Periodically, I want to present ordinary people who are following Jesus but choosing a path different from mine or yours. This past week I sat down with Raymond Bond. Raymond was shot in a domestic violence dispute that left him blind. In addition to the blindness he had several familial addictions to overcome in his walk to freedom in Christ.
Tell us about your family growing up.
RB: My parents divorced while living in San Antonio. Dad was stationed in the Philippians while serving in the Air Force. He met a lady in the Philippians and got her pregnant. My parents divorced after that. My mom, step-dad, my three siblings and I moved to Nashville nearer to my mom’s family. She had her own problems, though. She was an alcoholic and diabetic.
Some good did happen while we lived in San Antonio. Our neighbors took me to church each Sunday and I was saved and baptized at that church. Because my family had so much dysfunction, though, I did not grow spiritually.
When I was about 15 and in high school, I met a girl and went to church with her family at Valley View Baptist in Nashville. I got her pregnant so our families said we needed to get married. It didn’t last long. I left because her parents asked me to leave.
Tell us about how you became blind.
RB: A relative shot me in a domestic violence incident. At that point in my life I was living the wild life of a 20-year-old. I was drinking and doing drugs. I didn’t think I was a bad person but was just doing what others were doing. I ended up shot in the face. The bullet destroyed my retina and optic nerve. There was nothing they could do to restore my sight so I went from seeing to not have any sight in the same day.
What were your thoughts after you were shot?
RB: While in the hospital, many people visited and kept my mind off of my sudden blindness. I even had some friends bring liquor into my hospital room one night to party. The nurse didn’t seem to mind and even joked about it.
A few weeks after I got home, no one came to visit. I was living with my mom then. I was angry and scared and wondered what I was going to do. I was mad at God and thought,
What did I do so bad that I would get my sight taken away?
My former job was a welder but I could not do that anymore. Many times I would I think, I don’t want to be here anymore.
I would drink and take pills to go to sleep and not think of it. But the next day I would have to face the facts again.
Friends and money from insurance checks provided the drugs and drinks. If friends knew I had drugs or alcohol they would come over and party with me. My mom didn’t mind because she drank too. My situation was driving me crazy.
One day, someone from the state called and suggested I attend vocational rehab. They said they could teach me how to function as a blind person. I wasn’t ready, though. After a couple weeks of sitting home, I finally agreed and attended the rehab facility. They taught me how to read braille, use a cane and re-learn many routine activities.
Many people would say, “Let me do that for you,” or “No, you can’t do that.” I heard that so many times, and it would make me angry. I decided I had to do this to show them otherwise. I learned how to sweep, vacuum, fix coffee, pour a glass of water (without spilling it), and cook.
In the back of my mind I was still thinking, What am I going to do? I was getting disability and an insurance check, but it wasn’t much.
I decided I had to live with somebody to make this work. I met a girl during this time and attached on to her so she could help me. We got married but it didn’t last. She decided she didn’t want to be married to a blind person anymore. That hurt.
People were leaving me. Friends quit coming around. They went back to their lives. The rehab helped but I wanted the blindness to go away. I kept thinking it was a dream.
How did your faith help you through this blindness?
RB: In my 30s, Penny (my wife) and I were together. Our daughter, Michelle, was only four years old. A family two doors down invited Michelle to go to church on a Wednesday night. Later, the preacher and another man invited Penny and I to church. Penny started going first but I was working late so could not. We were still drinking at that time but had given up the drugs. One day, Michelle was in the living room playing with her tea set. I asked her, “Michelle, what are you doing?” She said, “I’m having a party and drinking beer.”
It was in that moment I decided that all the drinking had to stop. I didn’t want our daughter growing up the same way Penny and I did. (Penny’s father was an alcoholic.) After that, I took my faith seriously. I felt God was giving me a sign that this might be my last chance.
We started attending church together. We broke away from friends to get away from the old life style. We were criticized and pressured, but we did not want to continue the cycle of family dysfunction.
I admit church was a social thing at first. The people there were a positive influence and good role models for us. After a while, we started praying, reading the Bible and relying more on God then ourselves or others.
I asked God to help me forgive the relative who shot me. It took me a long time because there was so much poison in the relationship. I would get sick in my stomach thinking about him. Even after I forgave him it took a long time for that hurt to go away. I decided I couldn’t live with the anger towards my mom and dad so I had to forgive them, too.
What do you want others to know about a blind person?
RB: It’s different for each person. Feel the person out and get to know him or her before you ask what help they need. I try to do as much as I possibly can by myself because I love my independence. That may be different for others. You can’t expect each blind person to be on the same level. I think that is true for any disability.
What do you do for a living today?
RB: I work on diesel engine injectors for different types of equipment (Caterpillar, Cummins). The state provided special digital equipment that “reads” the diagnosis for me. Without the special equipment, I could not do my job. I’ve worked there for 31 years.
What is the verse you live by today?
RB: When Michelle was in preschool, she was enrolled in a Christian academy and had to memorize Bible verses. One of those memory verses has always touched me and stayed with me because it is short and sweet:
God is love. 1 John 4:16
Where are you today in your faith and life?
RB: Penny and I just celebrated 30 years of marriage on November 7 at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Our daughter is saved and in a healthy marriage. I lean on Jesus every day now. I don’t leave the house before I pray. I listen to the Bible on my iPad while exercising on the treadmill. When I’m in church and singing the songs, I can “see” Jesus hovering over the sanctuary.
Penny and I don’t know how others get through tragedies without Him. We don’t know how we did it. It’s probably how we screwed up so much. We did not want our family to continue down the same destructive path.
And we also knew we could not do it on our own effort; we needed God’s help.