Scotland Trip: The Adventure That is Leaflet Distributing… Blind

I owe you a sincere apology, my readers, for being so lax in updating, but fear not, you will hear the details of the trip yet. Travel with me back, to the last day in May, 2014.
Imagine you are in a strange city, with a group of strange people, whom you have either just met, or known for only a week’s time. You have a mission; it is to navigate the ancient and complex streets of this city, gain entrance into it’s residential buildings, and deliver papers, 6000 in all, that may prove to have eternal significance for some, or all, of the recipients. That, in itself, is a weighty task. Now, imagine that you are blindfolded.
This was the task set before me on my second weekend in Scotland, and I had no idea how to approach it. I had never done leaflet distribution before, and Beth and Andrew (Airdrie’s marvelous minister) had voiced their concerns that I may not be able to participate in the actual distribution, since I obviously don’t know the area and may have a difficult time locating houses and things. I was having my own doubts, but as usual, figured I would decide how I could be most useful when the day came and the situation presented itself. Beth, who is much more of a planner than I am, brought it up something crazy like three days ahead of time, and suggested that I might stay behind with a member of the congregation that was pregnant and also would not be able to participate. I had no objections to spending time with a member of the congregation of course, but was disgruntled to think that may be most useful for me. I didn’t want to be useless, but I also didn’t want to resign myself to doing less than I knew I could. Maybe it’s a flaw in my character, but it hurts my pride to know that something as simple as passing out bits of paper might be beyond my capabilities. I prayed about it, and tried to accept that maybe staying behind was part of God’s plan.
We (several of us from the Airdrie church) headed out in a convoy of cars around 9:00 Am Saturday morning to meet our fellow leafleters from the Edinburgh congregation. We spent a few minutes at the school where we had gathered discussing instructions and, in my and Patrick’s case, meeting a few of the Edinburgh church members, including Mairi, who is quite possibly the loveliest lass one will ever meet… ever. Two notable absentees from our pamphletting party were the Edinburgh pastor, Peter, and his wife, Emma, though we had been assured that they were busy with another important mission of their own. I mention these three in particular because they will be important later on. Now you know.
After our route planning and group selecting was complete, the school room began to empty, and I wondered what exactly I was meant to do. One of the Edinburgh congregation, who was leading the distributing in Peter’s stead, offered to take me in his car to the house of the expecting mother where I was supposed to somehow be useful… but to my surprise he wondered if I would like to try distributing first just to see if it was a possibility. We drove around for a bit, trying to find a section of housing that we knew had not been covered yet. Eventually, we came to a neighborhood of flats, and exited the car. We went to the first building, and entered with no problem, as the lock on the front door was broken. The same was true for nearly all of the buildings on that street. These were not high class dwellings. They were, I believe, what is known there as council houses, which are government-sponsored housing projects, something like section 8 housing. As such, they are rather old, and not very well-maintained. Good for us though, as that meant we could get into all of them. We explored the first building and he described the layout to me, then went off to the neighboring building, with the promise that he would return to meet me once he was finished distributing there. I, with cane, dog, leaflets, and purse in hand, climbed three sets of stairs to the top of the building, and worked my way down, pushing leaflets through the letterboxes on each door as I went. Britain does not really have mail boxes, separate from the person’s dwelling place like America usually does. Most of their mail comes through slits in the front doors with flaps over them. It seems like it would be a simple task, just to lift the flap and shove the paper through the door, but it can actually be rather difficult sometimes, as there are usually bristles under the flap, and a second flap on the inside of the door… there are also sometimes dogs on the other side, yipping and growling and threatening to nip at your fingers if you put your hand too far in. Eventually though, I got the hang of it, and began paying more attention to the things around me, rather than the task alone. It was definitely a ratchet area. I could identify which flats were the sketchiest by the following contributing factors:
1. The current state of the front door to the building itself.
If it was hanging off the hinges, you knew it was one of the worse cases.
2. The current state of the front door of each individual flat.
See the above comment.
3. The sounds emanating from inside the flat.
Sweeping, barking dogs, people yelling angrily at their barking dogs, television, hoovers (vacuums), crying children, people yelling angrily at their crying children, etc.
4. The amount and type of stuff piled around the door.
I tripped over numerous objects as I approached many of the doors. From bicycles to rugs to random articles of clothing, the walkway in front of many of the flats was clearly considered fair game as a storage area.
5. The current state of the letterbox.
Taped to the door = ratchet letterbox. Enough said.
Needless to say, I felt nothing less than epic. For me, blind, blonde, innocent college girl that I am, this was the equivalent of sprinting through the planes of Africa, with a starving child in need of medical care in my arms, or trekking through the dunes of the middle east with a bible in hand, bringing the light of Christ to the darkness of the Arabian deserts. Dramatic? Not at all. This was real, live missions work, thrilling and life threatening.
Okay, so I’m kind of joking about that, but it was exciting to be doing something so practical to serve God. We had no way of knowing when, or how many people might be impacted by what they read in the leaflets. Even just glancing over a few words of the text might cause them to think more seriously about their relationship with God, or inspire them to begin attending church, or reading their Bible. That thought was enough to keep me going through any number of sketchy neighborhoods, steep staircases, and object-strewn hallways.
In one of these staircases, I encountered a lady taking out her trash.
“Hello.” I smiled, “Would you like a leaflet? It is an invitation to a church meeting coming up this week.”
She took one, and I continued up the stairs to the top floor, and slipped the leaflets in the doors, bumping into a trash can and tripping on a pair of shoes on the way. I smiled at the lady again as I descended the stairs, as though she had not just seen me crash into a bunch of things, and found my way back out to the front door.
She was one of my only personal encounters, but I was excited nonetheless to have been able to talk to her a bit, and invite her personally to the mission nights.
We continued with our leafletting into the afternoon, and four of us piled into the car afterward to take a trip to the beech at the Firth of Forth. It was a lovely time with wonderful friends, and a nice few hours to unwind from the day’s work. I and another friend actually got into the water, stripping off our shoes and socks and rolling up our jeans. By the time we left, she, Oleta, and I were all three covered in water and sand. It was glorious, and Beth’s car got very dirty. 🙂
So, is leafletting feasible for blind people? Absolutely, and so are a lot of other things we think may be beyond our capabilities, when done through Christ’s power.
Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
God, in his grace, gives us the ability, as well as the motivation, to overcome any of our human limitations in order to accomplish his will.
Ah, the things we learn from passing out bits of paper. Until next time then…