“SO THAT THE WORKS OF GOD MIGHT BE DISPLAYED”
I was a student at Harding College from 1972-1975. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Harding and have many amazing memories. One of those memories was of a student who continually ministered and intentionally connected with blind students on campus. I’d see him walking side-by-side with them to classes, assisting them in the cafeteria, library, chapel, etc. I have to tell you I was convicted and impressed.
Fast-forward 15 years. In 1988 I received a call from an elder, in Colorado, inviting our little Sikes’ family to come for the weekend and speak to their congregation about Cornhusker Christian Children’s Home (CCCH). At the time I was CCCH’s Assistant Superintendent and gladly accepted his invitation. Our family travelled from western Nebraska to Colorado, on Friday night. We spent most of Saturday with the elder and his wife on their farm before Sunday’s speaking engagement.
What I most vividly remember were the guide wires everywhere, so the elder could navigate safely around his 12-acre farm. “This network of guide wires were strung out just a little over head-high, from the house to the workshop, from the workshop to the pasture and from the sheep shed to the pigpen. Bells were placed on certain “problem” animals – the rambunctious ram and the over-stimulated steer – to alert (the elder) when he was in harm’s way.” (Turning Darkness Into Light, Christian Chronicle, 2010)
Our time on the farm with our little children was such a blessing. It was literally an outdoor playground for all ages with a tree house, rope swing, zip line, sack swing, as well as a petting zoo (with certain animals)! I discovered later that it was also a place for “troubled youth to come and learn responsibility and Christian values.”
As I’m sure you’ve now surmised, the elder on whose farm we were staying was blind and had been for many years as a result of congenital cataracts. On Saturday, after a long conversation with him and his wife, I wandered into their living room and began looking at all the family pictures that covered their wall. Surprisingly, in many of the pictures I found the face of the young man I had observed, at Harding College, who continually ministered to the blind! Then, it hit me! Eureka! This was his farmhouse growing up…. these were his parents…. his own father…. blind!
The son’s name is Dr. David Bland, now professor of Homiletics and Director of D.Min. at Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tenn. The “blind farmer and his wife” -- Bob and Helen Bland. Bob served as an elder for the Meadowlark Church of Christ in Fort Collins, CO for about 30 years. David’s experience of growing up with a father going blind did not make him bitter, but better. His intentional choice to serve the blind while on Harding’s campus opened the eyes of many – including my own – “so that the works of God might be displayed....” (John 9:9) God is good. Mr. Steve