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8-year-old’s blindness no hindrance to his passion for reading Script

PITKIN, La. (BP)–Andy West appears to be an average 8-year-old boy, at first glance.
However, one quickly discovers he is anything but average.
The Pitkin, La., third-grade student, who has been legally blind since birth, was on the cover of the August/September issue of the Record, the official periodical of the American Bible Society. The magazine did a feature article on him after he received a free Braille Bible from the society earlier this year.
West’s love for the Bible led family friend and local schoolteacher Randie Strother to stop at the Galilean Bookstore last year. There she inquired as to how she could get a Braille Bible. The store workers were able to put Strother in touch with the American Bible Society who informed her that a Braille Bible was available for $1,200.
Strother gave them her name and the address of the school. She did not hear from the society again until December when she received a society invoice for part of a New Testament Braille Bible. The invoice was marked “free,” but there was no Bible.
Strother was in her classroom about three months later when five big boxes were delivered. A complete Braille Bible was inside the boxes and the invoice was marked “paid in full.”
West and his mother, who had not known that Strother was trying to find him a Braille Bible, were overjoyed.
“It was just an awesome feeling for someone to do this for him,” said West’s mother, Mona. “This can only help him get what he needs from the Bible.”
Stephen Laughlin, pastor at First Baptist Church of Pitkin where the Wests are members, agreed. “It will give him a better avenue to do what he loves,” which is reading the Bible. Although West has attended church most of his life, last year after his grandfather passed away he became a faithful churchgoer and was baptized in December.
Laughlin said the death of West’s grandfather was “instrumental in renewing his interest” in church. West’s love for the Bible, however, grew as a result of his mother reading the Bible to him every night. Now it seems West cannot get enough of the Bible.
Laughlin said West insists on knowing what his sermons are going to be about two weeks in advance so he can have his mother read the passages to him ahead of time. West also asks questions about the Bible and theology constantly, his pastor said, on subjects ranging from the differences between the major and minor prophets to apocalyptic literature.
“It’s just something I want to know,” West remarked.
West said his favorite book in the Bible is Matthew because “it talks a lot about the birth [of Christ].” The youth also memorizes Scripture and is described by Laughlin as being a “Scripture memorizer magnifique.”
West said he memorizes Scripture because the verses not only help him become a better person but help him when he gets down. Although the Wests’ church helps them in any way they can, Mona West said that raising a child with special needs on her own can be challenging.
“Sometimes it’s overwhelming. But it can be overwhelmingly good, too.”
West does not let his handicap stop him from leading a normal life. “He doesn’t like us to make too many accommodations for him, as he is fiercely independent, but he lets us know when he wants something,” Laughlin said.
“Everybody loves Andy,” Mona West said. “When the article in the Record came out, some of his friends wanted autographs.”
In spite of the celebrity-like treatment he received as a result of the article, West’s life ambition is a humble one. He wants to be a preacher. “When the pastor retires and if I’m old enough, I’ll be happy to take the job,” he said.

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  • Jennifer Blackwell