The Torch - Issue 3 2012

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From:-
TORCH TRUST, Torch House, Torch Way, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 9HL, U.K.
Telephone: +44(0)1858 438260, Fax: +44(0)1858 438275, email: info@torchtrust.org
The Torch Trust for the Blind, registered charity number 1095904.

Contents

Greetings!

We start with a word of encouragement - and challenge.

Someone has cited these three keys to peace and happiness:

W B Davidson wrote: "When just a small child, I accompanied my father on a short trip to see Grandmother who lived three miles from our home. We remained longer than we meant to, and night overtook us. Between our home and Grandmother's house was a swamp. That night the frogs' croaking and the crickets' chirping, together with the darkness and the shadows of the trees, frightened me. I enquired of my father if there was any danger of something catching us, but he assured me there was nothing to dread. And so, taking me by the hand, he said, 'I will not allow anything to harm you.' Immediately my fears passed away and I was ready to face the world, for my father had me by the hand."

And we too have a loving, dependable Father. As we rest in the love and keeping power of Christ and recognise that God holds our hand, we too shall be able to go forward unafraid. With God's help we can use the three keys to peace and happiness, and find release from fears.

We trust this issue of The Torch helps you further to make use of those three keys.

God bless you all.

Jill Ferraby and the editors.

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Old Testament characters

by Michael Stafford

12. Joshua

Last time we looked at the life of Caleb who, with Joshua, had the faith to believe that God would give the Israelites success in possessing the promised land of Canaan. This time we consider Joshua who, as a young man, became Moses' assistant, and was by his side throughout the wilderness journey, even accompanying him up Mount Sinai to meet with God and receive the commandments.

A proven faith

With Caleb, he was one of the 12 spies who were sent into Canaan to discover both its value and its difficulties. Only these two determined that Israel could overcome the fearsome enemies they found there, with God's enabling.

Joshua therefore travelled with the Israelites during the 40 long years of their wandering and proved himself faithful. Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land because of his failure at the Desert of Zin, and pleaded with God to appoint a successor:

"Moses said to the Lord, 'May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the Lord's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd'.

"So the Lord said to Moses, 'Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him. Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so that the whole Israelite community will obey him.'" (Numbers 27:15-20)

An awesome task

After Moses died, God said to Joshua: "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them ..." (Joshua 1:2). Although God had promised success in conquering the land, Joshua faced an awesome task in leading a million people and organising armies to fight the many battles that would follow. However, the first city, Jericho, was taken without a battle, but by Joshua obeying the Lord's instructions to do what seemed to be a foolish thing - to march around the city once a day for six days, in silence, and then, on the seventh day to march around it seven times with the priests blowing trumpets and the people shouting. God honoured Joshua's faith and obedience, and the walls fell down flat so the army could enter and take the city.

Success could have gone to his head, but he was soon to be brought down to reality, as the army failed to take the next city - Ai - due to self-confidence and sin in the camp. Joshua learned that sin must be rooted out and dealt with, and that he and the Israelites could never expect to win victories in their own strength. His experience is also ours in the Christian life - we can only overcome life's battles in God's strength, not our own.

A promise kept

Later, Joshua was deceived by the men of Gibeon, who would have been among those tribes that he was instructed to destroy. They cleverly pretended to be from a far country, and persuaded Joshua to make a peace treaty with them. When Joshua discovered their deception he was angry, but because of his oath to them he protected them, and when they faced destruction by the combined armies of several other tribes he went to their defence. Joshua would not go back on his promise, even despite their deception.

It is always important for us as the Lord's people, to keep the promises we make - especially those we might make to God. But Joshua should have sought God before being taken in by them. We too should not make hasty promises, which we may not be able to keep. One thing is clear, though: God's promises to us never fail, as Joshua was to find out. God promised him that the combined armies he was fighting would be defeated, and a great victory was gained. This battle was marked by an extraordinary event. Joshua needed more daylight to complete his victory, and asked God to make the sun stand still for a full day. This actually happened - an event never to be repeated.

A choice to be made

After many successes in both the north and south of the country, Joshua neared the end of his life and called together all the leaders of the nation: "Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed ..." (Joshua 23:14). Joshua then gathered all Israel together to speak to them before he died. He knew that many of them still worshipped idols, and that many were confused about who they should worship, so he said: "Now fear the Lord and serve him ... throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped ... and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve ... but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord". (Joshua 24:14, 15)

The people spoke out strongly to say they would not forsake the Lord to serve other gods, and Joshua told them to throw away the foreign gods they had been worshipping. The problem they had in the past was dithering about who to serve. There were many "foreign" gods - which one should they serve? Their problem really was that they wavered in their opinions and for safety's sake worshipped the Lord and other gods. Joshua tells them to make up their minds and decide who they would serve. Likewise, we need to give ourselves whole-heartedly to worshipping and serving the Lord, who loves us and who gave himself for us on the cross, to free us from condemnation and guilt by paying the price for our sins.

After a long life of experiencing God's love and power, Joshua died at the age of 110. However long we live, may we serve faithfully as he did.

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Here's a thought

He who holds the stars in space will not let go of His promises to us. (Our Daily Bread)

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My story

by Rachel Dalby

Being invited to Sunday school by a primary school friend was, it turns out, one of the best things that ever happened to me! It was my first experience of church and the first step on my journey to serving God.

A few years later, in my teens, my family swapped city life for the Nottinghamshire countryside as we moved next to a village church. I attended church regularly and was confirmed at 15, giving me a bond with Jesus that meant I would later turn to him when I most needed him.

I was an occasional churchgoer at university, and it wasn't until I attended Christian fellowship lunches with a friend that I fully understood the implication of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.

On leaving university, my prayers to become a writer were answered when I became a trainee reporter on a weekly newspaper. It was at work that another of my prayers was answered when I met my future husband, Russell, during a newspaper interview.

Within a couple of years I married and became a senior reporter - I lived for my work as a journalist. Everything felt like it was going well, and it was at this point that God interrupted.

I witnessed a tragic incident in the course of my work as a reporter, and it was only several hours later, as the police identified a body, that I realised I had watched my close friend and colleague die. I felt angry towards God for not preventing my friend's death. I stopped praying and stopped going to church.

A few years later, after working in editing, I decided to leave journalism and start afresh by training to become a teacher.

My husband and I moved to Leicestershire in May 2006, shortly after my husband's father had died and just a month before my husband's mother died. Emptying their home was very difficult, especially as I was pregnant. But we looked forward to the birth of our son and, in October 2006, William was delivered in a hospital operating theatre.

The operation was complicated and, as surgeons worked to stop me bleeding, I prayed to Jesus for the first time in many years. I felt terrified as the doctors talked about transfusions and a wrongly-administered epidural. I knew that only Jesus could help.

When I returned home I was tired and weak, and life was challenging for some time. Eventually, I cried out a second time to the Lord. He answered by giving me the overwhelming feeling that I should attend our local church.

Strangers greeted me with warmth and love as I arrived at church on a wet December morning in 2006. The words of two of the songs we sang – "When I Was Lost" (which reminds me of Psalm 40) and "I The Lord of Sea and Sky" (inspired by Isaiah 6:8) - spoke to me. So, too, did Psalm 139, which was mentioned to me over coffee by someone I barely knew.

Since then I have thanked God every day for reaching down into the pit and lifting me. I decided that I would work hard to get to know him better, and over the past six years God has shaped me into a Sunday school leader and a passionate member of the church prayer team. I have witnessed many answers, often in unexpected forms, to prayers within and outside of my church family.

In my prayers I have continually asked God to use me more and so when I saw a job advertised at Torch I felt that he was saying something to me. Although unable to apply for the first position I saw, due to weekend work being involved, I checked the Torch jobs page every week and waited.

The work of Torch touched me as, although I have very good sight, I have always relied mostly on one eye for this. My grandfather was blind for the last two years of his life, and my mother is disabled.

When I saw the Radio Co-ordinator's job, which requires journalism skills, being advertised, I felt that God was asking: "Whom shall I send?" And I said: "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8).

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Partners

by William Niven in gospel partnership with AEM (Albanian Evangelical Mission)

Bringing the light of the gospel to the blind

Blind and partially sighted people in Albania are often isolated from society, excluded from education and the work place, are regarded as being a shame on their families and have little or no access to the truth of the gospel. Yet God has been giving churches in Albania opportunities to reach this community.

The founding of the Albanian Christian Blind Forum in November of last year saw a number of groups coming together to further the gospel amongst blind people. Yet work with the blind did not begin there. The "Jesus fellowship" in Elbasan has been serving the blind community from the year 2000. Braille, English, Italian and computer courses, crafts and pottery, social events and camps have been organised. There is also a weekly group which seeks to proclaim the gospel.

The Evangelical church in Erseka has been organising camps for the last two summers. Niko Hamzallaraj, a believer and President of the local blind society, has been greatly assisted by the church in these evangelistic camps which have left a deep impression on many who have attended. In Fier, Festim and Alda Manaj were baptised in January. Festim testified to the fact that although he is blind, God has brought true light into his life. As the President of the Fier Blind society, Festim has been able to witness to many and this has lead to three more blind people coming regularly to Sunday worship. In the Fier region alone there are over 800 registered blind people. Many of these live in small villages in appalling conditions. One family in a remote village has four blind people in the home and can hardly make ends meet.

A number of blind Christians and missionaries had an increasing burden to see gospel ministry amongst blind people established further. The Forum seeks to facilitate the preaching of the gospel, growth and integration into churches of blind believers and seeking to help blind people integrate into society as a whole. To this end we are seeking to establish a website in Albanian specifically for the blind community, to organise camps and seminars, and also to provide devices which can help blind people to know the truth. Recently a project has been launched to purchase a number of Boom Box Plus units from the Torch Trust. These are powered by a cell phone battery and can hold not only the Bible in audio form but also other Christian materials.

Please pray for the progress of the gospel amongst blind Albanians and that God would use these means to save many. If you are interested in knowing more about this work you can look on the website of the Illyrian Gospel Trust at igtalbania@wordpress.com. If you can help provide more "boom boxes" at £30 each please contact: Paul Davies of the Albanian Evangelical Mission at blackdog.house@talktalk.net.

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Cooking up fellowship

by Gordon Temple

Fellowship is not just a benefit of being a Christian, it's an obligation. The Bible does not envisage "go it alone" Christians. As we who follow Jesus draw near to him, it's inevitable that we draw closer to one another. We see Jesus in each other, hear his voice in the voice of others among his followers, sense his Spirit at work in the world through the activities of Christian people and groups of Christians. And it's not all about what we get out of fellowship with other Christians - but also about what we give out to others. In fellowship we give and receive; we are served but we also serve.

Fellowship might be a natural thing among Christians but it isn't automatic. It takes the intentional participation of each of us to make it happen. And living with sight loss doesn't make it any easier. Joining in at church can sometimes be difficult. Full participation is often dependent on being able to read stuff, and perhaps more of an issue is the fellowship. Simply meeting people can be a real challenge. Sighted people like me take it for granted that they can look around a room and spot the person they want to talk to. Blind people usually only get to talk to the people who want to talk to them.

As many of you will already know, each day at Torch House in Market Harborough, England starts with what we usually call "chapel time". It is a time of worship, prayer and fellowship when we get together in our conference room for around 30 minutes, and we start with a thought lead by one of the team, usually based on the Bible text on the Torch Scripture Text Calendar (which can also be found on the home page of the torchtrust.org website).

One day recently, when it was my turn to lead the session, the text on the calendar was: "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud", a snippet from Romans chapter 12. Immediately the wisdom of this coupling of these two short phrases was apparent. What can be more destructive to harmonious fellowship than plain old-fashioned pride. My pride wants to make out that I am special - that I, like a discordant musical note, should be heard above the others in the chord.

When I went on to read the verse in the context of the surrounding verses of Romans 12, it dawned on me that this passage is the Bible's recipe for good fellowship among Christians. Just read this, taken from the New International Version, starting at verse 9:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practise hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. (Romans 12:9-19)

Now let's look at it like it might be a recipe for a heart-warming family meal - and a few tips for working in the kitchen.

The fellowship meal recipe

Tips for working in the kitchen

It's an appropriate analogy. Over the years I have noticed that taking food together is an amazing aid to good Christian fellowship. For a while my local church served coffee and warm croissants before a morning service. The atmosphere was transformed. There was a heightened sense of being together in the worship that followed. Late in 2010 I was privileged to join what they call "an overnight" in Malawi. Seven hundred people from 14 fellowship groups gathered in the bush for almost 24 hours. More than 500 of them were blind people. An integral part of the occasion was the serving of three meals, cooked by about 60 women, each with their pot on a propped-up tripod of rocks over a fire of bush wood.

Fellowship can be enjoyed by just two or three meeting up, or by many gathering to worship and feed on God's word - whether it be an overnight in the African bush or convention at an English costal resort. A year ago I heard Malcolm Duncan, Baptist minister and a member of Torch's Council of Reference, say at one such convention to a gathering of maybe 4000 Christians, "You are not the audience ... God is!" I am sure our fellowship is a menu that the Lord enjoys immensely. After all, Jesus prayed for us: "that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you" (John 17:21)

I hope we all enjoy the good wholesome supportive fellowship of other Christians. And each of us has a responsibility to contribute - and not just consume. Though getting closer to one another can bring strains and stresses, we do so need each other. In expressing God's love to those around us we can be the means of blessing and healing - and find wonderful blessing and healing for ourselves.

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