God Had to Blind Me So I Could See
The year was 1942. The place was San Jose, California. World War 2 was headlining all the news reports from the Pacific and European fronts. Updates on the battles, troop movements, and death tolls were beginning to frighten an eleven-year-old little boy named Ronald.
That May, little Ronald received an invitation that would change his eternity. He was invited by a neighbor to come to church with them. He did. First Baptist Church in downtown San Jose was a little different than the one his family attended. But that Sunday morning, Ronald heard the gospel of Jesus for the first time. He heard how God sent His Son, Jesus, to the earth to pay for mankind’s sin on the cross. Three days after his death, Jesus would rise from the grave proving He was indeed the Son of God. Ronald accepted the free gift of salvation that morning when he trusted in Jesus Christ as his Savior.
Little Ronald, however, would never return to this church again. His father was a proud Methodist and insisted his family, including Ronald and his one-year-old sister, attend their own church instead. Ronald would not grow in his faith until much later in life.
Ron was a hard-working leader and entrepreneur. He enlisted in the US Navy and served in Korea before graduating with a business degree from San Jose State University. He would later have a 20-year career as a bus driver in Los Angeles while starting a bustling flower business on the side.
The summer of 1977 was a difficult time for my family. My father was financially broke and left to work in Alaska to get back on his feet. In August, my mother drove me and my four other siblings to live with my Uncle Ron and Aunt Alicia so she could join my father in Alaska. Ron and Alicia had 7 kids of their own but they lovingly opened their home for us 5 Bandara kids anyway. We stayed with them for a month. Little did I know that my family was at a critical tipping point that summer, but that is another blog post for another day.
Many years later, I found myself living in southern California with my wife, Candy, and our three girls. We lived about 20 minutes away from Uncle Ron and Aunt Alicia and visited them several times before moving back up to Washington State to become the Lead Pastor at GracePoint Church.
Uncle Ron began losing his eyesight in his 70s. I began calling him to see how he was doing and we would end up having conversations that centered around God. He would eventually lose his eyesight completely. Once he called me to let me know that he was having some very colorful visions of angelic beings. He was excited when these visions came because it was like he was actually seeing again. I told him that I was concerned these visions were not from God and they could eventually turn dark. They did. His excitement faded when these beings became dark and angry at him. That’s when I mailed him the Bible on CDs.
The more Ron listened to the Bible, the less frequent the visions came. In the last vision he experienced, the beings walked out of his mind’s eye and never returned. Then Ron began asking me questions about the Bible and what he was learning. We had some wonderful long-distance Q & A’s together. The more Ron listened to the word of God, the more he began to spiritually grow in his faith. God began to soften this self-made man into a tender man of God. I then began sending my uncle the teaching CDs of my sermon series at GracePoint. He loved listening to them since it was difficult to attend church on his own.
In one conversation, Ron shared with me that he had really hurt people in his past and didn’t know what to do about it. We had a great conversation about forgiveness and the freedom that comes from asking others for forgiveness for what we’ve done. About six months later he let me know that he had finally done it! He had asked for forgiveness and was now experiencing the resulting freedom. He was so relieved and free from the pang of guilt. In talking about his faith journey, he told me several times, “God had to blind me so I could see!”
On one of my mother’s trips to visit her brother, Ron kept telling her, “My pastor said this. My pastor told me that.” My mom finally asked, “Who’s your pastor?” He loudly exclaimed, “It’s Barry, of course!” I was incredibly honored to hear this.
Last week, my Uncle Ron went to heaven to be with the Jesus he had grown to love. Because Ron insisted that I speak at his funeral service, I was able to see all my cousins from this side of my family that I hadn’t seen since that summer of 1977. Before the service started, Ron’s oldest son, Stan, wanted to talk with me. Stan is a long since retired Marine of 20 years and has been a follower of Jesus for many years. For a long time, Stan wondered about his father’s salvation and faith. Stan told me outside the chapel that I had been such a blessing in his life. I asked him how. “After my father would listen to your sermon series on CD,” he said. “He would then mail them to me in Arkansas.” I had no idea. Then Stan said, “I’m so glad he listened to you because he would never listen to me!” With tears flowing, Stan would later say in his dad’s service, “The greatest gift my father ever gave to me was the assurance of his salvation.”
The service was held in the beautiful SkyRose Chapel in Whittier, CA which overlooks the skyline of Los Angeles. About 350 people were in attendance – many of whom do not know Jesus as their Savior. I followed my uncle’s strict command: “Tell my salvation/faith story. And tell them about Jesus!”
Mission Accomplished, Uncle Ron.
Physical blindness opened my uncle’s spiritual eyes. Now he is fully seeing his Savior face to face!