This article is part of our Spring 2020 Breaking Barriers (e-version). This installment focuses on people living with visual impairments. Written by Les and Lorna Molenaar as told to fellow church member Jo Mans, Bethel CRC, Blaine, WA. If you'd like to read more stories from this issue, please subscribe to Breaking Barriers.
Early in my life's journey I had vision and hearing problems, but it wasn't until 1978, at the age of 35, that I was diagnosed with Usher's Syndrome, a genetic disease that impairs both hearing and peripheral vision. At that point, I was married to my wife Lorna, had a family, and was barbering for a living.
At age seven, an alert teacher noticed my hearing problem and told my parents. The first help I received was a hearing aid, and that led me to the realization that I was not like my classmates. I wondered about questions like "Why me?", and "Is God fair?" As persons of faith, my family and friends prayed for a cure, as did I, but that didn't happen.
As a young adult I was confronted with the text of I Thess. 5:16-18. It says: "Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks always in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." These words had a huge impact on me, and caused me to rethink my circumstances in terms of God's will for me. Although Lorna and I have experienced some very difficult times in our journey with my disabilities, we have experienced God's grace, and we trust him for the future. Our prayer now is that our experiences will not be wasted but may help others and bring glory to God.
Now at age 76, I am retired after 46 years of barbering. 41 years ago my optometrist told me that technically I was legally blind and could become totally blind in 3 or 4 years. I praise God that I was able to barber for all those years and still today have some vision left. Since my retirement, Lorna has had to take on more of the responsibilities that go along with daily living. For all she does, I am deeply grateful. In 2016 I received a Cochlear Implant. It has improved my hearing, but I still need significant help with my vision.
Recently I received news that I qualified for a guide dog, and so anticipate that, with its help, I will be able to continue to do and dwell on those things that I can do not on what I can't do. Yes, I do live with disabilities, and our journey through life has had its challenges, but in looking back, we realize that in living out God's will for our lives we have been blessed with a very rich full life.