Many of our readers are familiar with the music and ministry of Laurel Jean, who has been blind since birth. Her gift of reaching people spiritually and joyfully through her music, as a creative pianist, composer, vocalist and speaker, has blessed many through her ministry.
Her presentations, personal testimony, academic and musical achievements have earned her national recognition. Her friendly and humble personality has made her a popular and sought-after speaker, entertainer and presence. She never fails to give her Creator all glory and thanks, saying, “Blindness is my opportunity to see things in a different light.”
God used another of his children in the growth, spiritually, mentally and physically, in the life and ministry of Laurel Jean – her mother, Joan Walden.
Joan, although ever present since birth in the life of Laurel Jean, chose to remain in the background, so as not to detract from the ministry of Laurel Jean and the sacred message she shares with others.
Since Laurel Jean began her ministry at the age of 14 years old, Joan has traveled many miles in the ministry – providing transportation, handling of equipment, scheduling, bookkeeping and serving as a sounding board.
However, Joan also found time to answer another call, that of sharing with other parents of blind children her own unique perspective as the mother of a blind child.
She also shares the blessings of her unfailing faith in Jesus Christ throughout, even the early days of shock, days and nights of tears, praying and hoping that God would miraculously give her daughter sight.
This is Joan’s story of how she coped, and how she is continuing to reach out to others, to encourage and inspire while drawing on her unique understanding of others’ challenges.
Joan Walden, In Person
Joan’s beginnings in life held no indication of the challenges she was to face … and the joys she was to experience through her love for her children, her faith and her work as a Christian motivational speaker.
Joan had a happy, normal childhood as she grew up in rural Shelbyville. She was a tomboy, and her childhood held many good times, as she enjoyed being outdoors, camping and fishing with her dad. She tended a variety of pets and enjoyed horseback riding. She was third in her high school graduating class and graduated the secretarial program at Shelbyville’s Sparks Business College. She had also begun to answer her calling as a Christian speaker.
Joan did secretarial work for a tractor company, a grain elevator and a trucking firm. When she became a single mother and in need of more work, even a temporary dental assistant job opened up for her, a direct answer to prayer. She then began doing Christian engagements on a full-time basis.
She attributes much of the inspiration that has helped her through life to others.
“Really, many people have been my inspiration. My mother was always angry with God for some reason, but my father endured a lot of illness and sickness and he was quite ill toward the last.
“He had rheumatoid arthritis and couldn’t move, and he had the proverbial patience of Job. I think my greatest inspiration is remembering the patience he exhibited and the fact that he loved the Lord so much.
“He began, when Laurel was quite small, to read the Bible to her. He couldn’t turn the pages, and she would turn the pages for him,” Jean said.
“He wanted her to know the Lord so badly that he read the Bible to her. That always comes back to me, it’s what is important in life … and we need to do the same for our children and grandchildren,” she said. “Even in good times, I was getting up really early in the morning, because that was the only free time I had, and read my devotions.
“No matter how brief, I would get that devotion time in. Then, when things weren’t going so well, we would draw on the strength of the Lord, just knowing He was there.”
Joan has three adult children, two sons and a daughter.
On Learning Your Child has a Disability
“I think, in all honesty, I have to say that whatever the disability, whatever the abnormality is, No. 1, as a parent, you never imagine that it’s going to happen to you.
“Number 2, with a good bit of certainty, I feel that each parent gets that same cold grip of fear in their heart when the doctor says, ‘This is the situation, you need to prepare yourself to deal with it.’
“You also struggle with, not necessarily, ‘Why me, Lord?,’ but ‘How am I going to deal with it? Help, help,’ and it dawns on you that, without the Lord’s help, you can’t do it.”
Joan had not had any previous first-hand experience with a blind person.
The Present and Future
When Joan is not working in the ministry, she is still a self-admitted tomboy … and doesn’t really want to change.
She loves being outdoors, caring for critters, rock and geode hunting, and mushroom hunting. The furry and feathered animals she is caring for at present include a small flock of banty chickens, two chinchillas, a finch and at least two dogs. Her back yard is also a beautiful, natural habitat created by the squirrels, wild birds, chipmunks, etc.
Joan also enjoys cooking, reading, plants, eBay and old western movies,
With Joan’s years of work experience, her many talents and gifts, her great people skills and, especially, her steadfast Christian faith, she continues to be a blessing.
Her strong witness for Christ and her unique perspective as the mother of a blind child make her motivational speaking an asset to workshops, retreats and other programs.
She is also available as a one-on-one mentor for parents of blind children. She also has Bible study, and a puzzles and games fellowship night. She invites anyone interested to call her at 423-9750.