THE TORCH - ISSUE 3 2008

From:-
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: info@torchtrust.org
Charity Number 1095904.

Contents

Greetings

Every April in the UK a "rich list" is published in one of Britain's newspapers. It tells you who are the very richest people in the land. Actually, a good many of them come from other countries.

A preacher, reflecting on the rich list for a Christian radio programme, declared that he should be right at the top of the list. But he wasn't talking about money. "I am rich," he explained, "because I have a wonderful family, lots of dear friends and true contentment because of what Jesus has done for me." He challenged Christians to make many other people rich in this way, by telling them this great news about Jesus.

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

As you read this issue of "The Torch", may you be blessed with the riches Jesus gives - riches which money just can't buy.

Sheila Armstrong and the editors.

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First Century Christians

by Mike Townsend

3. Dorcas: Kindness Itself

"Bula! Bula!" We were surrounded by lots of kind people with many hands reaching out to help. Fijians are reputed to be the kindest people on earth. We had just arrived in Fiji, and the kindness was quite overwhelming.

There are lots of very kind people in the Bible. Our fruit of the spirit this time is "kindness", and our first century Christian is "Dorcas". Dorcas' story in Acts chapter 9 brims with her kindness.

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, "Please come at once!" Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning towards the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha, get up". She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. (Acts 9:36-42)

1. Acts of kindness

We don't know much about Dorcas' life. The thing that stands out, that the women wanted to impress on Peter, was her kindness in making lots of clothes for people in need (verse 39). She was "always doing good and helping the poor" (verse 36). Dorcas was a Greek-speaking Jew, and so had two names. Her other name, Tabitha, means "gazelle". This fast-moving antelope may well sum up her character in being swift to do good. Can you think of a time when someone was really kind to you? The times that stand out for me are those when I was having a bit of a struggle. People were so very kind to my daughter Christine and myself when Edith, my wife, was fighting breast cancer. They took us to hospital for visits and helped with food. Pause now, and think about the Dorcases in your life. Say "thank you" to God for these kind people. Dorcas was a living example of Paul's exhortation:

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12).

But Dorcas died.

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2. The kindness stopped

As the weeping widows held up the clothes, they were mourning the loss of a very kind and helpful friend. There would be no more clothes made by Dorcas. Why did they send for Peter? What could he do for Dorcas? Lots of people would normally have died in Joppa at that time. Peter was getting a reputation. He had healed the paralysed Aeneas, so perhaps he could do other miracles just like Jesus.

"Aeneas," Peter said to him, "Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and tidy up your mat". Immediately Aeneas got up. (Acts 9:34).

I have been hearing a lot recently about "near death" experiences. People who are close to death - perhaps their hearts have even stopped - have powerful encounters with God. I recently heard of a lady who has had three such experiences and was bubbling over with the goodness and preciousness of Jesus. Such experiences, however powerful and important, are only "near death" encounters. They tell us nothing about the process of dying, or what lies beyond death. Jesus gives every Christian, at the point of death, the same assurance that he gave to the thief on the cross beside him: "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:44).

Dorcas was really dead. Her body had been washed ready for burial. This was a big challenge. What should Peter do? What should we all do when faced with the impossible? "He got down on his knees and prayed." (verse 40). Peter remembered the loving way he had seen Jesus raise Jairus' daughter from the dead.

"Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep." They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. (Luke 8:52-55).

Then Peter did what Jesus had done, and Dorcas came back to life. The impossible can happen when we trust God. That message spread throughout the region as all miracles are for the glory of God.

Though I have heard of people being raised from the dead in current times, I have never met any of them. I wonder what their memory of the experience would be. Perhaps it would be like waking from the deep sleep?

Why did Dorcas come back to life?

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3. Kindness continues

We don't actually learn anything more about Dorcas. However, I expect that she didn't change, and continued her acts of kindness.

What is the most important thing we must do in our lives? It is to get to know Jesus and trust him for our salvation. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16). Have you trusted Jesus? Pause! Think about it. If this is the most important feature of life, why doesn't God take us away to heaven immediately we trust him?

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10).

We each have a purpose. God has work for us to do. People often don't live long in retirement if they lack purpose after the busyness of working life. Younger people get into trouble. We, as Christians, need not fear this problem. God has a purpose for each one of us. You may think, "that's all very well for those who have energy and abilities. I can't see, and I'm often stuck in my house." I met J at a west of England Torch group. "I do try to be Jesus to the folk at the day centre, three days a week. The days I don't go, I pray a lot." The driver who brought J then told me, "Oh we love J at the day centre. She's so kind. I enjoy bringing her to Torch. It's different!"

Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. We need to keep close to Jesus.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5).

We can all be kind in many different ways. It may be a phone call, a prayer, a word of encouragement, a thoughtful gift, a helping hand, or a listening ear that is prompted by the fruit-bearing Holy Spirit. May we, with Dorcas, hear the words of the eternal king in glory: "I needed clothes and you clothed me," (Matthew 25:36).

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My Story

by Charity A Oyiogu

[Charity is a Young Searchers' League student from Nigeria. Here she shares a personal testimony.]

One day when visiting my house with a friend, my pastor told me it pained him to see a beautiful girl like me being guided. He lamented that my blindness is a reproach to the church and that they had come to pray for the restoring of my sight. He added that failure for me to receive my sight would mean their ceasing to come to our house again.

As the prayer was going on, I saw in my mind a hand coming towards my eyes and a voice saying, "It's not yet time".

After the prayer, the pastor instructed that I should challenge God with my condition: how can he, a merciful God, allow his faithful daughter to remain in this terrible situation? "Keep serving him until he makes you whole," they commanded me. "How can you prove his goodness to you when you are blind?"

As soon as they left the house, this verse of Scripture came to me:

"I will never leave you nor forsake you," says the Lord.

So many blind folks must have had a nasty experience like this. If so, that same Scripture is still available for comfort.

Some blind people think when they give their lives to Christ that all their problems will go. They think they will get all the encouragement, consolation, comfort and aids they want. This thinking gives prosperity preachers easy ground for their teaching that believers will find total freedom from poverty, and that the Christian journey is full of milk and honey. When these deceived ones find out the truth, they either just resign themselves to fate or join cult groups where they feel the denied love, protection and provision will be made available to them by people, if - as they see it - God is not able to keep his promises. So many Christians go astray in this way. They listen to wrong teaching and become backsliders because man's knowledge is incomplete.

I have learnt from David in the psalms that God leads his children beside still waters, that he is meek, mild and humble, and our needs receive attention from him at the right time. We should be patient and not allow ourselves to be deceived by anybody.

Our heavenly journey involves self-determination, endurance and a lot of sacrifice. It is rewarding, and also costly, serving the Lord Jesus. The Bible says that "in the last days, the love of many shall wax cold", and you don't have to look far to see we're in the last days.

It is common to hear pastors telling their congregation that blindness is the worst condition one can have. To be blind is to be defiled, they say, and this has greatly discouraged Christians who feel it is God's will for them to marry a blind brother or sister. Many blind ladies have resigned themselves to being taken as a second wife, or some choosing to be single parents.

For myself, the promises of God in Scripture are keeping me going. By God's grace, nothing will quench the fire of the Holy Spirit in my life. Almighty God, by His infinite mercy, will never despise or reject you for being blind. Scripture says God will lead the blind in ways that they do not know, and also that we should cast all our burdens upon him. Knowing that Jesus cares for us all gives me such joy.

Did you know that the Lord has designed crowns for those who will overcome all these discouragements? Be rest assured that in heaven, there is unspeakable, untold joy. What a great hope. I will be there. Will you?

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Partners

Lutheran Braille Workers

Helping People Touch the Promises of Jesus

Lutheran Braille Workers, like most Christian ministries, began in humble faith. In the early 1940's, Helene Lowe Koehler accepted a challenge to help braille the German Bible for blind pastors in Germany. With slate and stylus, Helene, and those whom she recruited from her home congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church, Whittier, California, began to transcribe the German Bible dot by dot, word by word.

Hand transcribing the Bible is a slow process, but the task allowed Helene and her few volunteers to learn and practice braille. In 1945 Helene and her husband, Bob, invested in a Perkins Brailler, speeding up the process considerably. After much experimentation, Helene, her family and the few volunteers developed a process of embossing zinc plates on a stereotype machine, and using the plates to emboss paper by means of an old washing-machine roller press. After several more years of experimentation, the process that we still use today was developed. Zinc master-plates are made, placed into an aluminum sleeve (to ensure uniform embossing), and run through a finely-tuned roller press, collated, punched for binding, bound, then boxed and shipped throughout the world.

Today, Lutheran Braille Workers produces volumes in 30 languages in braille and specialised large print (giant print). Production is done by volunteers, currently numbering more than 5,000. Volunteers are recruited into Work Centers, currently 188, located in 37 US States plus Canada. Our production capacity is 250,000 volumes per year. Due to world-wide need for braille and large print, we are seeking to double our numbers of volunteers in order to bring our production capacity closer to 500,000 volumes a year. We plan to open 10 new Work Centers in 2008 and another 10 in 2009.

Lutheran Braille Workers faces two major challenges, finances and volunteer recruitment. We believe that the Bible ought to be provided without financial cost to people seeking to know Jesus and His plan of salvation. Therefore, we have never charged anyone for our materials, and have no plans to do so. Our challenge, then, is to acquire sufficient funding. Fortunately, God's people are generous and we have been blessed to be able to meet our financial obligations and continue necessary ministry growth.

Our second major challenge has been volunteer recruitment. Many of our volunteers have been working in this ministry for many years. Some have received recognition for 20, 30, 40 and even 50 years of volunteer service. As the Lord calls home His faithful people, we need to encourage others to take their place. In addition, the need for braille and large print material continues to grow. We are pleased that there have been so many congregations willing to open new Work Centers, and demonstrate their desire to honor God and His people through this vital ministry.

For more information, please consult our web site, www.lbwinc.org. Here you can read more about the history of Lutheran Braille Workers, place an order, or request a catalog. Or you can phone: Phone: (909) 795-8977; email: lbw@lbwinc.org; or write: 13471 California St, PO BOX 5000, Yucaipa CA, 92399, USA.

Please keep us in your prayers, "pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you" (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

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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 or send an email. 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.

CARRIE THOULD, 21 Leaside Close, Cam, Dursley, Gloucestershire. GL11 5SH. email carrie.thould@btopenworld.com. I am 39, totally blind and live in England. I would like to hear from Christian women anywhere, especially Europe and Ireland. I'm totally blind, work as a telephonist/receptionist and attend our local parish church. Hobbies include walking, listening to a wide range of music - especially oldies, classical and choral - knitting, cooking, ten-pin bowling, so if anyone would like to correspond with me please write in braille only.

HAPPY M SHANE, House of Restoration, Stir the Fire Ministries, P.O. Box 240360, Ndola, Zambia, Central Africa. I was born in 1964 on 24th October. I'm a blind man. My hobbies are: going to church, singing Gospel tunes with a guitar, reading and meeting new friends. I would like to correspond with anyone who may wish to. You may write in braille or audio cassette.

ANNAMARIA PODMANYICZKI, Budapest Iparvasut utca 25 1182 Hungary. If you want to communicate a 26 years old Hungarian totally blind girl, just come on. I like writing in braille, so please do the same form. I like watching sport, reading, listening music (it depends on my mood), laughing a lot, going to the church. The age between 13-70 female and male are welcome.

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News from Torch

Have you heard? ...

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Prayer Works

by Gordon Temple

There's an interesting story about prayer in Acts 12. Herod had been rounding up Christians. James (brother of John) he killed, others he threw into prison. Among them was Peter. Peter was given maximum-security treatment. Sixteen soldiers working four shifts were detailed to guard him. He must have been regarded as seriously dangerous. Recently I read that a government official in a Muslim country described Christian mission activity as, "more dangerous than a terrorist organisation". Clearly Herod thought the same.

The night before Peter's trial - which we can assume would have delivered a death sentence whatever the evidence - Peter is miraculously released. Though chained to two guards and with two more on sentry duty at the door, God's angel comes and wakes Peter. His chains simply fall off, he dresses and walks with the angel to the outer gate which opens by itself. Dazed, Peter finds himself out on the street. The reality gradually dawns on him; it's not a dream. God has rescued him from the fate already expected by Jewish society. He heads to a house where the church meets.

The church had been praying for Peter, and had done so earnestly. In fact, they are at prayer at the time Peter is released. Servant girl, Rhoda, responds to Peter's knocking. Recognising his voice she is amazed and overjoyed. She leaves the door locked and Peter in the street while she goes to interrupt the prayer meeting and tell the others. They cannot believe it. Rhoda insists that it is Peter, but they think it so unlikely they even come up with another explanation! "It must be his angel". Did they think it was more likely that Peter was already dead than out of prison?

We have to wonder what they had been praying. Surely it was for his release. What else? So how come they were so surprised when their prayers were answered. Then I think how often I have been surprised by answers to my own prayers. How often at Torch House we have been taken by surprise when our prayers receive an immediate response.

I started my working life as an engineer, developing electronic equipment. As part of that work I would test prototypes in the laboratory. I would set various inputs and, after allowing a short time for the electronics to work, look for the expected outputs.

If I were to apply the same disciplined laboratory processes to prayer, to test and measure the outcomes and compare them to requests made in my prayers a short while later, then I am sure I would be disappointed. Yet I remain convinced that prayer is effective and is deeply significant. Despite the fact that prayer doesn't work in that scientific way that an engineer might want, I know I need more of it. I should give more time to prayer, more thought to it and simply do more of it.

Some have tried to measure the effectiveness of prayer for healing under laboratory conditions but their tests proved inconclusive. Nevertheless I know people whose diseases have reversed in response to prayer and to the consternation of their doctors.

So why is prayer and its effect so difficult to tie down? I conclude that my inclination to approach it as an engineer, to apply scientific tests, is wrong-headed. We are not dealing with a machine that responds to inputs in a tediously predictable and unimaginative manner. Prayer is directed to God, as to a person.

I might ask a friend to do something I would like done for me. He may do it, but he is just as likely to suggest a better alternative, or could wisely deter me from pursuing my plans altogether. How much more should we expect to experience these kinds of response from God, who loves us more than any friend and who sees what lies ahead.

James (brother of Jesus) encourages us to pray: "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray" (James 5:13) and is confident that prayer works: "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (v16). But he clearly wondered why it sometimes seems not to: "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (4:3).

It's so easy for us to slip into a selfish sort of praying, that seeks not God's will but ours, and then become disappointed that we don't seem to get the answers we would like. Someone has characterised some of our praying as "putting all our begs in one ask-it"! But real prayer is a two-way street. Time spent in God's presence, drawing close to him, aligns our will with his. Our prayers can only be truly offered "in Jesus' name" if we are asking what we believe he would ask.

Prayer is mystery, because God's thoughts are so much higher than ours. But prayer does change things. Peter Dickinson, a church minister in Northern Ireland, puts it this way: "The Lord weaves our prayers into his plans and purposes, bringing our words to life in ways we can't begin to imagine".

When we pray it is right to expect an answer, confident that God hears. But thankfully the answering of our prayers is in the hands of our loving and all-wise Father whom we can trust to know what is best.

* * * * * *
God has a thousand ways
To answer every prayer;
And when I stand in need,
I know that He is there.
No good will He withhold
From children of his care;
A thousand ways has Jesus
To answer every prayer. (Anon)

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Let the Scriptures speak

James 5:13-16 (NIV)

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

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Here's a thought

Why pray?

(by Norman Hillyer)

Ask and it will be given to you. (Luke 11:9).

We have a need. We pray about it. Yet, as often as not, the answer comes in so "natural" a way that we doubt if our prayer had anything to do with it.

Heed the wise remark of Archbishop William Temple: "When I pray, coincidences happen. When I don't, they don't."

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