How can a blind youth participate in the state Bible drill competition? It is a challenge, but 12-year-old Graham Waller is used to it.
By Brian Blackwell
How can a blind youth participate in the state Bible
drill competition? It is a challenge, but 12-year-old Graham Waller is
used to it.
Left blind in 2002 after surgery to remove a brain
tumor, Waller’s faith in Christ and the support from First Baptist
Church of Kenner have helped him persevere and accomplish the most
challenging tasks, including Bible drill.
“(Bible drill) helps me learn stuff from the Bible,
and we get snacks after each time we practice,” he notes. “Also, I get
to spend time with my friends.”
When Waller was preparing for his first year of
Bible drill competition in 2002, state coordinator Linda Aguillard was
informed of the blind youth.
Aguillard and the Louisiana Baptist Convention state
leadership went the extra mile to accommodate Waller, his mother,
“Graham could not see to use a Bible in the drill,
but they still allowed him to participate,” Sherrie Waller says of her
son, who advanced to the state level of annual Bible drill competition
for the third consecutive year this past May at Louisiana College in
“While Graham doesn’t use a Bible, he is able to
memorize scripture and where books of the Bible are located like all
the other participants do in the drill.”
Instead of finding a book in his Bible, Waller
simply states the name of the book he is supposed to find, along with
the preceding and following books.
For example, if Graham is called upon to locate the
book of Exodus, he will state “Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus.”
If he is required to read a passage, Waller quotes the passage and
scripture reference. Another participant then will read the passage.
“Linda and the rest of the state leadership have
been so cooperative in letting him participate and for that we’re
grateful,” Sherrie Waller says.
“Bible drill has been such a blessing in more ways than one.”
Three years ago, Waller was lying in his hospital
bed while his mother and father, Ed, were reflecting on the ordeal the
family had faced thus far.
In the midst of their pain and his own agony, Waller
provided a calming effect by reciting his favorite verse that he
learned in Bible drill – Psalm 56:3.
“When Graham said that, it was like the Lord tapped
me on the shoulder and said this is why Bible drill is so important,”
his mother says. “Later on, when we faced difficult situations in life,
recalling verses was such a tremendous help.
“All those times when we have other things besides
Bible drill going on, I ask the Lord why we do this sometimes,” she
continues. “And when we do remember a verse in those trying times,
that’s when we know it’s all been worth it.”
Waller’s story actually began in 2000, when he began
to complain of frequent headaches. A year later, he started seeing
black dots whenever he stood.
“It was at that point that we knew it was time to see a doctor,” his mother recalls.
A neurologist examined Graham on Jan. 8, 2002, and
recommended an MRI at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. That
afternoon, an MRI technician offered a quieter room in the
hospital, which the Wallers said they found odd.
“Here we were in this big, busy hospital, and the
doctors were letting us go to a room all by ourselves,” Sherrie Waller
recounts. “It was at that point that we knew something was up.”
A pediatric neurosurgeon explained to them that Waller had a brain tumor.
Six days later, Waller underwent a six-and-a-half
hour surgery to remove the tumor attached to his brain stem. Though the
surgery went well, Waller remained nearly unresponsive for three weeks.
However, by February, Waller had started therapy at
Children’s Hospital. Soon, he began responding to “yes” and “no”
After nine weeks of therapy, Waller received a welcome ninth birthday present – a return home.
Still, he was fed through a tube and was confined to a wheelchair.
A month later, Waller began talking again. By late summer, the tube was
removed, and Waller began walking. He continued therapy through
The family did not realize Waller lost his vision until he started talking again.
One day the family was watching television when his
brother asked if Waller could see what was on television.
He said he could not.
“That’s when we found out he couldn’t see,” Sherrie Waller explains.
“It finally came out that he didn’t tell us because
he didn’t want us to be upset with all that was going on.”
Two years have passed, and Waller now can distinguish between light and dark.
He also is in the process of learning braille,
though his mother says it may take at least two years to master the
Reminiscing on the past three years, Sherrie Waller
says she is amazed at the way First Baptist Church of Kenner has been
there for the family.
For instance, nine months before his son’s surgery,
Ed Waller lost his job. Though he kept interviewing for a full-time
job, he found only part-time work.
“When Graham had to have surgery in January, I told
Ed that the Lord knew Graham would need him here at the hospital
instead of at the office,” Sherrie Waller recalls. “Just before Graham
was discharged from the hospital, a man offered Ed a full-time job.”
As the months passed, the bills accumulated.
However, Sherrie Waller says First Baptist Church of Kenner supported
them financially. Not only did the family have enough money to eat
their meals at the hospital, but church members pitched in and helped
pay their bills.
“The Lord has taught us a lot through this
situation,” Sherrie Waller says. “One thing I’ve learned is what a
wonderful church family we’re a part of.”
Now a seventh grader, Waller says he is
excited about what God has in store for him. Whatever his plan is,
Waller says he knows he lives by faith, not sight – not just physically
but spiritually as well.