. He sings them songs and plays them original music on the guitar. He reaches out into the darkness to feel out his surroundings. He plays with children by reaching for their heads, “squishing” them and “head-butting” them together as they giggle at the game.
“Al loves life. He genuinely cares about people and he is extremely passionate. His desire for reaching ‘10 year old head-butters’ for Christ is an example that all Christians should live up to… Al has zero qualms about being who God made him to be. He doesn’t care what other people think. He is full of energy and people are drawn to him, especially kids. He is a polarizing character…Al inspires you to be better and to take nothing for granted. He inspires you to play guitar better, be friendlier and be more loving. He inspires you to get out of your comfort zone and dive right in. He inspires you to love God with every fiber of your being…Anyone who spends any time with Al wants to be a better person. Al was an important figure when I found my calling to do Youth Ministry. As I’ve grown, I have enjoyed seeing Al interact with the teens in my ministry and I have loved watching him interact with my 4 children.” – Dan Henagar, friend, Rochester COC youth minister
Al doesn’t know what the kids look like, he only knows what their heads feel like. He doesn’t know the different skin colors or looks that vary with location. He loves people all the same, because we all have round, “squishable” heads, and we are all made the same: in God’s image, His creation, and that’s exactly how God wants us to view each other.
Al’s trust in others is unheard of. He trusts strangers to hold his arm and lead him in the right direction. He trusts the directions he is given and the departure times he is told when traveling. He trusts the food that is delivered to him.
He trusts that God with take care of him. He has faith that God is working in his life.
“He’s a big source of inspiration and he has a can do spirit; he doesn’t let anything stop him… He sees by faith. He doesn’t let his disability slow him down, [he has a] big heart of encouraging others, so [his blindness is] not a hindrance, it’s a blessing.” -Mitch Wilburn, friend, Park Plaza COC Minister
He cannot see the smiles he creates on children’s faces. He cannot see the respect or amazement in his acquaintance’s eyes when they experience his joy in a life that seems so dark to them. But, with faith, he knows that God is using him to better His kingdom. He doesn’t have to see to believe. He doesn’t have to see to trust. He doesn’t have to see to decide what to do.
“Even though he has less, I want to be like him. He shows me that you can be happy all the time…He makes me want to use my other senses to show God’s love…He’s a great role model. I look up to him because he sees God in a way I don’t, and I try to see it his way. In my head, he is leader.” – Nathan Foster, student
I want to challenge everyone to be like Al. To close your eyes, reach out, find some heads, and show them the love of Jesus without judgement. Always trust, always hope, always persevere.
“I feel like I see in the spirit rather than in the eyes in the body. I see the love of Jesus through things I describe like children, music, nature, bits and pieces of all of those things together… My biggest struggle is just liking life in a world that says you can’t. Stepping out of the hallways and doing something…I like life. Liking life is probably the craziest of everything. Choosing to be where life is liked. It’s fun.”