Post Title: Authentic Voices: A Fishing Boat With a Faith Lesson.
God uses everything to grow our faith, even a simple Facebook message.
Seeking An Authentic Voice.
Shortly after my call for speakers on Autism in a local Facebook group, I received an angry message from Alice Halsey, who “friended” me by sending it. By the tone of her words, I’m still not sure that ‘friend’ is the right term.
“Have you ever thought about having someone with Autism speak instead of someone who has just worked with a person with Autism? A lot of us have voices and jobs. We just talk a little differently. You might be surprised. A lot of people have the same disorder. The only difference is that we have been labeled and the others haven’t.”
In fact, I was looking for a speaker who could share his or her personal experience in the field. I knew little to nothing about this topic. I trusted God would provide whoever was the most confident to speak and who could shed the most light on the issue. Perhaps she would volunteer? As an event coordinator, I was definitely teachable.
Her outrage rested on one key idea – a lot of us have voices and jobs. When I read that, I knew I was on the right track. My goal in putting together Disability inSIGHTS revolved around that theme. Voices. I wanted to give a platform to those who would share their voices. And jobs? As it was pointed out to me several months earlier, October served as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).
Though Mary did not step into my pool of speakers, I believe God sent her message to reassure me I could handle the task He gave me. I was out of my depth but determined to reach out to those with other disabilities to give more of us a voice.
At The Start.
I had been the project leader since mid-January, only because I approached a couple colleagues with my ideas to hold book signings and a speakers’ forum. Because of International Blindness Awareness Month, my initial idea was to highlight the accomplishments of blind and vision-impaired authors. But shortly after the onset of our planning, I challenged myself to go beyond my comfort zone and learn about the challenges of others with disabilities.
By August, my team crumpled leaving me in charge. Feeling very unsure of myself, I took on the task of interviewing the remaining speakers and publicizing our event. The Sight Center lent me strength and the Lions Club stepped in to offer suggestions at one of our meetings. I hired a business coach to guide me through the process. God also placed people in my life to offer encouragement as I handled the countless details that needed resolving.
To publicize the event, one of the speakers and I appeared on a community-based local program called The Insider Show.
It was very professionally done and went well. Now I can laugh when I recall the voice of Lisa Adams, the veteran news anchor when she asked me, “So how can people sign up to attend Disability InSIGHTS?” My memorable reply was, “Yes, we will have wonderful snacks!” Don’t ask me where that came from because I have no idea nor was I aware my answer did not match up with the question until I heard it for myself the next day. Is it a wonder anyone at all showed up? Strangely enough no one else caught that error. The audience was caught up in the underlying message.
We are all imperfect hearers and doers. What I have learned from listening to the One Voice who calls me to action and challenges me to Godly goals is to obey, then ask for repetition. And boy do I ask for a lot of repetition!
The night before the event, I didn’t have time to sleep and I panicked. “God, I think you chose the wrong voice to lead this event. What if I can’t do it?”
That morning, we loaded up the car and headed to the Tom Ridge Center. From the back seat, my brother’s voice seemed muffled and distant. When we neared our destination, almost by instinct, I placed my hand over one ear, then the other. I gulped. “Oh no! I forgot my hearing aids!” What a ghastly oversight!
After my brother dropped us off and unloaded the car, he turned around and drove thirty minutes home to retrieve my hearing aids and thirty minutes back to ensure I had what I needed.
Meanwhile, everyone took their seats and the audience was getting situated, I silently breathed a prayer and invited God into our midst. “Give me the words to say today. Be with each of our speakers. Let us all hear their voices, really listen to the challenges they have endured and the ones they continue to face with courage.” I paused. “Lord, whatever we lack today, give us in abundance.”
I started the seminar, and after our first speaker, my brother returned with my hearing aids. It definitely made me more sensitive to Emmanuel Lee, our deaf blind speaker with Usher Syndrome, whose journey touched the audience. His ongoing 12-year desire to find work tore at me. This is why we have a month dedicated to bringing awareness to the lack of employment for the nation’s disabled. Emmanuel longed to work and no one would give him the opportunity. Society must change their belief systems. That is why seminars like Disability InSIGHTS are so important.
Our final topic of the day featured our awesome team of Autism experts. One was a mother to teenage children coping successfully with Asperger’s, a PhD who had recently written a book on the topic, and a college student who had spoken numerous times about his journey. The mother had to leave unexpectedly. So the two men took the floor. They interacted beautifully together and we all learned a lot. At the conclusion of our event, after the gifts I had purchased for my speaking team were distributed, I couldn’t stop smiling.
Looking back, I felt much like how I imagine Peter, the apostle in biblical times, must have felt when Jesus spent the night on his boat with him. For the previous few days, the Bible states Peter’s fishing nets returned to shore empty at the close of day. But when Jesus went out on the boat with Peter overnight, the time of day when fish don’t even bite, by the following morning, amazingly, the empty boat was laden to overflowing with fish.
Disability InSIGHTS was my fishing boat. For months, I had tried to interest others in attending it but to little avail. However, with God’s presence in our boat that Friday, I pulled it into shore laden, and overflowing with compassion, goodwill and new understanding. With our net cast out to our audience, our first disability awareness seminar turned out to be a huge success!
I can’t help but recall my inaudible prayer at the start of the seminar, “God, whatever we lack, please give it to us from your abundance.” Friends, I learned even my biggest effort is like child’s play to God. I had to plan for it. But the results didn’t rest on my shoulders, even though I thought it did. God is the one who prepares hearts and chooses the right people to speak. He prepares the platform and we bring the voices.
Alice Halsey came to mind again. She desperately wanted me to use the voice of experience to represent the life of those with Autism. How much more does God want us to share the voice of our experience with him, what our life is like as we become more aware of his protective presence.
God has not set aside any special month to bring him awareness. Instead, every day he invites believers to live out our best lives. He speaks to our hearts inaudibly. We become his voices, his hands, his feet, his taste and even his aroma.
It states this clearly in the Bible. Alice Halsey’s desire for an authentic voice of experience to emerge in Autism awareness has stayed with me. God impassions us to use our abilities to create positive change. The more we listen to his inner voice, the more authentic our own voices become.
You have just read “Authentic Voices: A Fishing Boat With a Faith Lesson” by Amy L. Bovaird. © November 5, 2019. All rights reserved.
5 Stars “…I’m not vision impaired. I don’t read non-fiction for enjoyment. I am not what some might consider the target market for this book, but I can tell you that I would recommend it to my own teenagers, my husband, my teenage students, and anyone else I know as a book of bravery, encouragement, motivation, testimony, and just as a pleasure read. Don’t pass it by: You will be blessed.”–An Amazon Reader
5 Stars “Living in the Power instead of the fear!”
Mobility Matters elegantly shares Amy Bovaird’s emotions and experience which anyone going through vision loss can identify with. The transformation as she overcomes her fear and the enemies voices that her loss of vision will now define who she is as a person and dictate the rest of her life, will inspire hope to each reader. Amy’s journey stepping out in faith and how the Lord’s Word gave her the strength to keep going, is a must read.
This book is not only for those going through the hallway of vision loss, but for each family member or any one who loves someone losing their vision would also benefit by reading.
Mobility Matters Stepping out in Faith has left me thinking I will now call canes power sticks!!!
Michael Benson, Founder
Visual Experience Foundation
4 Stars “…As a mobility specialist myself, I found this book of great interest to me for its subject matter. I was quite amazed that Amy could get around on her own with her genetic condition, particularly at night, since individuals with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) tend to lose their night vision and are using a cane at night much sooner than Amy was using any assistive device (even a bright light). Amy maintained her positive attitude, her faith and her sense of humour. If only we all could do that in times of crisis!” –Kathryn Svendsen, Mobility Specialist, Canada
5 Stars “Couldn’t stop reading until I finished. Very inspirational. Will definitely be looking for more by this author!” –Sharon Hannah
5 stars “…This book really inspired me. Amy’s outlook on life is what I would like to model in my own. Yes, going blind SUCKS but she took it to another level. She made it into an adventure and I needed to be reminded of that again. Her positive outlook on this all has really encouraged me in my current situation now. Taking the step of faith to move on forward and embrace life for what it is. I highly recommend purchasing this book! Be inspired, take a journey behind the life of someone with Usher, smile, laugh, and enjoy! –Andi Nicole
5 Stars “As a person who lives with chronic illness, I sometimes get bogged down with books on illness that feel really heavy. This one does not. Author Amy Bovaird, who is losing her sight, writes so well about her personal experiences, I feel like I’m walking alongside her as I read. I kept coming back to the story to see what happened–was she going to let fear stop her? Would she overcome?
The lessons Amy learns through her experiences apply to any of us who fear aging, illness, new symptoms, or really anyone who needs some inspiration, and that reminder that much can be accomplished if you step out and forward–even when you cannot see beyond that first step. I definitely enjoyed this book. –Kimberly Rae, Bestselling Author of the Stolen Series
Blog post review by Gillian Davis, RP Tunnel of Sight
One of the best books I have ever read about mobility and white cane use is called Mobility Matters: Stepping out in Faith by Amy Bovard. It is funny, poignant and packs a lot of tips and useful information. You can find it by following the link below to Amy’s web page and listen to a chapter before you buy, it is wonderful.