ichael Surak has joined the MOB. The Pennsylvania resident is, in fact, one of about 215 Adventists in 38 states and two other countries who are now associated with the MOB, and the numbers are growing. It is unlikely, however, that these church members will ever be chauffeured around in black limousines by men in slicked-back hair, sunglasses, and pinstriped suits. It is a different “mob” these Adventists have joined, and they are making a positive difference in their communities.
Missionaries of the Blind (MOB), a local church ministry developed by Christian Record Services for the Blind (CRSB), offers Adventists across North America the opportunity to connect with blind people in their communities. CRSB regularly mails Braille, large-print, and audio publications to more than 23,000 visually impaired readers in North America. Most are Christians, but according to one survey only about 12 percent are Seventh-day Adventists. The Missionaries of the Blind program creates opportunities for open-hearted church members to reach out in friendship to this underserved segment of the population. This article provides glimpses into what four missionaries of the blind are experiencing.
Now I See
Surak has recently become acquainted with David, a 31-year-old blind man who receives books on tape and Braille materials from CRSB. Surak attends the Reading Hampden Heights Adventist Church in Pennsylvania.
“David has such a cheerful spirit,” Surak reports. “I feel comfortable with him and his family. He was blind at birth from being a premature baby. I thought I would uplift him, but he has uplifted me. Visiting with David has made my struggles and trials seem minor.”
Surak notes that when he saw a pamphlet about Missionaries of the Blind at camp meeting he felt it was God calling him. “I feel like I was the one who was blind,” he says, “but now I see.”
Partners with His Hands
Missionaries of the Blind has recently formed a partnership with His Hands, an outreach program organized by the North American Division Volunteer Ministries Network. Director José Rojas is delighted with the partnership.
“Local churches can take up the Missionaries of the Blind program as part of their expression of His Hands,” Rojas says. “The mission doesn’t have to be across the world. It can be across the county.”
In Rio Grande County in Colorado, Martha Valdez visits 21-year-old Amanda, who receives books on tape from CRSB. Valdez attends the Monte Vista, Colorado, Adventist Church. She says that when she discovered the MOB, she wanted to join immediately.
“Amanda has a beautiful and positive attitude,” Valdez says of the young woman she visits. “We’re like two peas in a pod. Amanda likes to talk. She shares her problems and I listen.”
Touching someone’s life
Missionaries of the Blind was initially conceived by David Klinedinst, CRSB Personal Ministries director. The first MOB participants started making visits in 2005.
“There are so many blind people who receive materials from us,” Klinedinst says. “Some of them also attend our blind camps. We wanted to find a way to reach the people we serve and connect them with a local Seventh-day Adventist church where they can experience fellowship, friendship, and worship.”
Martha McNeill, who is visually impaired herself, is a member of the Gethsemane Adventist Church near Raleigh, North Carolina. McNeill has started visiting Ellen, a woman in her 20s who receives Braille books from Christian Record. Martha does not drive, and Ellen is busy with school and other activities, so the two women usually visit on the phone.
When asked why she decided to become a Missionary of the Blind, McNeill replied, “Many blind people are bypassed and forgotten. And it gives me joy to talk to someone else about Jesus; it makes me stronger.”
The idea of visiting the blind is not new to McNeill. It was her regular routine long before the Missionaries of the Blind existed. McNeill is disabilities coordinator for the Gethsemane church, and she has worked at the Raleigh Lions Clinic for the Blind, off and on, since 1987. As a result of contacts made at the Lions Clinic, she has studied the Bible with several visually impaired friends. Three have joined the church during the past two years, and she continues to study with two other friends.
“I never want to stop sharing the good news about Jesus,” McNeill says.
Klinedinst notes that most church members do not want simply to sit in a pew. “They want to touch someone’s life,” Klinedinst says, “and they can do that through the MOB.” He also observes that most blind people on Christian Record’s mailing list are easy to visit. “They have been receiving books and tapes from us regularly,” he says, “so when visitors identify themselves as volunteers with Christian Record, they are welcomed.”
Good news to share
Manuel Cruz is a member of the MOB in San Diego, California. Cruz, who attends the Poway Adventist Church, visits with Larry, a man in his 50s who receives Braille books from Christian Record. Larry also attends blind camp at Northern California Conference’s Leoni Meadows youth camp. Cruz has recently started visiting Robert as well. Robert is in his 70s and receives the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide in Braille.
“I have good news to share,” Cruz recently reported. “This Sabbath I am picking up Larry and Robert to go to church.” Cruz invited the men to church after a pleasant visit with each of them. They gladly accepted, and enjoyed Sabbath school, the worship service, and a fellowship meal with church members.
“I have been blessed by this program,” Cruz says. “I was impressed that God wanted to use me. I can’t just leave it up to the pastor and elders. God wants me to be willing to share His love. The blind are neglected and forgotten. I just want to be their friend and hope they see a reflection of Jesus in me.”
Surak, Valdez, McNeill, and Cruz are examples of Christians who are working as Jesus Himself worked to reach out to others. “Christ’s method was to mingle with people and become their friend,” Klinedinst says, echoing Ellen White (The Ministry of Healing, p. 143). “Many may not feel comfortable preaching a sermon or doing something in a public setting, but most people know how to be a friend. That is what we are trying to accomplish with the Missionaries of the Blind.”
Rojas agrees and adds, “Missionaries of the Blind is an aggressive program to reach outward and establish a mission-minded congregation—getting back to the original idea of our pioneers.”
“Pointing people to Jesus is the driving force of Missionaries of the Blind,” says Klinedinst. “Our whole purpose is to help the blind see Jesus. We believe that connecting them with friendly Adventist Christians and to loving Adventist churches is a good way to do that.”
CRSB is looking for volunteers who are willing to spend an hour or perhaps a few hours each month building a friendship with a blind person. Christian Record provides the names. You provide the visits. You can obtain an information packet about the MOB by phoning, toll free, 877-288-1188, or by sending an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also go online to www.christianrecord.org/pm and click on Missionaries of the Blind.
Joining up with this mob is a decision you are not likely to regret.