Torch News Spring 2021

Torch Trust – The Christian Sight Loss Charity

Contents

Hearing the word of God

For many of our clients, audio is the preferred format – it’s accessible whatever your level of sight and doesn’t require a knowledge of braille. This makes it a big part of our ministry so we wanted to show you, our fantastic supporters who enable this work, behind-the-scenes and introduce you to some of the voices behind the words...

We rely on volunteers to make this important work possible, and it’s all overseen by James Brookman, our Audio Transcription Coordinator: ‘I co-ordinate the work of Torch’s 20 or so audio volunteer readers and editors. We ask our volunteers to commit several hours each week to Torch, and to be open to working on the full range of genres that make up Torch’s literary offering.’

One of our audio volunteers is Sheila Dunning, who tells us what motivated her to volunteer: ‘I wanted to serve God. I spent most of my working life at a Christian conference centre and felt that I was serving him there. When I retired about six years ago, I wanted to fill my time and feel that I was still serving him.’

This desire is common to our volunteers, in fact James says: ‘I think all our volunteers work for us because they wish to communicate God’s love for blind and partially sighted people through Christian literature plus they are gifted as readers or, in the case of the editors, gifted in knowing what it takes to make a good reader.’

This is certainly true of long-standing volunteer Ann Barraclough who says: ‘The God-given opportunity to volunteer at Torch gave me a sense of purpose at a time when I needed it. Over the past 15 years I have been able to admire the faith and dedication of the staff and volunteers at Torch. It has been a privilege to be able to share Christian literature with those who cannot read it for themselves.’

Sheila has a similar outlook, saying that, as well as getting the chance to read plenty of Christian books, one of the best things about volunteering is that: ‘I know I’m doing something for people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to these books, magazines, Bible notes and so on. We take it so much for granted that it’s there for us to get.

‘So I feel that it blesses me to read them, and hopefully it’s blessing people who receive them. Every time I record something, I pray that it’s going to bless the person listening.’

Dave Ling, who has recently retired due to sight loss, was one of our longest serving volunteers. Dave worked with Torch for an amazing 25 years and has contributed to over 400 books! Dave, who became a volunteer after retiring from teaching, having also worked with BBC Radio Sheffield, says: ‘Someone at my church told me Torch needed a tape editor (and back then it was all reel-to-reel physical tapes!) to deal with a backlog of books which needed editing. I went along and really it was a case of doing something for the Lord and usefully occupying what would otherwise have been empty time!’

‘Dave’s legacy will last for many years,’ comments James, ‘He was a very skilful editor but I’m also delighted to say I ‘discovered’ his talent for reading by persuading him to swap his editor’s cutting knife for a microphone. Dave went on to voice hundreds of Torch’s best loved audio books; to this day whenever I’m asked to showcase Torch’s audio library I play people an extract taken randomly from a book of children’s Bible stories, called Best Mates, in which Dave acts out Jesus in the boat calming down some very colourful disciples.’

The work has continued despite the pandemic, as James explains: ‘At the moment during lockdown they all work from home. One advantage of lockdown is people have been willing to work even harder than normal and, being a captive audience, responses to emails are often immediate!’

Getting to grips with working from home has been an interesting experience for Ann: ‘It’s been a steep learning curve! Torch House was my haven where I could work undisturbed. Recording from home introduced problems such as cooing pigeons, clucking chickens, thunderstorms, telephone sand getting to grips with Plextalk (portable recorder). However, James’s excellent tuition and notes were invaluable!’

There are two types of audio volunteer at Torch: reader and editor. Some of our volunteers do both, as Sheila explains: ‘I record books and magazine articles, Torch News, parts of Every Day With Jesus, things like that. I also do some editing. This means listening to somebody else’s recording, checking through all the little blips, listening for any quiet bits, too long silences or if they’ve made a mistake. I have to note down their mistake, send it back to them, they redo it and then I insert it in the right place. All of those things use technology which I didn’t know anything about before this so I’ve learned a lot – I actually still have little crib notes I use to check on what I’m doing!’

We want to say a massive thank you to all of our audio volunteers, especially Ann, Sheila and Dave for sharing their experience. We leave you with Dave’s thoughts on his time with us: ‘I really enjoyed it, it was great to have a variety of different books and articles to read. I learnt quite a lot about all sorts of people and topics. The other thing was that I always felt that it made it possible from a small room in the back of my home to have a much wider ministry, to have an effect on people all over the country and possibly even the world.

When you’re recording a book it’s there for a good long time, so long after I’m dead and gone myself, people could be listening to something that I’ve done and perhaps it could help them in their faith – I always hoped that my work was good enough to last a bit longer than I did, put it that way! It’s been a great privilege to do it and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it over all the years.’

If you’re interested in becoming a Torch audio volunteer, we would love to hear from you! Please contact Client Services for how to apply.

Torch’s Audio Ministry in numbers

Around 2,200 clients receive regular audio publications.

750 clients have audio versions of Bible Reading Notes.

We have over 1,700 audio titles in our free Torch Library serving almost 1000 clients which include the ‘In Your Pocket’ device users.

Over the last year, on average, each working day a new client has been added to our Audio Lending Library by our Client Services Team.

Our Audio Ministry has dedicated staff, software, machinery, and overheads which in a year amounts to over £100,000.

We have 15 dedicated volunteers each contributing their time, gifts, and skills to the Audio Transcription process.

Every quarter dozens of new Christian books come to our attention from Christian publishers for us to make available upon request in audio for our clients.

Prayer points

A huge thank you from Torch Malawi!

If you’ve read the last issue of Torch News, you’ll have heard all about our Malawi appeal. The appeal was set up to help support our partners, Torch Malawi, in their amazing work bringing God’s blessings to blind and partially sighted people in one of the world’s poorest countries.

We feel so blessed to report that the appeal received £6,000 in its first six weeks! We would like to offer a huge and heart-felt thank you to all who have supported this important work so far. This response will allow our brothers and sisters at Torch Malawi to continue their vital work providing braille, canes, MegaVoices, health information leaflets and so much more to people whose need is great.

Another extremely important facet of Torch Malawi’s work, and again one which would not be possible without continuing committed funds, is the network of fellowship groups. These groups offer people with sight loss valuable Christian friendship, fellowship and support and are a lifeline for many. There can be no better way to describe the joy the groups bring than by hearing from someone with first-hand experience, so we asked Stanley Moyo, administrator of Torch Malawi, to tell us all about Kawanda Group’s recent Night of Prayer...

‘It was a night of dancing and singing for the Lord Jesus Christ with 124 blind people and 76 sighted people gathered together. Our first reading was from the book of Mark 9:33–37. The theme of the teaching was: “allow yourself to serve”. Children in our communities are asked to do household chores and they obey orders they take from a parent – but ask a grown up person to do something, he/she will often refuse! Let us always hear the word of God, be humble like our children and accept to be servants of the most high and also servants of our fellow brothers and sisters who are blind.

‘Our second reading was done by Pastor Fombe from the book of Luke 11:29–32 which focused on the greatness of Solomon as the wisest King, but Jesus himself explained that there is something greater here than that. Jesus wanted people to understand the power and greatness of God, who has more than Solomon himself. Even now in our daily living, anyone having Jesus in their life has abundant treasure. ‘It was a moment of greatness as the souls of the blind people and the sighted alike were enriched with the word of God.’

If you would like to support the work of Torch Malawi, please contact Client Services using the information at the end of Torch News.

Prayer points

Committing to the Lord: our message for 2021

As regular readers will know, last year we were very pleased to welcome Tim Jeffery as Interim CEO of Torch Trust. Over time it became clear that Tim’s calling to Torch was not intended to be temporary and, after a period of reflection and much prayer, the board of Trustees unanimously asked Tim to take up the position of permanent CEO. With Tim now in this role, he and our Chair, Mike Townsend, share their message for Torch 2021 and beyond...

It seems something of a cliché now to talk about what an extraordinary and difficult year we lived through in 2020! The fact remains that we have all been on something of a rollercoaster ride and that the reduced opportunities to connect with one another, the isolation, health concerns and so many other challenges, have taken a toll. We are particularly conscious that this has been especially true for some of our blind and partially sighted friends. Torch has not been exempt from any of this. Our ministry has been affected in some significant ways forcing us to react to the limitations placed upon us by the pandemic.

We are very conscious though, that whilst the pandemic grabbed the headlines, at the same time, Torch faced its own internal difficulties. The last couple of years have not been easy ones within Torch. New leadership brought new ideas about what Torch should be and focus on. Whilst some changes were accepted as a necessary part of Torch moving on, there was a feeling amongst many that parts of the Torch style and ethos were being lost. All this culminated in our entering the pandemic without a CEO in post and with a new Chair of the Trust. As a result, we not only had to find the right ways to respond to the pandemic but also to address the difficult issues that had arisen.

‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.’ (Proverbs 16:3)

This was the Torch calendar verse for the last day of 2020. It is a fundamental truth that has once again proved true in many ways in the life of Torch. One of those ways was that, at just the right time, the Lord made a connection between the two of us. Together we were able to help the Trustees make sense of what had been happening and begin to find a way forward. As consultant and later Interim CEO Tim brought stability and experienced leadership, and helped manage a much-needed change process. At the end of 2020, we all felt the sense of God calling Tim to a longer-term commitment as permanent CEO. Having committed our way to the Lord, we certainly experienced his faithfulness as he established his plans for Torch once again. Our core values; Christ-centred, people-focused, open, and creative, must be fundamental and hard wired in to all that we do.

One of the impacts of the virus is that churches and organisations like Torch have had to re-think what we do and how we can best serve the people and communities God has called us to work alongside. Torch was able to adapt quite significantly through 2020 and we find the Lord leading us into many new, and in some ways more fruitful, avenues of ministry. We need to re-shape our work for the exciting things God has in store in these changing times as well as accounting for the limitations that result. Some of the highlights include:

Putting new emphasis and investment into supporting our wonderful Torch Fellowship Groups as they seek to minister to people with sight loss.

Developing a new approach to providing holidays and retreats through Torch Together. Helping our clients to get used to some of the wonderful new and easy-to-use technologies to access Christian resources.

Exploring ways in which we can reach out with the love of Jesus to those experiencing the trauma of losing their sight.

The Lord has opened up so many fresh opportunities for Torch – there is plenty of work for us to do! We have, however, had some financially challenging years. We have made quite significant deficits in the last two years and have had to make some redundancies, only being kept afloat by the very sad sale of the Holiday and Retreat Centre. Whilst from a human perspective the financial situation is troubling, we continue to trust in the Lord’s provision, knowing that, in His own way and in His own time, He will provide the resources that are needed for the work He has ordained.

As we step confidently into 2021, there are many things to be thankful for and lots of things to keep driving us to our knees. One of the Lord’s greatest gifts to Torch are the many individuals and families that make up the incredible Torch Family. We pray that 2021 will be a year when this family and this ministry thrive and we will all once again know the Lord’s faithful leading and generous provision.

Will you join us this year in praying for Torch’s ministry to blind and partially sighted folk through fellowship groups, Torch Together events, radio broadcasts and podcasts, inspiring literature, engagement with churches, personal contact and so many other avenues? As well as the prayer that is so vital, will you also consider supporting us through volunteering your time and expertise and, if the Lord prompts, through your generous gifts? Please will you hold Trustees, staff and volunteers in your prayers as we seek together to follow our Lord’s leading.

May you know the grace of God poured out richly upon you on in the year ahead.

Mike Townsend, Chair of Torch Trust

Tim Jeffery, CEO

Torch Together at Home Christmas 2020

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been very important for us to find ways of reaching and connecting with our clients which don’t rely on meeting up in person! We know how valuable human contact is, especially during such strange times as these. Fellowship and worship can make all the difference in keeping your spirits up when nothing much is feeling normal.

Although our plans for Torch going forward include the new Torch Together initiative, which replaces our Holiday Centre in the south of England, this obviously has not been able to get off the ground just yet! So, we got our thinking caps on and decided to look for an alternative offering for our clients.

The great thing about Torch Together is that it was designed to be more accessible for a greater number of people – instead of everyone who wishes to participate needing to be able to travel to West Sussex, Torch Together will take place at various venues around the UK. We knew that our alternative offering had to reflect this country-wide accessibility.

With this in mind, we came up with Torch Together At Home, a virtual service which was launched over the Christmas period. We were able to host two events, offered to people who had signed up for the intended first round of in-person Torch Together breaks.

These events were hosted on Zoom and featured a mix of live and pre-recorded including readings, prayers, songs and even a quiz, all put together by the staff, volunteers, Trustees and friends of Torch.

We are thrilled to report that we’ve received some really lovely feedback from the people who took part. One client said ‘I was missing the fellowship at church and with friends. I felt as though I was with people at the event, it was very good and we were all having fun together. I honestly haven’t felt that way for a long time.’

When asked what they most enjoyed, another client explained that it was the feeling of connection: ‘As well as the carols, I loved sharing something with other people from all over. We could all get together from other parts of the country and I actually made contact with someone I had lost touch with a while ago!’

‘I was really impressed by how varied it was,’ explains another happy client, ‘I loved catching up with other people without having to travel as well. The carols were very enjoyable.’

A virtual carolling

Another virtual event which happened this Christmas was our Carol Service! Some readers will know that the Carol Service has been a long-running part of Torch’s seasonal celebrations and in recent years we’ve been able to livestream the event on the internet. Well this year, the event was entirely internet-based and was hosted by our Head of Services, Mandy Blow. Mandy says: ‘The service was based on Torch’s Christmas freebie book ‘Just Hay in the Manger?’ and we encouraged clients to call Client Services to get their free copy sent to them. Parts were taken out of this and read by various staff. Christmas Carols were sung by Marilyn Baker, including one of her own songs, plus a song from Malawi. We also had a message from CEO Tim Jeffery.’

The prayers in the service were by various Torch friends and the Torch staff team, as well as a lovely Christmas Blessing written by Leonard Campbell. The service was live on Zoom and livestreamed on our YouTube channel. People joined us from all over the world. Leonard also read out messages being sent in by Torch friends at a couple of points through the service.

One participant, Chris, said that he was neither a client, nor a Christian – he had a message on his In Your Pocket device telling him about the event and decided to give it a go! ‘I thought it was a brilliant carol concert,’ says Chris, ‘and a really interesting experience.’

Torch client Barbara contacted us to say: ‘It was really good, my husband and I really enjoyed it, it was such a family service. We watched a professional one the day before and thought yours was better!’

We’re so thrilled by the responses to our virtual events and are currently planning how we may be able to take this forward throughout 2021. While in-person Torch Together is still very much in the pipeline, we remain committed to reaching our clients with God’s love and fellowship no matter what. Find out more about our plans in future issues of Torch News and on our website.

If you’d like to check out both the Virtual Carol Service and Torch Together at home, just search for ‘Torch Trust’ on YouTube.

Prayer points

Torch Events 2021

The year 2020 has helped us to realise the power of virtual gatherings across the Torch family to engage so many more people than is physically possible in any one location. This means we’re committed to including virtual elements to all our events. Below are just some of the events for 2021...

Torch Together 2021 and 2022

These events will be held both virtually and hopefully in person as permitted. We are hoping the autumn will provide opportunities in Northern Ireland and Staffordshire. Cancelled events from 2020 at Scarborough and Dorset have been rescheduled for April and June 2022.

Day of Prayer Wednesday June 16th

This is a day to specifically set aside to engage in prayer for listening, interceding and petitioning God for the ministry of Torch. We’re hoping to include both morning and afternoon Zoom sessions – more details to follow.

Thanksgiving Saturday September 25th

Our thanksgiving event is a day spent in thankfulness to God and reflection on another year of Torch’s ministry. Covid-permitting, we may be able to hold a public event at Torch House, but regardless we will be broadcasting on Zoom!

Carols for Christmas Thursday December 16th

This is an afternoon to celebrate and share in fellowship the heart of Torch’s ministry with blind, partially sighted, and sighted people alike. Again, we hope it will be possible to hold an event at Torch House but whether or not that’s possible, we will once more be broadcasting on Zoom.

Torch Community Prayer Time

Every Thursday starting on 1st April at 2 pm!

With all the ongoing restrictions on our movements and gathering we have decided to hold a weekly time of prayer and fellowship on Zoom open to all our Torch friends – clients and supporters. This will be a time when we can come together as a Torch community to pray for the work of Torch and also for each other. We’ll keep these sessions going every week until things open up again and then review what to do next.

So please do feel free to join us as we pray and share together! The Zoom sign-in details will be the same as the Lent course. If you haven’t had the link, please contact Client Services using info@torchtrust.org or on 01858 438 260

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

To be removed from future email editions of this publication please reply and put UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line.