I didn’t realise I had a ‘problem’ until I was 28. I was sitting in a job interview which I thought had gone quite well. ‘Of course Nicki,’ said the employer (who I’m not naming out of kindness), ‘You must realise that anyone who employs you is going to have a problem because you’re blind!’
I was shocked! I politely informed him I could do any job, apart from maybe fighting in the army, but he was unmoved. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
I’ve been blind since birth, but until that day it hadn’t mattered to me. I’d had two summer jobs while at university. Then, after graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University with a contemporary arts degree, I took part in lots of fundraising challenges for local and national charities. I’d done everything from sky-diving to a half-marathon, but finding work was very hard.
I attended a church in Llandudno and had lots of friends there. I went to a Bible study group with a wonderful lady and each week we prayed for me to find a job. My prayers were answered in 2010 when I started working for the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) in Bangor.
In the October of that year, Dad was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus. He had his first operation in March 2011, the same week my contract ended at the RNIB. Then in July 2011, my friend Claire from church asked me if I’d like to go on Beach Mission with her in Llandudno. I’d never considered this before but thought it would be fun. I went to church and Bible study every week, what could possibly go wrong!
I arrived on the Saturday, and the first thing I noticed was the vast majority of people on the team were a lot younger than I was. Secondly, there were no off-duty activities a blind person could take part in, so I felt ignored most of the time. I tried to join in as much as I could, but it wasn’t easy. After another day of feeling ignored, I rang my Bible study friend and said I couldn’t carry on with the Beach Mission. She told me to give it one more day, then if I still didn’t like it, she’d take me home.
That evening, I went along to a meeting on Llandudno prom. There, one of the teenage workers gave his testimony. It was in the form of a question and answer, and one of the questions was, ‘How did you become a Christian?’
I can’t remember the whole answer, but the last sentence was the one which changed my life. He said, ‘I suddenly realised that Jesus Christ was the only one who could help me!’
I burst into tears and turned to my friend, Roselyn. Between gulps, I said, ‘That’s the bit I’ve never done! I’ve never asked Jesus to come into my life and help me, do you think he can?’
The team leader noticed something was wrong and came and sat with me. I poured my heart out to him, how I felt so worthless sometimes, and all the comments I’d had because I was blind. He gave me a CD of John’s gospel and told me to listen to it. Normally I would just put the CD under a pile of papers and forget about it, but on that night I felt compelled to listen it – that’s the Holy Spirit for you! As soon as I reached John chapter 9, where Jesus heals a man born blind, I started crying again, but this time it was with hope! Jesus loved blind people! He cared enough to give them their sight.
The first three verses were, and still are so powerful when I hear them.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him’(John 9:1-3).
I realised that as Jesus healed a blind man so that his life could be used to show God’s glory, so my blindness also came from God and was purposed by God to be a blessing both to me and to others. I also realised that just as Jesus showed such mercy to someone who society shunned as a nuisance, he would show that same mercy to me.
I asked Jesus to come into my life – and I’ve never looked back! I was still blind, but I knew I was a child of God and no longer felt I had to worry about what other people thought of me. I’d like to say it has been a totally exciting ride not without dramas! But everyone reading this will know there’s no such thing, even for Christians.
Two weeks later Dad went into a deep depression, brought on by his cancer diagnosis and the fact he’d been so strong during his treatment. I hated seeing my Dad go from a confident, outgoing man to someone who was scared a lot of the time. Then, after returning from volunteering at a Christian radio station in Perth, Australia I had just started a broadcast journalism course at Cardiff University when my lovely Dad, whom I was incredibly close to, died from secondary cancer.
I really struggled, as the people on my course, untouched by death, ignored my grief rather than helped me. But I had two things they didn’t — a guide dog, who sat with me while the silent tears fell, and a guide God who made his presence felt throughout.
The future’s in his hands
I moved to Cardiff three years ago for work and while waiting for my third guide dog I took comfort from the book of James. I love the way James talks about trials, and how they are sent to teach us patience. Dog number three arrived, and his name is… James!
Even though I am still unemployed after having been out of work for three years and I have no idea what the future holds, I know it is all in God’s plans, which are only good and right. Each time I receive a rejection after an interview, I know it is strengthening me for what God has planned for me.
Dad had a favourite hymn which he could still quote even when very poorly. I am so grateful that God doesn’t change and will stay with me forever, guiding me through this life and into the next.
How good is the God we adore!
Our faithful, unchangeable friend:
His love is as great as his power,
And knows neither measure nor end.
For Christ is the first and the last;
His Spirit will guide us safe home;
We’ll praise Him for all that is past
And trust Him for all that’s to come.