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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Candidate for ministry shares lessons learned from her guide dogs


Deb Trevino says she is assured God will direct her steps

July 29, 2017

When Deb Trevino recently stood in the pulpit at Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church, she wasn’t alone. Her guide dog Suzy was with her — settling in to listen as Trevino spoke on what she has learned from her guide dogs about trusting God.

“Lesson one: God is relational,” Trevino said before describing the complex matching process that leads to a guide dog partnership.

Seeing Eye dog trainers do everything possible to ensure they will be a good team. When Trevino gets a new dog, she spends the first afternoon sitting on the floor, speaking soothingly and stroking the dog’s coat, attempting to forge a new relationship and gain trust.

By week three, Trevino said guide dogs are looking for encouragement, wanting to know how they’re doing after navigating a busy place like an airport terminal.

“They’re seeking a relationship,” Trevino said. “They want consistency, praise when earned and correction when necessary.”

Trevino likens this to God seeking our attention, through Scripture, a friend’s kindness or the splendor of creation — inviting us to respond through prayer and meditation.

The second lesson Trevino learned from her dogs is to balance work with rest. When she grabs the leash, Suzy runs to the door, as if she can’t wait for her harness to be put on so that she can work and do her job well. But when they are homeward bound, Suzy’s mood changes.

“I know she is thinking about a cold drink of water,” Trevino said, “and the abundant praise she’ll receive as I remove her harness. There’s nothing she loves more after a hard walk than to lie on the bed beside me taking most of my fleece blanket.”

Sometimes in those moments, Trevino said, she begins thinking about God completing the work of creation and then resting, or Jesus taking time away for rest during his teaching and healing ministry.

“God is relational,” she said in her sermon, “and it is best to balance work with rest.”

The third lesson Trevino learned is that love is a powerful motivation for service. Even though she wonders if her dogs serve her because of conditioned responses learned through training, she chooses to “follow her heart” and believe that dogs have the capacity to love.

Two of her “girls” — as she affectionately calls them — demonstrated this. Both died of cancer at 9 years old, yet both wanted to work in the hours prior to their deaths. Experiencing this kind of servant love from her guide dogs caused Trevino to reflect, in her sermon, on the nature of God.

“Contemplating God’s unconditional love lived out in Jesus should bring us to our knees in worship and thanksgiving,” she said. “Its depth and breadth is unfathomable.”

Trevino’s fourth lesson: Always follow your guide. During new adventures, Trevino uses the GPS on her iPhone to gather information about the number of blocks to walk before turning, which direction to turn, names of streets and traffic patterns.

Debra Trevino, a candidate for ministry, along with Jane Larsen-Wigger and guide dog Suzy after preaching at Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church in Louisville. (Photo by Seth Craigo-Snell)

As she begins instructing her guide dog to “go forward,” turn and step into an intersection, the dog begins making her own decisions, safely leading Trevino around obstacles like trash cans on a sidewalk.

The spiritual applications in this lesson are clear to Trevino. “When you find obstacles in your path and the way seems unclear, take God’s hand and trust that the Holy One will direct your path from this moment on.”

And that’s what Trevino is doing. As a 2013 graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and a candidate for ordained ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), she is moving to Newark, Delaware, to continue to pursue her call to ministry in her home presbytery of New Castle.

Knowing Trevino would be leaving, the Rev. Jane Larsen-Wigger invited her to preach, which just happened to be around Disability Inclusion Sunday (May 28) in the PC(USA).

“It’s been such a gift to have them be a part of our community,” Larsen-Wigger said. “It’s helpful for us as able-bodied seeing people to hear Suzy’s voice, giving us a bigger understanding of the world and God — hopefully stretching and deepening us.”

Paul Seebeck, Mission Communications Strategist, Video and Digital Asset Management, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus:  Candidate for ministry and her guide dogs

Let us join in prayer for:

Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church Staff

Jane Larsen-Wigger, pastor
Debbie Dierks, director of music
Patti Wilson Marcum, administrative assistant
Paul Kepler, joyful noise leader
Jennifer Thalman Kepler, joyful noise leader
Gary Cook, parish associate for deacons
Lengulula Kashama, parish associate for French language outreach ministry
Mary Love, parish associate

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Jessica Kelley, PPC                                                                                        
Paul Kempf, PMA

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, in all that we say and do, may we reflect Christ’s love for all people everywhere. Help us all to look beyond our differences and concentrate on the commonalities we share as your children. Amen.

Daily Readings

Morning Psalms 56; 149
First Reading 2 Samuel 1:1-16
Second Reading Acts 15:22-35
Gospel Reading Mark 6:1-13
Evening Psalms 118; 111