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Equipping for Service

AG Center for the Blind helps those with vision impairment or loss to train for ministry.

At the age of 8, Debby Z. Green of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, lost sight in one of her eyes due to uveitis, an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye that can cause blindness. The disease gradually robbed her of vision in both eyes. Green learned braille and how to walk with a mobility cane before completing her master’s degree and setting into a career as a rehabilitation counselor. She helps blind people adapt to their vision loss and to learn to live independently.

“Don’t think just because you’re blind, God doesn’t want to use you,” says Green, 69.

Today, Green is a credentialed Assemblies of God minister and a licensed counselor, working as associate pastor at Calvary Assembly of God in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. She credits her ability to minister to Assemblies of God Center for the Blind (CftB) and its director Paul Weingartner. The Center’s fourfold vision includes equipping the blind for ministry opportunities.

“We all can serve the Lord in one capacity or another,” explains Weingartner, 67, who has been legally blind since birth. “We haven’t really done our job until people are equipped to serve.”

Green began taking Global University courses CftB provided. Soon, Green felt called to pursue ministerial credentialing. She enrolled in the required classes through the Kentucky School of Ministry, with CftB providing many of her textbooks in audio format. Without the services provided by the CftB, Green may never have become a credentialed minister.

Green’s testimony is just one of many inspiring stories of people in ministry thanks to the resources and services provided by the Center for the Blind.

Born with glaucoma, Roland H. Blount lost vision in both eyes. But that didn’t stop him from pursuing God’s call on his life. Over the years, Blount has served as a pastor, evangelist, and missionary.

When called in 1975 as an Assemblies of God world missionary to pastor churches in Chile and Paraguay, Blount found himself in a bind. He didn’t know Spanish. The CftB transcribed his textbooks from print to braille, enabling him to learn the language and to serve in the field.

Blount returned to the U.S. in 1983. In Florida, he worked for Spanish Television and Radio as well as Inter-America Bible Media Ministry, both AGWM Latin America region outreaches, before retiring a missionary in 2007.  For the past 35 years, Blount has taught Sunday School at Pleasant Grove Assembly of God in Plant City, Florida. CftB makes curriculum materials available to him. 

Blount, 82, speaks highly of CftB, especially regarding his chats with the Center’s chaplain, Dale Bean, who checks in on him periodically.

Although born with perfect vision, Bean as a teenager was diagnosed with keratoconus, a condition causing the cornea to thin and bulge like a cone. That led to blurry and distorted vision, which made reading and driving difficult.

Still, Dean pressed on. Then, shortly after accepting a pastorate, Bean’s corneas ruptured within two months of each other, leaving him blind in both eyes. Bean later received cornea transplants, which restored his vision. 

After retiring in 2011, Bean accepted the role of volunteer chaplain for the Center for the Blind, which is a ministry with U.S. Missions Intercultural Ministries.

“My job is to call people, and to talk and pray with them,” says Bean.

Many of the contacts consider Bean as their pastor because they are unable to attend church. Bean points out that blind people often feel isolated, and that having someone to talk can be an important lifeline.

“Blind people want to serve in ministry,” says Bean. “They want to feel needed.”

Weingartner, the Center's director, points out that 68,000 people who attend AG congregations are blind. But CftB serves only a small fraction of them because many churches are unaware of the services the Center provides.

In addition to providing Bible courses and teaching materials, CftB also offers periodicals, devotionals, and resources for discipleship and Christian living. Materials are available in braille and audio formats.

Although CftB receives project funding from Light for the Lost, Speed the Light, and Boys & Girls Missionary Challenge, the center needs additional support from individuals to continue its work.

Mary J Yerkes

Mary J. Yerkes is a freelance writer based in metro Washington, D.C.