Blindness doesn’t stop pastor from delivering message

Published 11:24 am Friday, July 26, 2013

LaVern Aikens and her husband, the Rev. Frank L. Aikens Sr. of New Branch Baptist Church in Ivor.

LaVern Aikens and her husband, the Rev. Frank L. Aikens Sr. of New Branch Baptist Church in Ivor.


IVOR—The Rev. Frank L. Aikens Sr., pastor of New Branch Baptist Church in Ivor since 1986, still preaches, despite losing his sight more than three years ago.

“But when you know the Bible and God is with you, you can do it without any problems,” Aikens said of delivering the word of God while blind.

The beloved minister lost his sight due to complications of diabetes in 2010.

“Some people might wonder, ‘Why me?’” he said, “but I don’t question God. He has been good to me. I have a wonderful wife and family, and the best church family, I think, in the world.”

The reverend added that the members of this church are so kind and help him in many ways.

Aikens came to New Branch, the church that was to become his first full-time church, from Shiloh Baptist Church in Chesterfield County, where he was an associate pastor. Ordained at Shiloh just after being called to preach at New Branch 27 years ago, he has been here ever since.

Prior to going into the ministry and ultimately ending up in the Tidewater region, Aikens tried a few other professions.

He was with the 20th Air Division of the U. S. Air Force from 1969 until 1973. He did not see combat in Vietnam, he said, as he was deployed to the Far East and the Philippines.

Discharged from the service while he was stationed at Fort Lee, Aikens became an insurance agent for the Prudential Insurance Company and later became an announcer for the Petersburg Broadcasting Company, WSSV and WPLZ.

“That’s where I met my wife, LaVern,” he said with a smile. “She was a teller at a bank in Petersburg, and I’d go in and pass several other tellers’ windows just to get to hers.”

Thus began a great love story, the pastor went on.

“We complement each other, even down to our vision problems.”

Aikens revealed that his wife has had a sight issue since birth, although she is not legally blind, as he is.

Married in 1978, the couple settled in Petersburg and have always made their home there. They have four children, Frank Jr., Jonathan, Angela and LaTasha, all grown and with their own families now.

Aiken said, however, that since 1977, he had felt a calling to serve God in some capacity. He attended Virginia State University, and in 1979, became licensed to preach.

He served as chaplain at the Riverside Regional Jail in Hopewell for 10 years and worked as an associate at the Rainbow Book Store in Colonial Heights, “where they had lots of books and Bibles,” he said.

He serves as president of the United Federation of Churches in Southampton County.

The long-time pastor praises his staff at New Branch.

“I have three wonderful associate pastors, the Rev. James Ricks, the Rev. Jenny Boykins and the Rev. Mary Bowers, as well as Deacon James Uzzell, who take a lot of the load off me. They keep things running smoothly, like handling Sunday School and even preaching on occasion.”

Technology also comes into play when the Rev. Aikens delivers God’s word.

“And I am very fortunate that there are tapes and CDs,” he said, adding that he has several versions of the Bible on tape.

But the 65-year-old says that he has studied the Bible so much that he has committed most of it to memory. Preaching a sermon, conducting a funeral or wedding is no problem for this devoted man of God, his friends add.

Aikens said that since he no longer drives, his sister-in-law takes he and his wife from Petersburg to the services in Ivor every Sunday.

“My wife and I live alone, but have no problems because of our vision problems, he said. ”We both have a strong faith. We’re fortunate also in that all of our children live close by and check on us every day.”