Larisa and Helen sit watching the screen. A new show is on and they are deciding: Will the show get the thumbs up for nationwide broadcast? Will it get thumbs down? Or, in the case of Helen, paw down? Larisa Fleming is a Hope Channel New Zealand program reviewer. And Helen? She’s Larisa’s guide dog.
“I had a brain tumour when I was 10,” recalls Larisa, “and by the time I was 11 I had completely lost my eyesight. They said I only had two years to live,” she continues, “but I like a challenge—38 years later, I’m still going strong! Sometimes people ask me whether I’m angry at God. No! I love every day of life that God gives me and I love Him for all the good things He’s brought into my life.”
Larisa got married one year ago. “My husband is amazing. He’s a paraplegic who fractured his spine in a quad bike accident. We now do inspirational speeches together for companies around New Zealand. My husband wrote a book entitled Change the Channel about staying positive. I read it through in just one night because once I started, I couldn’t stop. My husband has got me into skiing. It’s so much fun to be out on the slopes with him in his sit-ski.
“Sometimes you meet people who feel sorry for themselves. I don’t have time for that. Life’s for living, so, no matter what we face, we have to get going with life. My husband and I have, and if we can, well, I think pretty much anyone can.
“My favourite song is ‘God Will Make a Way’ by Don Moen. The lyrics are just so true. I know, because He has for me.”
Larisa, who is a praise team leader at Hawera Adventist Church, gets her church to sing the song as often as she can. She also teaches the Sabbath School lesson at church—all from memory.
One of the ways that Larisa stays positive is by giving service to God. “When I first heard that Hope Channel New Zealand needed volunteers to review potential programming for the channel, I thought, What a great opportunity to serve God! But when I told someone about my interest, they said, ‘You’re blind, how are you going to review television shows?’ Apparently the person wasn’t aware that, yes, blind people do watch TV. We watch through our ears because 99 per cent of the story is told through dialogue, mood-setting music and sound effects. When I called Julia Ross at Hope Channel New Zealand, she welcomed me into the reviewing team with open arms.”
Larisa became one of the first Hope Channel New Zealand program reviewers and has faithfully reviewed potential programming for five years. But what does she look for in a program? “Of course I look for content. I ask, Is the program consistent with Christian values? But I look for something else too—is the program interesting?”
Does she ever reject programs because they are boring?
“Yes, I reject boring shows regularly,” she laughs. “It’s painful enough that I had to sit through it, I don’t want to inflict TV tedium onto others!
“What I love about Hope Channel New Zealand is the way it is connecting with people all over the country,” concludes Larisa, “I’m inspired when I hear of stories of Hope Channel viewers from Te Kao in the far north to Invercargill in the deep south walking into churches looking for a closer relationship with Christ.”
If you’ve watched Hope Channel New Zealand and enjoyed it, you can say a very big thank you to Larisa, and don’t forget Helen too! They are the ones who help find the inspiring—and interesting—shows Hope Channel New Zealand broadcasts.
James Standish lives in Washington (USA) where he works in law, government relations and media.