Torch News Autumn 2021

Torch Trust – The Christian Sight Loss Charity

Contents

Life Giving Legacies

Torch is truly blessed by the people who we meet through our ministry: people who pray for Torch, people who volunteer and people who use our services and want to let us know what a difference they have made. We recently spoke to Paul, a user of Torch services over many years, who has generously decided to include Torch in his will.

We asked Paul what had inspired him to make this kind commitment and he explained that Torch had been part of his life for a long time. He first met Rosina Price at his college for the blind back in the 60s. Rosina asked Paul if he would be willing to help transcribe a book into braille for Torch. Some years later, he visited Torch headquarters: “They were really good people who were committed to the ministry that they were fulfilling at Torch. They were warm and approachable!”

Over the years Paul has used the Torch library, received the Torch Times magazine and kept in touch in many ways. Paul explained that: “I’ve always rated the work of Torch and I think recently it’s really modernised and just seems to be open to new ideas and new possibilities while being strongly committed to providing a good service to blind and partially sighted people.”

When asked about his legacy, Paul says that it was simply a decision that made sense to him: “I recognise it’s important for Torch to have income they know will come in and I’m happy to do that! I would encourage anyone who is happy with Torch’s work to consider doing the same. It’s a good way of supporting Torch.”

This is certainly not Paul’s sole legacy – he has worked for many years as a relationship counsellor, and before that a probation officer. He describes getting into this work as a hurdle, having to deal with people doubting whether a blind person would be able to do the job. Paul persevered, proving without a doubt his capability as he worked in the service for the next 24 years. “Eventually I moved to family court work where reports were prepared promoting the best interests of children if parties couldn’t agree about arrangements for residence or contact after relationship breakdown. It was interesting work though it held much sadness for those people involved in such conflict.”

Paul gives full credit to the Lord in giving him the tools to cope with this work, and says his faith has certainly played a role through the years: “There are occasionally cases that impact you more personally and I was able to bring that to the Lord. In both of my roles, supervision and support have been important aspects of the work to ensure that professional standards were met.”

When asked about his own faith, Paul says that it wasn’t all smooth sailing! “I was brought up with some church contact and had a sense of God from an early age. I didn’t have the theology to understand it but I felt something of a presence that was more than simply human. However, I had sort of a rocky time of coming to faith because I wasn’t sure how we could know and be secure in the salvation God provided.”

A visit to a house church in 1966 provided the moment when Paul truly came to faith: “There was a word shared which just matched my circumstances. I just knew that it was the Lord speaking to me about leaning on him and assuring me I was saved and would meet with success as I did this. That has never left me, no matter what. My testimony is that we have a God who keeps us. If we come to him and give our lives to Jesus, he won’t let us go. I don’t take any credit for that at all, I believe that God is relational and Jesus is interested in relationship with anyone who comes to him. And it’s out of this that comes his power to keep us. Sometimes this is despite our waywardness and the complexities we might have to negotiate and face but I’ve always had a clear sense that despite me, Jesus has kept me.”

Paul says that he would recommend Torch to anyone with sight loss: “Thank you for the support you give, it is extremely valuable – never underestimate that! If anyone reading this has sight loss and is wondering about their faith, make contact with Torch. You might say ‘I don’t know whether I have a faith’ but if you say to God: ‘God, please reveal yourself to me’ I reckon he will. If you have a faith, take encouragement from the service Torch can offer. Don’t hold back.”

Leave a gift in your will

Legacies are vital to our ability to plan our work going forward and we are extremely grateful to all who have made such generous provisions. If you would like to find out more about leaving a legacy to Torch, just get in touch on info@torchtrust.org or call Client Services on 01858 438260.

Prayer points

Give thanks to everyone who supports Torch via prayer, volunteering or gifting.

Pray for more people to hear about the work of Torch and feel able to contribute to our ministry.

Pray for people with sight loss who face barriers in their lives, and the ways Torch can support them to feel more enabled.

Stepping into the next chapter

Torch’s CEO Tim Jeffery shares his vision and hopes for the next season with Torch...

Many of Paul’s letters to the churches start with his greeting to ‘The Saints’. Over the last year, I have seen more and more of the amazing ‘saints’ that make up this wonderful Torch community. Just like the saints that Paul wrote to, we are far from perfect, but like them, God sees us as His holy people – each of us a member of the body of Christ. Whatever part you have played in the past or play now in the ministry of Torch, thank you for being one of the saints in this corner of the Kingdom – one of the members of this body.

We’ve been thinking about how we can best recognise and communicate with the different people who have an interest in and support Torch. With Paul’s teaching about the body of Christ in mind, we are going to be inviting anyone who wants to, to become a ‘partner’ of Torch, committed to its ministry to blind and partially sighted people. Watch this space for more information!

We often say that the church is the only club that exists for those who aren’t members but in many ways the same is true of Torch. Just like the church, Torch is not just here for those of us who are passionate about and benefit from its ministry but has to keep adapting in order to reach out to new people experiencing sight loss. Torch’s history shows how, despite the discomfort, Torch has faithfully followed God’s call and adapted with the times.

The biggest challenge we are wrestling with at present is how to fit a quart into a pint pot! How to keep producing literature resources and support fellowship groups here and in Malawi, continue producing radio programmes, set up holidays, run events etc and do more outreach, develop more digital resources and respond to the many changes happening in our society and the opportunities to reach out to people starting to lose their sight. And all of this at a time when our income is going down not up!

Friends, please pray for us, for God’s wisdom and clarity of His calling in this season. And if you are able, will you consider making some regular financial donation so that we can more confidently step into the next chapter that God is preparing for the Torch saints.

Prayer points

Give thanks for the people who make up the wider Torch community.

Pray for our continued ability to reach people experiencing sight loss.

Celebrating our 300th sign up to Sight Loss Friendly Church!

Torch is thrilled to announce that we have recently achieved our 300th sign-up to Sight Loss Friendly Church. This means that around the UK, 300 churches have made the commitment to being more sight loss friendly, more inclusive, and more aware of how they can provide a vital and welcoming community to blind and partially sighted people.

Our 300th church is the Sheldon Road Methodist Church in Chippenham, and we asked Church Leader Jan about their experience so far. Jan says: ‘We have a poster in the entrance window which says “All are welcome here” and it’s one of the things we try to keep in mind when opening our doors for any event. I’ve just been part of a very encouraging and stimulating taster session for Sight Loss Friendly Church, and I’ve now signed our church up via your website. I was very impressed with the speed with which you supplied a copy of Thy Kingdom Come prayer journal in braille for a member of our congregation; she made time to phone me and say how delighted she was to be included in our commitment to pray together. By adopting various suggestions of format, I’m more confident that documents will be read more clearly, especially by older members with limited sight.’

Sight Loss Friendly Church is continuing to develop and expand, and we’re really excited to share some of the great resources and services we’ve developed so far. For churches who are thinking of signing up, we offer Taster Sessions on Zoom. They last half an hour and run roughly two to three times per month. We’re also running regular training sessions on Zoom. These are 90 minute sessions for churches who want a broad overview of being sight loss friendly. For churches who want more advanced training on a particular aspect of sight loss friendliness, we’re happy to announce our ‘Focus On...’ sessions, which also take place via Zoom. These offer more advanced training on one particular aspect of being sight loss friendly, designed for the people who are doing the job. We recently ran a session on “Making your Documents Accessible” where the target audience was church administrators. The sessions are also recorded for people who can’t make it live.

For a more informal chance to chat, we host Zoom Catch Up Sessions, an opportunity for churches to network with each other and find out the latest from Torch. These take place monthly, usually on a Tuesday or Thursday evening, and nominally last half an hour although we have been known to overrun slightly if the conversation is going well!

Our offering also includes advice and guidance for churches, including our quarterly SLFC Email Newsletter, and our written resources which are all available for download via the SLFC website. Of particular note are our “Best Practice Guide” and “Preparing Materials” guidance which we refer to very regularly. We also wrote one or two resources specific to the pandemic including some “Virtual Church Top Tips”.

Get involved

To access these resources, or to learn more about signing up or finding an SLFC near you, please visit sightlossfriendlychurch.org.uk

What does it take?

To help supporters understand the costs of running the SLFC programme over one year, we have broken down the costs as follows.

Programme Costs: £20,000

Salary Costs (Direct and Support): £90,000

Overheads: £30,000

Total: £140,000

Sight Loss Sunday

Taking place for the first time on 17th October 2021, we are very happy to announce Sight Loss Sunday. This is a day for raising awareness of sight loss and celebrating the talents and gifts of people with sight loss in congregations across the UK. We’re asking churches all over the country to join in helping blind and partially sighted people feel enabled to actively contribute to church life! To get involved, go to sightlossfriendlychurch.org.uk/slsunday

Prayer points

Pray for continued uptake of the SLFC initiative.

Pray for Sight Loss Sunday to reach churches across the UK and make a real difference to people with sight loss.

Pray for the staff and volunteers who help to make SLFC a success story!

An amazing gift

We’re all different – God has ensured that – and each has different abilities and talents to offer. At Torch, we are fortunate to hear many wonderful tales of how God uses our giftings in so many ways throughout our lives, including the story of long-time Torch volunteer Isabel Johnstone...

Isabel first heard about Torch over 35 years ago. Her grandmother had sight loss and attended the Motherwell Fellowship Group and after making friends with the leader of Dumfries Group, Isabel took a real interest and decided to volunteer as a driver. It wasn’t long before Isabel was organising the pick-ups, playing the keyboard and pitching in wherever there was a need!

Speaking to Isabel today, you can hear the passion for the work in everything she says, along with her joy that the group is thriving today: ‘We’re very fortunate to have 25 members, including a few young people! Some of them have sight loss and we have two more members who have quite severe learning difficulties and they love coming along.’

The group love gathering together for musical performances, fellowship and listening to talks from any interesting speakers they can find! It was such a speaker who led to Isabel becoming a Christian at the age of 14. Isabel says: ‘They challenged me to give my life to the Lord, it was something always at the back of my mind but it just takes something to really make your mind up!’

Isabel is also a gifted singer and she was recently invited to perform for the Women’s Home & Overseas Committee of the United Free Church of Scotland at their Ladies’ Day Event. Although the pandemic meant that the event was first postponed and then held virtually, the Committee were thrilled to have her perform for them. They had also already nominated Torch to receive their previous year’s Special Monetary Gift. We would love to say a huge thank you to them for their extremely generous support!

You can listen to Isabel’s performance on our YouTube channel, just search for ‘Torch Trust on Video’.

Falmouth TFG: keeping in contact!

It has been truly uplifting to hear the ways Fellowship Groups have kept in contact during the pandemic and lately we were inspired by the story of the Falmouth Group.

Group volunteers Peter and Sue Richards have been innovating throughout lockdown to ensure that the Cornish groups can stay in touch and receive spiritual support. Peter and Sue met back in 1980 at the launch of the Falmouth Group after Peter had a chance meeting with Ron and Stella Heath two years earlier. Peter and Sue’s romance blossomed and they were married later the same year.

The husband and wife team has been making audio recordings featuring extracts of Marilyn Baker and Tracy Williamson’s book (A Beautiful Tapestry) and a selection of Marilyn’s songs. The recordings are going out to the groups in Cornwall and also to two care homes. They have been able to reach new individuals through this, so in all 30 people are now receiving the recordings!

The Falmouth Group has made the decision to not return to the church premises as they cannot recreate what was, but instead will move to a model where they continue the audio recordings and meet in people’s homes monthly for fellowship. They are currently waiting for guidance on restrictions to see when and how this can take place.

Prayer points

Pray for guidance for the Liskeard and Callington group on whether they can continue.

Give thanks for the innovative spirit shown by TFGs throughout the pandemic.

Give thanks for dedicated and passionate volunteers such as Peter, Sue and Isabel for all that they do.

Pray for the TFG network to grow and develop, supporting and engaging people with sight loss across the UK.

An update from Torch Malawi

Stanley Moyo reports on his latest visits to the blind people and TFGs across the Chikwawa and Blantyre districts of Malawi...

On 19th May, I visited Namiyango Fellowship Group which is one of the oldest in terms of formation in Malawi. It was established in 1993 and most of its members are aging but some are still energetic. There were 25 blind people and 12 sighted people present. Our reading was from the book of Mark 7:14–23. The teaching was to remind people that what a person says may provoke someone and a quarrel may start. What someone does may make another person uncomfortable within the premises. God wants us to live a happy, loving and interdependent life.

On 21st May, I visited blind people in their homes. The first was Pakadza Kamtefa and his 5 children. His wife, who is also blind, was in hospital for the birth of her baby (she safely delivered a baby girl). The situation at their thatched home was not good as the building is small and needs reconstruction. Both of their families like reading braille Bibles and Pakadza was so happy to be given some.

Next I visited Taemu, a blind man with a sighted wife. He is a braille reader and also happened to be a beneficiary of the goat project. He is living happily as his goat had produced 3 extra she goats. Taemu is very thankful to Torch Trust as he said “I see God in my family providing for my needs through these goats.”

Prayer points

Give thanks for the ongoing success of the goat project and for its growth.

Pray for God’s word to reach more Malawian people through accessible Bibles.

Pray that the people of Malawi, especially those without sight, will receive both physical and spiritual nourishment.

Christmas Cards and Christian Gifts that assist our ministry

Once again this year we shall benefit from the sale of Christmas cards and the other cards and gifts available from Gospel Cards, etc. 20% of their Christmas card sales and 5% of the sale of other items will be given to 26 Christian missions including Torch Trust.

Produced to a very high standard, the calendars, books, etc. make excellent gifts for children and adults; while the cards are perfect for sending to Christians and non-Christian family and friends.

Full details of the products are on their website GospelCardsEtc.com or you can ask them for a catalogue, call 01656 647551 (10:00am to 1:00pm), or write to GOSPEL CARDS, 15 Brackla Street Centre, Bridgend, CF31 1DD.

Volunteer for Torch Together

We are excited to be planning four Torch Together holidays for 2022 across the UK. To make these holidays run smoothly and ensure all of our guests receive the support they need we are looking for volunteers. Training will be provided and you will receive a subsidised place on the holiday. Betty has enjoyed many holidays with Torch over the years and says ‘It’s about friendship and fellowship and the relaxed atmosphere. It’s great fun and we have a lot of laughter as well as all the activities.’ If you are interested in finding out more about these opportunities please contact us info@torchtrust.org 01858 438260

Join us for a virtual Thanksgiving!

Each year, we love to take the opportunity to give thanks to God for his faithfulness to us and for the lives that have been changed by encountering God through Torch. After the success of last year’s event, where over 300 people joined us via the internet, we will again hold this year’s Thanksgiving event online.

This will give the opportunity for people all over the UK and the world to join us in this uplifting event as a Torch Community. It will be held on Saturday 25th September from 2 p.m. To find out how to join us at this please visit torchtrust.org nearer the time.

Torch

Torch Trust, Torch House Torch Way Market Harborough Leicestershire LE16 9HL UK

t: 01858 438260

e: info@torchtrust.org

w: torchtrust.org

Facebook: facebook.com/torchtrust

Twitter: @torchtrust

YouTube: Torch Trust on Video

Chair: Dr Mike Townsend

CEO: Tim Jeffery

Council of Reference members: Revd Dr Steve Brady; Revd Dr David Coffey OBE; Revd Malcolm Duncan; Jonathan Lamb; Revd Roy Searle; Dr Elaine Storkey; Revd Dr Derek Tidball.

The Torch Trust for the Blind. A company limited by Guarantee registered in England number 461652. Registered Charity number 1095904.

Useful information

Client Services: 01858 438260

Prayer line: 01858 438277

Sight Loss Friendly Church: sightlossfriendlychurch.org.uk

Reflections: for responses to our radio broadcasts call 0333 123 1255. For more information or to hear the show visit torchtrust.org/reflections

Torch News is also available on audio CD, and in braille, email, and large print (17pt, 20pt, 25pt and 30pt) and can be viewed online at torchtrust.org/downloads

Partner invitation

Dear Friends,

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:4-6)

One of Torch’s greatest strengths and most wonderful blessings from the Lord is the amazing ‘cloud of witnesses’ that surrounds us: faithful people who are committed to the ministry. Some of these dear folk have been part of the life of Torch for many decades whilst others have become involved more recently. We thank God for the support and encouragement, the prayers and generosity of so many amazing people who make possible the ongoing ministry of Torch to blind and partially sighted people.

Some people who were involved when our founders, Ron and Stella Heath were alive, will have known themselves as part of the Torch ‘family’. Despite this, we have never really had a way of identifying these committed folk who are genuine partners in the gospel with us. We send out lots of copies of Torch News to a wide range of people but not all of them want to hear more often about what’s happening in Torch.

To rectify this situation, we are inviting anyone who wants to, to become a Partner in Torch’s ministry. If you would like to get more regular updates from the Torch Team about Torch’s ministry, insights into the latest developments and regular, more specific prayer points, then please consider becoming a Partner. As much as we have ever done, Torch needs the prayers of God’s faithful people at this time of so much challenge and opportunity. We are excited about some of the new things we sense God calling us into as we seek to serve and reach out to visually impaired people in the UK and across the world. As Paul writes to the Philippians, we are confident that He who began a good work through Torch, will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Becoming a Partner costs nothing other than some time to pray, keep in touch and do all you can to encourage and bless Torch’s ministry. The Lord knows the resources we need for the work He is calling us to and so, as we make needs known, we trust Him to touch the hearts and wallets of those who feel called to give financially.

To become a Partner please email us at info@torchtrust.org. If you don’t have access to email you can call on 01858 438260.

Whether you choose to become a Torch Partner or not, thank you for your interest and involvement in this small corner of the Kingdom that is Torch Trust.

May the God of peace, fill your heart and mind with the knowledge and love of His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Tim Jeffery (CEO) & Dr Mike Townsend (Chair of Torch Trust)

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