"I just keep looking at your picture of all that snow!" my friend Mary in Illinois exclaimed across the miles as we talked on the phone. "We haven't even gotten that much snow at one time here this year!"
I snapped the above picture--complete with human and dog footprints--on the evening of January 3, 2018, just as the snow stopped falling on my front lawn here in Charleston, South Carolina. Our neighborhood boasted around five inches of snow which stayed on for several days thanks to the phenomenon of a "bomb cyclone" making its way up the east coast of the United States. Yes, I prayed for the snow, though not for the layer of ice which came down just before the snow began to fall.
Pretty much everything here in Charleston was brought to a frigid halt. The Lowcountry is not used to such extreme winter weather conditions and simply doesn't have the infrastructure in place to deal with them. Roads and schools were closed, businesses shut down and even the mail was on hold for three days! Neighborhood children built snowmen, families rounded up makeshift sleds and took advantage of any slope that they could find. For a little while, to the delight of many especially "yours truly," sunny Charleston became a wintry wonderland. It wasn't long, however, before the snow melted away into memories and life here in the "Lowcountry" went on as usual.
This year, it has been my joy to assist my extended family of Guide Dog Users Inc. in shipping healing prayer blankets to our brothers and sisters in the blindness community affected by personal hardship, the illness or loss of a human family member or that of a current or retired guide dog. The blankets come from the kind folks at Epiphany Catholic Church in Louisville, KY and were first introduced to our extended GDUI family at the organization's 2017 National convention in Sparks, Nevada. These blankets are truly a blessing to all who receive them. Many within the blindness community deal with the challenges of isolation. The majority of guide dog users are on a limited income. When a guide dog retires and it is time for the handler to receive a new dog, most cannot keep their previous guide with them. There is a desperate need for blessing and closure among the worldwide community of guide dog users. Although I personally choose not to be a guide dog user, I do have a tremendous respect and empathy for the awesome partnership between blind handlers and their guide dogs
In late January, the South Carolina affiliate of GDUI learned that Charleston will be the host city for Top Dog-2019. The Southeast Region Top Dog Workshops are a collaborated effort among Guide Dog Users of Florida, Georgia and Dixie Land Guide Dog Users here in South Carolina. Once again, I am providing administrative and promotional assistance as needed in preparation for this event, where I will also be serving as Emcee and guest musician. In addition, I am collaborating on promotional writing for the 2018 National convention of Guide Dog Users, Inc., as the journey continues with the imaginary antics of those renowned, "rovering reporters, Fred Floppears and Colleen Curleytail."
In February, I was called to lead music, devotions and prayers for the Friends of Bartimaeus Christian Outreach Center for the Blind. This outreach is hosted by Calvary Lutheran Church and is one of over fifty of its kind throughout the United States. Friends of Bartimaeus offers a monthly gathering, usually on the last Friday of the month. People who are blind come from all around the Charleston metro area to enjoy a nutritious, delicious hot meal, devotionals, music and fellowship in a safe, non-threatening environment. At the end of each meeting, guests in need are even given a bag of groceries to take home. At the February meeting, we were joined by sighted missionary families from the Midwest representing the Old German Baptist Church. The children are home schooled, and had lots of questions about blindness, Braille, guide dogs, canes, technology and our daily lives as people who are blind. It was a blessed time of food and fellowship, and we all learned a lot from each other.
On April 26, we celebrated the fourth birthday of Sonny, that rambunctious, special needs Labrador for whom God has designated me as "service person." I snapped this picture as we played one of our infamous, indoor ball games on his birthday. Every day with Sonny is a gift, and we were so thankful that 2018 proved to be a healthy, happy birthday for him.
Earlier this spring, we were contacted by the Oconee County, SC 4H Program. The program's Bark Buddies Club has been studying service dogs and wanted to learn more about guide dogs in particular. Audrey and I made an appearance at the group's May meeting via Skype. It was our first time presenting via Skype, and we look forward to many more presentations like this in the future.
God's Light does keep shining! Thanks to your prayers and support, the ministry that He gives me continues to go and grow. Life's path is full of surprises, so please stay tuned for more posts like this one. Until next time, God bless you and keep His Song in your heart!