TORCH TRUST FOR THE BLIND, Torch House, Torch Way, Northampton Road, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 9HL, U.K.
Telephone: (01858) 438260, Fax: (01858) 438275, email:
Charity Number 1095904.



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Welcome to this second edition of Torch in 2008. Recently I saw a film entitled "Faith Like Potatoes". It is all about a white South African farmer who became an evangelist and saw remarkable answers to prayer. One day a woman was struck down by lightening during a big tropical storm. Andrew, the farmer, was called by the villagers to come and help them. He met a large crowd of people wailing because of the death of the woman. He prayed and lifted her up and she literally rose from the dead, much to the relief and astonishment of the crowd.

Andrew himself had also "risen from the dead" though in a different sense. He had been a dispirited and angry man who struggled to establish his farm against all odds. Then he found Christ and his life was transformed. He had been dead in sin and hopelessness - now he was given new life in Christ.

The Christian life has as its centre the fact of resurrection. We all remembered this at Easter time when we rejoiced afresh at the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul said: "if only for this life we have hope in Christ we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead ..." Let us rejoice in the fact that not only has Christ been raised, but we also, if we have put our trust in Him and received the new life he offers.

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Never Forgotten

Have you ever felt abandoned by God? I remember a period in my own life, about 10 years ago, when for months everything seemed to be going wrong. I prayed regularly, sometimes frequently but nothing changed. One day my wife bought me a book with the uncomfortable title, "Disappointed with God". It captured how I was feeling. I wasn't in danger of losing my faith. I was still worshipping him, but I was getting very disappointed. Looking back I realise I felt abandoned.

The book (written by Philip Yancey) turned out to be a great encouragement as it honestly faced up to the challenge of those times when God seems remote and uninterested, and reminded me that God desires that we seek him at all times and all circumstances.

Reading between the lines of these verses from the prophesy of Isaiah it seems that the people of Judah felt abandoned by God. They could look back on all that God had done for them. Promise after promise had been fulfilled among them. God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt. He had made them a great and powerful nation. They had been led to and given "a land flowing with milk and honey" to live in.

But a sequence of self-serving kings had been bad for the nation. Things were not going well and Isaiah prophesied worse to come if they didn't mend their ways.

It must have seemed as if God had given up on them, abandoned them to their fate.

But Isaiah brought a message of hope - straight from God. God has not, will not, and cannot forget them. To make the point, he chooses a picture from human experience where "forgetting" is most unlikely. Can a mother forget the child she bore?

The Hebrew word translated "forget" literally means "mislay". That reminds me that Mary mislaid Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem when he was 12.

Pat and I lost our first son once. He is a diabetic, dependent on insulin. We had stopped on a long journey to have some food. But we were too late for him - he had gone "hypo" and drifted away from us in the crowd at the motorway services. We eventually found him wandering around a car park - completely confused and in peril of walking in front of a moving car. How awful we felt to have lost him - and how relieved we felt to have found him safe.

How must it have felt for Mary to lose her very special child? The Son of God! She and Joseph had received angelic advice about the child they had to bring up - then they lose him! What a catastrophe. But there's no sense of abandonment for Jesus. He is at home in the Temple.

But it does happen. Human mothers do mislay their children. For whatever reason some babies are abandoned by their mothers. So the comparison becomes a contrast: "Though she may forget, I will not forget you!". There is a remote possibility that a mother may abandon her child, but there is simply no chance whatsoever that God will forget us. Our names are engraved on his hands.

It's not uncommon for sighted people to write something on their hands. We do it to remind us of something we mustn't forget. If we write on a piece of paper, we might put it down and forget that, whereas our hands are always with us. That's why our names are written on his hand - more than written - they are engraved.

This links back to something in the formative years of the Jewish nation, when they were wandering in the wilderness. It was a time when their patterns of worship were established. Under God's instruction robes were prepared for Aaron, the first high priest. The decoration is impressive:

The names were finely engraved on the hard surface of a gemstone. They would never wear off - never be forgotten. Something written on a human hand soon fades. But our names are engraved on God's hand, as if cut into the surface of a precious stone, never to wear away.

Engraving the polished surface of the onyx stone damages it - permanently. The nails that held Jesus to the cross left enduring marks in his hands. This is how our names have become engraved on God's hands - through the crucifixion of his Son. It was when Jesus invited doubting Thomas to put his finger on those marks that he declared, "my Lord and my God".

It's precisely because of the cross, because of those indelible marks in the hands of Jesus that we can know that God will not, and cannot forget us. "Rejoice", said Jesus, "that your names are written in heaven".

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Let the Scriptures speak

Isaiah 63:7-9

I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us - yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. He said, "Surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me"; and so he became their Saviour.

In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the day of old.

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Light into Europe Trust

[In the next few issues of this magazine, we shall be including news of other organisations that serve people with sight loss. This time we hear from Stan Platt of Light into Europe Trust.]

Our beginnings were in the 1980s when, listening one day to a sermon in my home church, I felt the call to go out to the nations and share the good news. How could I do this?

I prayed and the answer soon came: use what you have and from where you are and you will go far.

What did I have, a small retail business in Frinton on Sea, an aeroplane, but most important, the love of Jesus in my heart. I shared my inner feelings with friends and my minister. They prayed and it began - in a small way at first, delivering Bibles to Belgium for the Belgian Evangelical Mission, taking evangelists to that country, taking working groups to the Ardenes, getting involved in the daily tasks that arise in planting a Church, sharing my faith with everyone I met, becoming a friend to those in need ... Wow, it was a revolution in my life. Back at home the business flourished, despite the fact that every day they had extra jobs to do, like sorting clothes, packing Bibles, and explaining to our customers what we were about!

That's how it all started. Over the years I flew missions to so many countries in Europe that when in 1990 we decided we needed an actual name, "Light into Europe" was born. Initially the work had started with names like "With love to Poland", "Light to Romania", and "Light to Albania".

Today the focus of our actions is primarily in Romania, and whilst I still fly, it is my lovely wife, Camelia, who is involved in the day to day work that we undertake. This is much needed for people in Romania with sensory problems, as we work to make provision for them with our braille library, large print books, equipment, advice, services, translations, daily living skills training, and even the white sticks we import.

We are so grateful for our friendship with Torch Trust, for in so many areas they have been there before us; we just have to ask and the advice is available.

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New Life

When we first moved to the new Torch premises nearly four years ago, I bought a plant to put on my window sill in the office. It doesn't have any smell but flowers still come. Water is the only thing put in the pot. Every time a bud comes I think of it's new life. Praise the Lord for creation.

As we read God's Word and let it feed us, we too can know this New Life. We need to drink from the water of life day by day to quench our thirst.

If we are not fed and watered we will not grow.

Ask the Lord to give you a new hunger and thirst for Him and you too will experience this New Life.

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Penfriends bulletin

Here are some people who would like to correspond with others. You may like to braille a letter to one of them. Introduce yourself by giving your name, your correct postal address, your age, and some information about yourself, your family and your country.

Anybody reading this who would like us to include their name and information in our next bulletin, send in your full name, postal address, age, and tell us about the things you enjoy doing. The aim of having a penfriend is to develop a friendship and exchange information and ideas.

LAWL FAROUK OLUWA TOYOSI, C/o Tolu Ogunse, PO Box9762, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, West Africa. A male aged 23 years, I am a Christian student seeking for admission to a university either within or outside my country. My hobbies are: chatting, visiting and making new friends. I like corresponding with friends, listening to music and news and also reading novels. I like participating in fellowship groups.

BENEDICT THAVERA, Phalamanga FP School, PO Box 59, Muona, Nsanje, Malawi, Central Africa. I am a single boy aged 19. My hobbies are listening to the radio cassette, playing guitar, composing my own songs, chatting with different people and corresponding with blind people. I want to correspond with blind people in different continents of the whole world. These people can be of either sex but not above the age of 20.

ADRIJANA PROKOPENKO, Jane Sandanski 43. 5 - 6 1000 - Skopje Macedonia. Email: I am a 27-year old blind lady from Macedonia. I am an English teacher working in a school for blind children in Macedonia. I also do voluntary work and some of my other hobbies are reading books and magazines, corresponding, listening to music, surfing on the net, spending time with friends and learning new things. Anyone is welcome to send me a braille, tape or email letter.

CYNTHIA GROOPMAN, I am interested in everything that is clean and moral. My email address is:

ANKE VANDERSEE, Anke Vandersee Timpenbarg 4 23730 Neustadt Germany or email: I am 34 years old, and look for penpals aged between 25 and 50 by email or in braille, anywhere in the world. My hobbies are writing emails and braille letters in English and German, but when you write English braille please use grade 1. I also like listening to books, music, playing scrabble and playing guitar. I have got spina bifida.

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My Story

My early years

I was born in Santa Cruz, the main city of Eastern Bolivia. When I was three years old, my parents found out I was deaf, and were advised to send me to a local special needs school. I did well there, although it was at times traumatic because the Institute used an oral method of education, and the use of hands and sign-language was not allowed - with the idea that this would enhance our chances of integrating with society.

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Later, when I had to go to a mainstream secondary school, I found myself shunned by teachers and made fun of by other pupils. To them I was abnormal, someone to be avoided. I felt worthless. The struggles to pass exams left me ill and I was often dizzy and faint.

I began to think of ending it all. Once I went painfully to the kitchen to look for a knife to cut my wrists, but never got there - I fainted.

My parents were shocked to find out the distress I had been hiding from them, but I knew the major sacrifice they had made for me and didn't want to explain my problems.

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My conversion

Soon after that I had a dream where I was on a broad dark road full of many people and someone called out, "I know who you are." I felt discovered. I had always had various strategies to attempt to hide my deafness, but who was this calling me? I woke up with my pillow wet from tears. I knew God was speaking to me so I started to read my grandfather's Bible. I had been brought up as a Catholic but this was different. I had no-one to help me know where to start, so I jumped in at Proverbs. It was all about lying. Ouch! God has put his finger on my one key survival strategy.

It was almost a year later when the next significant event happened. One Sunday afternoon as I accompanied my family on a walk, my parents were drawn to the sound of music and singing in a large tent. It was not a party as we originally thought, but an evangelistic campaign. As we arrived at the door of the tent, they were calling people up for prayer for healing. I went forward. I wasn't healed, but when I was prayed for, my dream came back to me and hope and encouragement flooded me. I was given these words from God: "It's not your time to be healed but follow Jesus and he will teach you many things." Everything began to make sense.

Not long after that, my family, one by one, became convinced Christians, having seen the change in me. Hearing the gospel regularly at church had an immediate impact on my life. I had peace for the first time and began to respect myself. Instead of the "why me?" questions, I realised God had made me deaf. I was later to discover that God asked Moses, "Who made the blind and the deaf? ... Is it not I?"

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An English missionary husband

God's purposes continued to unfold. I started a University course in Medicine but at the end of the second year the lecturers found out I was deaf and I was not allowed to continue. With no anti-discrimination laws in place at the time, no legal defence was possible.

So God opened another door - an even better one! Visiting my aunt and uncle in February 1990, I met a young man from England, staying with them whilst setting up a Bible training Institute in the town. His name was David Flynn ... and the rest is history! After marrying 4 years later, I joined the same mission he worked for, Latin Link.

After five years working in Bolivia, my chief role to set up support for deaf people, we were called by God to Belfast. God once again wonderfully equipped me for the huge task of leaving my homeland - including my own deaf community ... and learning a new language plus the British sign language. After 18 months I was ready to start teaching my Bible and training course for deaf leaders which I had developed in Bolivia; this was at Belfast Bible College.

This completed, David and I moved to London in 2003, where I delivered the same course to two other groups of deaf people.

It has not been an easy path, but an exciting one that has proved true Jesus' words that those who leave house, family and possessions for his sake and the gospel will not be disappointed but rather receive 100-fold in return (Mark 10:29-30).

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First Century Christians

2. The lame man

Joy! This is the fruit of the Spirit we are considering now. Which first century Christian jumps into your mind when you think of "joy"? Let's meet him.

Are you beautiful? In western culture, beautiful women, those seen on magazine covers and television, are pencil thin. A friend of mine, who is on the plump side, was told by an African gentlemen that she was beautiful and fat. He did not understand why she was so upset. I gather that in Africa plumpness is a sign of success and prosperity.

The temple built by king Herod was certainly magnificent, and this massive gate, made of shining Corinthian brass, was a beautiful entrance. This spot was an excellent place for beggars. But they were regarded as an ugly aspect of the beautiful gate. I don't think the lame man would think of himself as "beautiful". However, in God's eyes we are all beautiful whether we are thin or fat, lame or blind. Why?

We are made in God's image. Isn't that amazing? Fantastic! Because of sin in the world, we don't enjoy perfection. My daughter Christine gave me a keyring with "Mr Perfect" on it. I joke that when I make mistakes I make perfect mistakes. Some of us have recognisable disabilities such as blindness or lameness. Others have more hidden imperfections.

We are all sinners, not measuring up to God's perfect standard.

1. Limited hope

The lame man lay by the Beautiful Gate. Another tedious day of begging lay ahead. When he saw Peter arrive he had very limited expectations. He was a joyless man wanting a miserable few coins to help him survive.

What do you expect from God? He is able to do more than we can ask or think. J B Philips wrote a book called "Your God is Too Small". As blind and partially sighted people, we often think that there are few opportunities for us.

Gladys Major was blind and rather deaf. She felt worthless, but wanted to do something for God. Gladys could knit. So she gathered a group of people to knit with her. They wanted to sell their creations and so started a little stall. This small venture expanded into the St Ives Missionary Market in Cornwall. For many years the annual Market attracted people from far and wide and, with the evening concert, was a lively and practical Christian witness in the area. Gladys contributed her small gifts which were multiplied by God's almighty power. This was the experience of the lad who offered his five small loaves and two little fish: Jesus used them to feed over five thousand people. Jesus can multiply our limited gifts. How big is your God?

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2. Living hope

Peter was only a poor fisherman. He didn't have much money. But he knew God and his power through Jesus.

What a surprise! The lame man's whole life was so unexpectedly transformed.

The lame man is overflowing with joy. God makes all the difference.

On New Year's Eve, a friend of ours was jumping for joy in our lounge. Jan had been using a wheelchair for twenty three and a half years. We had looked after her children all those years ago when she went for an operation on her back. Since that time she had been in constant pain. "It's a miracle," Jan exclaimed. On Christmas night, a disabled friend of hers had commented that their situation would never change. When Jan was in bed she thought, "unless God changed anything". She felt a tingling and heat throughout her body, and then there was just no pain. To test it, she jumped out of bed. She was healed. Jan, though still totally blind, is dashing round telling the story of God's miracle.

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3. Lasting hope

The crowds were amazed and flocked to see the man, who had been lame from birth, walking.

We get excited when someone experiences miraculous healing. Dramatic healings such as Jan's are rare. The lame man is now dead, and so is Peter. Some evangelists tend to headline healing as the big thing that God does for people. We like that idea because lots of us struggle with illnesses and disabilities. But what is the real hope that God offers us?

Peter puts it all into perspective when he addresses the rejoicing crowds. Our lasting hope is salvation in Jesus. Deep refreshing joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Yes, there is healing in the cross of Jesus.

This world remains full of sin and sickness. When shall we be free of it all? Paul puts it this way:

Every Christian is promised a glorious body in glory. In Jesus we are all beautiful. Doesn't that make you jump for joy?

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