Here I am at Bethel United Methodist Church, Van Wert, Ohio, pictured with Pastor Greg and parishioners Joan and Larry. My Lenten concert hosted here was one of many stops on my spring tour of engagements in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. It was a joy to offer Special Music during Morning Worship, lead Sunday School and then present a Sunday Evening Concert for these wonderful folks. Most people ask me to speak about my testimony as it relates specifically to my blindness; however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the folks at Van Wert just wanted to hear stories about my everyday walk with God. That was a real treat for me, and I look forward to returning in the future. I was especially blessed to sit around the table with the Poling family on that Sunday evening. They treated me so graciously as if I was another one of their kids, and their kids treated me as if I were just another sibling.
During this tour, I utilized a lot of different modes of transportation: planes, trains, buses, cabs and a variety of hired and volunteer drivers. It seemed that on each leg of my journey, as always, God had something for me to do.
Passing thru Chicago on my way back to Illinois from Ohio, I had several hours before my train departed for downstate Illinois. I had planned to find some authentic deep-dish pizza and just enjoy some time in the city before catching a cab to Union Station. As I deplaned in Chicago, I heard attendants talking with a lady traveling in a wheelchair. She was headed for Cancer Treatment Centers of America. As another airport attendant was helping me collect my luggage, the driver for Cancer Treatment Centers of America introduced himself as Joe and said, “If you don’t mind riding around with us, I can get you to your train without your having to catch a cab.”
By then, I had begun visiting with my fellow passenger, Julie, who was on her way to receive cancer treatments. Joe asked Julie if she and I were friends and she said with a smile, “Well, we can be.”
Just as God put it on Joe’s heart to offer me a ride, God was also telling me to accept. I sat in the back of the white stretch limo next to Julie as this beautiful young woman, just six years older than I, painstakingly but joyfully shared her testimony with me. God handed out blessings to all of us that day and I continue to pray for Julie and her family. She gave me eight words which I will never forget, “God is Love and I’m swimming in It!”
After seeing Julie to her destination, Joe took me to a metro train station and showed me how to board the train which would take me to downtown Chicago. My train ride to Central Illinois was uneventful. I certainly had lots to think about and lots to share with my friends and hosts, Jim and Mary, when I arrived in Effingham. My chicken sub sandwich purchased at the train station was not deep-dish pizza, but at that point I really didn’t care. I had been blessed by two of God’s very special angels, and I will cherish these blessings as long as I live.
The next day, as I checked my Email, I received a very gracious message from Aimee, Joe’s wife. Apparently, after dropping me off at the metro train station, Joe immediately called Aimee and told her all about our meeting. I look forward to staying in touch with Joe and Aimee and to our paths crossing again one of these days.
In Springfield, IL, I caught up with my long-time friend, Millie Kaiser. She’s pictured here with me at Harvard Park Baptist Church, where I presented a Saturday evening concert the following week. Millie was responsible for scheduling my first musical ministry engagement over twenty-four years ago. She introduced me to “1 Corinthians 13,” sharing a Bible study with me on this chapter when I was still a teenager. Now in her eighties, Millie continues to be a mighty prayer warrior. She is one of my dearest friends. I often call her “my Elizabeth,” and I always cherish our time together.
My thanks to Harvard Park’s music director, Glenna Holland, and pastor “Dr. John,” for scheduling my music ministry. I look forward to coming back to present during Worship!
The next morning, I was up bright and early to greet my friend and one of my drivers, Carolyn Binion, and we were on our way to Riverton First United Methodist Church. Carolyn and I have traveled a lot of miles together (mostly in the rain), and it was truly an honor to present for her home church. She’s behind the camera most of the time, as she is here.
As you can see, I especially enjoyed my time with the little ones at Riverton. My thanks to Pastor Jonathan, Carolyn and the rest of the congregation for helping to make this all possible.
That evening, I was in concert at Zion United Church of Christ in rural Arthur, IL. Here I am with Pastor and Mrs. Dennis Hanner. This was a really fun concert for me. I was among old friends, and new friends who treated me as if they were old friends.
The highlight of this evening was my time spent with family friends, James and Nancy Agney, who came from my original hometown of Shelbyville, IL to surprise me and posed with me for this picture. I cherish these two friends, who are always so open to sharing fond memories of my father, Hugh, who was killed when I was very young.
My thanks to Rev. Ken Roedder and to Jerry and BJ Hale for welcome hospitality, transportation and fellowship during my time spent ministering in the Arthur/Tuscola area.
Later in the week, I spent a little more time in Springfield. I am grateful to the Dominican Sisters of Sacred Heart Convent for hosting me. Thanks also to Danita Cole in Charleston, SC (Dalton’s mom), for sending one of her accessible bees’ wax paintings to give to the sisters during my concert at the convent. I am always blessed by my time spent at Sacred Heart Convent, and consider it an honor to serve as a Prayer Associate of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL. Sister Mary Alice and Sister Mary Sharon, I haven’t forgotten our card game!
A little more time spent on Amtrak and Greyhound, and I was in Southern Indiana. Here I am once again with the WRAY Country Gold family, pictured with Host Mark Latham and young Bronson (and there’s Grandpa Ed behind the camera). The WRAY family has supported my musical ministry for a long time and I’m always happy to be “back home again in Indiana.”
Before I flew back to Charleston, SC, God blessed me with the answer to one of my personal prayers. From age five, when I first accepted Christ as my Savior, I prayed for the opportunity to be baptized. Our family’s church attendance was sporadic when I was growing up. As a young adult, I committed to church membership and sealed that commitment thru Baptism by sprinkling. Still, I wanted to be immersed. I continued to pray and to share this desire as I felt led to do so, but never received an invitation. Then, finally, last December as I shared testimony during my presentation for Mt. Zion General Baptist Church in Wadesville, IN, Pastor Rick said, “The next time you’re in our area, you are welcome to be immersed in our Baptismal pool.”
This year, that day finally came, Palm Sunday, April First. Rev. Tarrell Thompson officiated as I renewed my commitment to my Lord in front of the Mt. Zion GB family. My heartfelt thanks to Pastor Rick, JoAnn Wade, Tarrell, and also to Indiana vision teacher Jeanne Lee (who brailed my printed Certificate of Baptism for me).
The baptismal floor was very slick and I think I came very close to baptizing Rev. Tarrell, but after all, it was April Fools Day. I flew back to Charleston reflecting on one of my favorite Scripture verses, 1 Corinthians 1:25: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” The experience of immersion is one that I will always cherish and will never forget.
I thank God, and thank you, for your ongoing prayers and support!
Stay tuned for more posts like this one. Until next time, God bless you and keep His Song in your heart!
© 2012 by Laurel Jean Walden