Photo of Marlene Russell with timbrelMarlene Russell plays the same timbrel she received as a child

Blind Faith

I lost my sight, but not my trust in God.

April 18, 2017 by Marlene Russell


I always knew that someday I could go completely blind. After being born without sight as a result of the rubella virus, two surgeries restored about 50 percent of my vision. When I lost the sight in my left eye 15 years ago, it was hard to adjust. But I still had some vision, and I still had music.

My first instrument was a timbrel. As a young child, I joined the timbrel group at the corps in Portage La Prairie, Man. I learned to play the horn at Camp Beaverbrook in New Brunswick, where I also gave my heart to the Lord. When we moved to Newfoundland, I was commissioned as part of the senior band at Gander Corps. I was legally blind and it wasn’t easy, but the bandmaster encouraged me to persevere.

It was through music that I met my husband, Bill, a trombone player, when I returned to New Brunswick and began playing in the band at Fredericton Community Church. We have two boys, Justin and Cody, who are also bandsmen. I was commissioned as the corps cadet counsellor, and loved teaching Sunday school, Junior Action and CROSSzone.

In 2014, I noticed my eyesight was changing. We made appointments with specialists, who gave me some hope. But every day, when I looked out my dining room window to check if I could see light, it grew dimmer—until one morning it was dark. My vision was gone.

I was devastated. I had always believed God would heal me, that he wouldn’t let me go blind again. I kept asking, Why? Those first few weeks, I shed many tears—especially when the band began to play at church and I wasn’t with them.

Photo of Marlene Russell in wheelchair

Russell spent seven months in hospital learning how to function in a wheelchair after knee and foot surgery

And then I also broke my foot and was unable to walk. It felt like too much to handle all at once, and I struggled with my faith. On the outside, I was fine. But on the inside, I felt like God had deserted me. Unable to play music or teach, thinking my music camp days were over—I was broken.

Major Judy Goudie knew of my struggle and reached out, visiting regularly, bringing food and praying with me. She helped me understand that God had a plan, and I could still live a Spirit-filled life. She was also there when I had knee replacement surgery—a consequence of osteoarthritis—a few months later and spent seven months in the hospital learning how to function in a wheelchair.

When I returned home, trying to accomplish everyday tasks was frustrating. I often thought back to a vision God gave me soon after I lost my sight. I was at church, asking God why, when I saw myself kneeling at the feet of Jesus. It reminded me that God is real and that he loves me.

Our friends and the music committee in our division also made us feel needed and wanted. We still go to music camp, and I help out as much as possible, training young people to grow in their faith.

I prayed for God to open new doors, and last fall I asked my son Cody to team teach CROSSzone with me, which he agreed to happily. I play my timbrel every Sunday, and enjoy church once again.

I’ve had many challenges in my life, but my faith in God has always carried me through.

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