blind missionary

By Arkansas Baptist News

Legally blind missionary longed for 2020

By Arkansas Baptist News

I had dreamed of 2020 for as long as I can remember. The anticipation and expectations were high as I counted down to welcome 2020. Finally, it was here! My dream had come true. I felt confidence unlike ever before. I set amazing goals. I was sure of myself and the power of having 2020.

Maybe for you 2020 was just another year but let me explain why 2020 represented so much more for me. I was born with traits of albinism and along with that comes low vision. Since birth I have been legally blind. Even with glasses, 2020 vision is not a possibility for me.

I have never read the chalkboard from my desk. I don’t know what it’s like to read a book farther than a few inches from my face.  Entering a crowded room and trying to pick out someone I recognize or finding the empty seat has always caused me great anxiety. I live in a large city in Brazil where public transportation and Ubers are common, but I can’t read bus numbers or license plates. And a huge personality flaw? I hate to ask for help and call attention to the fact that I’m not like everybody else. Finally I would have 2020—at least the year if not the vision—along with the rest of the world.

I don’t have to tell you what happened in 2020. No matter where you are in the world, you lived it! You know. It’s still fresh, even as we are well into 2021.

Last year none of us could see. People could not see their dreams realized. Could not see their friends and family in person. Could not see how to make ends meet. Could not see how to work from home or how to help the kids with virtual school.

When I asked for 2020 and to see like everybody else, I had no idea what I had asked for. As my journey with 2020 progressed, I wanted 2019 back, or 2021 to come sooner or even in my case, 20/400.

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As I maintained my daily quiet time with the Lord, I noticed a recurring theme: God uses the small, the imperfect, the helpless and unknown to bring glory to Himself. The Israelites thought their situation hopeless when they found themselves sandwiched between the sea and the Egyptians. The Lord dwindled Gideon’s army of more than 30,000 to just 300 to defeat the Midianites. Young David with no armor and just a few rocks counted on the Lord to bring down mighty Goliath.

Jesus called together a bunch of uneducated men to follow and learn and even they fell asleep when asked to pray. And Jesus came to earth as a baby placed in a manger not receiving the splendor deserving of a King.

Through this study I came to understand ever more clearly that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God knew from the beginning of time what I would look like and what I’d be able to see. I started the year 2020 with great confidence in myself, my goals and my independence. He knew His plan for me and that through my story, His name would be glorified.

I might not see as clearly as some, but God called me to serve with the IMB as a missionary. I speak Portuguese. I share the gospel with those who do not know. I disciple those who want to learn more. I teach English. I encourage my teammates and national friends. I pray for the needs of those around me and I ­­­­train others to share the gospel.

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Yes, there are some challenges to being legally blind and living overseas, but God called me, I answered, and all the glory goes to Him.

He knew that in my state of low vision, I would see things that people with 20/20 vision do not see. He knew that I would want to be like everybody else and that I would be giddy over my chance at 2020. He also knew that I would lean on Him during my taste of 2020 and end the year singing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest name I know, Fills my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go.”

I may still wish to be able to read a fast-food menu or to drive a car, but like most other people in the world, I will not be wishing for 2020 ever again.

This article was written by Jill Thompson, a missionary in Brazil through the International Mission Board. It was originally published at imb.org.

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