Something New from Something Old

Have you ever done something because you thought it was the right thing to do, but soon discovered it wasn’t workable?

I love the Bible, and as a young Christian, I thought the best thing to do with that love of God’s Word was to go to Bible-college. As a blind person, I was relatively slow on the technology front; I hadn’t even graduated to Email or the Internet. There were no eBooks, and no accessible devices enabling blind people to read them. I needed my books in Braille or audio. My Disabled Students Allowance got me a laptop, and a Braille embosser (a large machine that converts text from the PC into Braille) for the college to keep.

The college had never enrolled a student who was visually-impaired, so they misunderstood what Braille was. Braille comprises 6 dots. Different combinations of those dots make up the letters of the alphabet. Brailing a book requires someone to type or scan text into a computer, and send it to the Braille embosser (like you would send a document to a printer). However many times I tried to explain, staff saw Braille as akin to another language. They weren’t happy with non-Christians brailing any part of a textbook, in case something got lost in translation. This meant no one from outside of the college could come in and do the work, so it would fall to staff or students.

While we waited for the Braille embosser, some students spent a couple of hours a week reading textbooks onto cassette. Mum did some reading too, back at home, and sent tapes through the post. In my first lectures, we were told how to write an essay. I would have to cite the page-number for every quotation I wanted to use. There were none on the cassettes which had already been made, and from that point on, whomever read aloud would have to remember to say the number every time they turned the page! I had to listen to everything and couldn’t scan-read as a sighted person would, so the college agreed to a more specific reading-list for each essay, but lecturers would promise said list and never actually come up with the goods. I realise lecturers have their own commitments aside from Bible-college, but that doesn’t help the student. After a couple of months, the logistical nightmare proved too much. It wasn’t just doing the course; it was getting the support I needed in order to do it. Some people are far better at banging the table to get what they want than I am!

More recently, I thought about going to a different Bible-college nearer home and trying again. Because of my previous experience, I had a far better idea of what I needed. The college were very gracious and said it was possible to do the first year of a degree course online, but in order to do the entire degree, I would need access to books that were only available in print. Having that information first time around would have saved a lot of heartache. It’s only thanks to God that I can say I don’t have any regrets.

While I was at that Bible-college far away from home, representatives from the charity CSW came to talk to us about the persecuted church. Their words about North Korea stayed with me. A year later I wrote this song, which ended up on my first album. God never wastes anything. I was a mess; everything seemed to have crumbled, but out of that came such a special song – one that made me think: “I want this to be heard. I want to raise awareness of what these people are going through.” If it wasn’t for “North Korea”, I wouldn’t have made one album, let alone two and one-on-the-way. Aren’t you glad God can take something old and unusable, to bring out of it something new and worthwhile?

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Compassion’s partnership with CardFunder inspired this post. Click here to see how they can use the leftover money from your old gift cards to meet the needs of children in poverty.

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“Finding God in the Hard Times” Book-Review

Bethany House gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, but it didn’t have as much oomph as I expected it to. I respect Matt Redman for his song-writing and I love to hear his shouts of worship to God, but a good songwriter doesn’t always make for a good author.

Matt and Beth Redman look at how we relate to God in times of suffering, but I found it a bit longwinded. My favourite parts were the personal stories – how Beth coped with miscarriage, or how the couple met. These could definitely have been expanded on, but maybe they’re just private people.

Having read and enjoyed Matt’s book “The Unquenchable Worshipper”, I was disappointed that a couple of the stories are repeated here. I don’t believe you should write a book unless you have something new to say, and “Finding God in the Hard Times” didn’t feel very new. The guide at the end was helpful though, and cleverly, all the chapter-titles are lines from the song “Blessed be Your Name”.