There is one member of the congregation at the Upper Hutt Baptist Church (NZ) that I will never forget. Her name was Relda. She was there most Sunday mornings with her friend Alison, sitting in their usual place. When the congregation stood to sing she would stand and then sit again at the appointed time. As I preached my sermon, though, she would yawn and regularly nod off to sleep (she wasn’t the only one!).
Relda was a black Labrador dog. Alison was blind and she depended on her canine friend to guide her wherever she went.
One memorable night during my student pastorate, Alison and Relda were present at a home group meeting. At supper time the rain was pelting down outside and the host asked me if I would take Alison home. I agreed and then asked him quietly to tell me where Alison lived. “I’ll show you the way”, said a voice from the other side of the room. It was Alison.
With Relda perched on the backseat of my car and the windscreen wipers working overtime, Alison guided me the two mile distance to her home. She directed me as well as anyone could. She knew the street names and landmarks perfectly. As I turned into the last street she said that she lived “up a long right of way, half way up the hill on the left hand side”. When she told me to stop I could see no letter box. There were no street lights, only the light of the house in the distance.
I stopped the car and said, “I’ll come with you to the door”. “No, there is no need”, she insisted as they scrambled out of the car. “I’ll be fine!” Then Alison said, “So long as Relda knows the way, I’ll be right.”
The door slammed and Alison’s words echoed in my mind as I sat stunned in the inky silence.
Image: Black lab