The Torch – Issue 3 2013

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 greet all readers of The Torch magazine worldwide in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the articles in this issue talks about our Lord's invitation to come to him. And this reminded me of the Bible verse that led me to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour many years ago at the age of 11.

The verse is: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing." (Luke 13:34)

My little young heart and mind felt a surge of grief at the thought of such rejection of someone who was offering nothing but good – total good. And to make quite certain I was not amongst those rejecting him, I opened my heart to him and accepted his invitation to come by inviting him to come into my life as my Lord and Saviour. To this day, I can remember the surge of joy this gave – I felt as if I was giving Jesus a great big hug!

May God help us all to be open and receptive to him, not just that once, but as an ongoing experience day by day.

God bless you all.

Jill Ferraby and the editors

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Let the Scriptures speak

Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

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Do you feel heavy laden?

by Mike Townsend

I've just received a lovely invitation this morning. It's to my godson Nick's wedding in July. I've known Nick all his life. He and his family lived on the old Torch House complex in the Leicestershire countryside.

The children loved to ride around on my shoulders! As I am blind, they steered me by turning my head to the left or right! Up in one of the corridors in the big old house, we used to pass a plaque on the wall. The text contained an invitation from Jesus: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28). One day, Robin, Nick's older brother, high up on my shoulders, read the words out carefully.

"What does 'heavy laden' mean?" he asked.

"That's what I am! Carrying you around!" I mockingly groaned.

Let's look at Jesus' invitation.

Firstly, Jesus calls "come". This is a welcome - the opportunity to be with Jesus. Do we feel welcome in Jesus' presence? One of the places where we can be together with Jesus is in church. Do you feel welcome in church?

On moving to a new area, I had recommendation for a good church. My guide dog found the church and we went in. The folk inside ignored us.

"Hello! Where shall we go?" I called.

"Over there!" came a voice – the person was probably pointing as well.

That wasn't helpful for a blind person. Beatle, being a resourceful dog, found me a seat. Just before the service started, someone came to sit beside me.

"That's nice," I said, "I'm new here. Perhaps you could help me to know what to do."

"Sorry, I'm only a visitor!" he replied.

Things were completely different at another church.

"Hello gorgeous! Would you like a drink?" These welcoming words drew us in. I wasn't the "gorgeous" one, and the guide dog got the drink, but I still felt welcomed!

Secondly, who should come? Jesus says, "all". "Obvious" you might say. "We don't exclude anybody." But do we?

Think about some of the people Jesus welcomed. There was the fraudulent taxman. "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today," said Jesus (Luke 19:5).

The mad woman, Mary Magdalene, was released by Jesus from seven spirits (Luke 8:2).

Jesus even shared the message of eternal life with the grossly immoral Samaritan woman at the well. She was so transformed that she said, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did." (John 4:29).

Even criminals were not beyond Jesus' welcome. When one of the criminals crucified with Jesus asked for help, "Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'" What better welcome could Jesus give?

A blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the Jericho road. He cried out for Jesus' help. "Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!'" (Mark 10:48). Jesus overruled the rebukes, called Bartimaeus, and changed his life forever.

What about our church? Are fraudsters, people with mental illnesses, grossly immoral people, criminals and disabled people welcome? Shockingly, we still hear of churches in some places across the world actually excluding disabled people.

I am part of a campaign called "Churches for All". This is a group of organisations seeking to make church and the Christian life work for disabled people. At the beginning of June we are sponsoring two Sundays as "Disability Sundays". Many churches unthinkingly exclude disabled people. Sometimes there are physical barriers such as steps. Other times there are communication barriers including unreadable print worship materials, or sermons that are too hard to understand.

We all have struggles. Perhaps you are feeling "heavy laden" right now? Do you have family or financial worries? Are you struggling with mental ill-health or criminal convictions? Are you challenged with illness or disabling conditions? Do you feel rejected as a disabled person?

Jesus says, "Come ... and I will give you rest". He wants to help. He wants to get alongside us and help us with the heavy load, and so he goes on to say, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:29-30.)

When I was in Israel, I saw their two-headed yokes. Two animals would be yoked together so that they could both help pull the farm equipment. That is what Jesus is talking about. He understands and joins us under our loads.

So often we are unable to feel the "heavy laden" that others feel. The real barriers are not physical but the way we think - our attitudes. Being ignored or welcomed shows a difference in attitude.

Perhaps we can all be a bit more like Jesus and support each other in understanding each other's challenges.

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My Story

by Debra Chand, Torch Chief Presence Officer

I grew up living by the sea, so love open spaces. My father was in the army and we travelled quite a bit, but settled in my teenage years on the south coast of England.

I became a Christian through an outreach run by Youth With a Mission, while completing a degree in Human Sciences at Sussex University (again near the sea). Seeking to put faith into practice, I took up a role overseeing communications with The Leprosy Mission England and Wales, later becoming Support and Development Director with TLM International. During this time I travelled to Africa and Asia to see the work at first hand. Untreated leprosy can cause various problems, including eye damage, and can be misunderstood and socially isolating. So here was a connection with sight loss, and also with the transformative aspect of the gospel in re-connecting people to God and to each other.

After 15 years with The Leprosy Mission, and following the impact of several close bereavements, I left to study for an MBA and worked with Kent Police to oversee part of their change programme. I also volunteered locally as a befriender, supporting families affected by Alzheimer's disease and other health conditions. Here, again, was a connection with loss, through bereavement, changes in health and the impact of crime, all of which would later come to bear on my new role with Torch.

Following several years in Kent, my husband Philip and I moved back to Peterborough. No sea here, but the big skies and open landscapes of the fens and pretty inland villages, reminding me of God's goodness and the beauty of creation. I was soon reminded also of the brokenness of this world, as I became Care and Support Director for the PSP Association, supporting people with a life-limiting neurological condition that affects their ability to walk, talk, speak or see and which has a huge impact on families and carers.

When I later saw the opportunity to oversee Torch's "Presence" programme, it seemed to bring all this experience together and I felt a nudge from the Lord to apply.

A key part of Presence involves setting up a scheme we call "Journeying With" - giving emotional, spiritual and practical support to people who are newly diagnosed with long-term sight loss. Trained Christian volunteers will give a few hours each week, over about six months, to provide a listening ear, companionship and information, meeting at home, going out for coffee, shopping, to church or an eye clinic - whatever the person needs at an early stage to help them adjust to change. A pilot scheme is under way in Northern Ireland and the first volunteers have completed their training.

We hope that by "journeying with" people we will help them reconnect with their local community and support networks. Torch has resources and activities to offer, such as the friendship groups and Moving Forward breaks. These can help people to rebuild skills and confidence, as well as providing a safe place to share deeper emotional and spiritual aspects arising from sight loss.

We aim also, through our presence, to bring the life-changing presence of Christ; "to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." (Isaiah 61:2b-3a, NIV)

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Partners

Timothy Malaidza

Tim, who passed away in February 2013, spent most of his life serving blind people in Malawi. He was born in 1944 in a small village in the Central Region of Malawi (then known as Nyasaland). After his schooling he qualified as a primary school teacher in 1961. He taught in primary schools until selected to take up specialist teacher training at Montfort College near Blantyre, where he qualified as a teacher of blind children in 1972.

After teaching posts at Kasungu School for the Blind and Malingunde Resource Centre, he got a scholarship to Edinburgh University where he gained a Diploma in Special Education. On returning to Malawi he taught at Lulwe School for the Blind, which was run by the Africa Evangelical Fellowship, and then as a tutor at Montfort College, where he eventually became deputy Director of Education for the Blind.

His abilities in teaching blind children were recognised, as he gained a scholarship to study for a Bachelor of Education degree at Swansea University, resulting in him being appointed Director of Education for the Blind for the whole of Malawi. This appointment resulted in much travel – to South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and even Thailand.

Tim was a family man who, with his wife Bertha, had a son and four daughters. This was a Christian home, and Tim had a committed and living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and, particularly in his later years, sought to use his talents in the Lord's service.

In 1981 Tim met Ron & Stella Heath, founders of the Torch Trust, who were on an exploratory visit to Malawi, seeking to find those who would be exercised to initiate a Torch-affiliated work among the blind people. Tim, among others, became a trustee for the newly established work, and in the years that followed he assisted Torch in many ways, being in an ideal situation to do so in his position as Director of Education for the Blind.

When he retired, in 1997, he was appointed Administrator for Torch in Malawi, and served in this capacity for seven years before fully retiring. During those years, we (Michael and Janet Stafford) worked with him, often together visiting Torch Fellowship Groups in all parts of the country. He was loved and respected by the blind people, many of whom had been taught by him in earlier years. He is greatly missed, and many of the spiritual and practical blessings among the blind people today are a legacy of his life and work.

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Old Testament characters

by Michael Stafford

16. Saul

Saul was one of those men who, like Solomon later on, began well but ended his life badly.

In the book of 1 Samuel we learn of the desire of the Israelites to have a king. Before that time they had recognised God as their only King, and respected the leaders He put in place, such as the Judges, and after them the prophet Samuel. However, they hankered after a king because they wanted to be like the nations that surrounded their land. They failed to recognise that God had chosen them to be different to all other nations, and that their allegiance should be to Him alone.

A Chosen King

Samuel was told by God to anoint a certain man of the tribe of Benjamin, but he did not know who this was until God showed him. He was led to Saul who was a young man described as impressive and without equal among the Israelites, being a head taller than anyone else. When Samuel told Saul he was God's choice to be the king, Saul was astonished, and said that this could not be true, as he was only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and his clan was very small and insignificant.

However, God's instruction was clear, and Samuel announced to all Israel that Saul was to be the king they so much desired. Samuel told Saul that there would be signs that would confirm what God had said: he would meet three men who would offer him two loaves of bread. Then he would meet a procession of prophets and would join them, at which point God's Spirit would give him power so that he would prophesy also.

"As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul's heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying. When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, 'what is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets'" (1 Sam. 10:9-11).

Most of the people rejoiced in their new king, but there were a few who opposed and despised him. Saul proved himself as a military leader by a successful campaign against the Ammonites who had threatened the town of Jabesh Gilead with terrible torture. Saul completely defeated the Ammonites and the people were very angry with those who had not accepted Saul. They threatened them with death, but Saul showed mercy, saying it was a day for rejoicing in God's deliverance and not a day for suffering and death.

A Foolish King

Saul had many other successes, especially over the Philistines, who were long-term enemies of Israel. He had certainly started well, but it all went wrong when he began to trust in himself instead of God. The Philistines threatened him with a vast army and this brought such terror to Saul's army that they began to run away and hide. Saul then took it upon himself to offer a sacrifice to God instead of waiting for Samuel to come. He was not a priest and should not have done this. God was angry, and when Samuel came he brought a stern message from God:

"'You acted foolishly,' Samuel said. 'You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, He would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people . . .'" (1 Sam. 13:13-14).

Samuel secretly anointed David to be king in place of Saul, but Saul continued as anointed king for some years. Meanwhile, David grew in popularity, and at first was favoured by Saul, especially after David had killed the giant Goliath. Saul made David an officer in his army and even gave him his daughter to be his wife. But David's popularity with the people made Saul jealous, feeling that David was a threat to his kingship.

A Jealous King

Saul carried out a number of foolish and harmful actions in his warfare, and the people angered him greatly by claiming that David was far more successful in battle than he was:

"Saul was very angry; ... 'They have credited David with tens of thousands,' he thought, 'but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?' And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David." (1 Samuel 18:8-9).

Saul became what today we would call a manic depressive. He had periods when he was mad, and other times when he was sane. He called David when he was feeling depressed, to play the harp to him to calm his nerves, as David was a skilful musician. Twice, in a fit of madness, he tried to kill David with a spear, and the time came when David had to run away from him and hide as Saul was always scheming to kill him.

David gathered a small army around him and they lived in caves to keep away from Saul. Twice, when Saul and his army came to look for them, David had the opportunity to kill him, but refused to do so as he knew Saul was still God's anointed king. Each time Saul humbled himself and repented, apologising to David, yet still he continued to hunt him down to kill him.

A Rejected King

The Philistines again threatened Saul with a huge army and Saul was terrified. He tried to ask the Lord for help, but there was no answer. God had now abandoned him, and in despair Saul made a final, dreadful, error. He consulted a witch, even though he himself had banned witchcraft from the land. He disguised himself and consulted the witch of Endor, trying to make contact with Samuel who was now dead. To her surprise, the witch managed to bring up a spirit who appeared to be Samuel. The spirit said that the Lord had torn the kingdom out of Saul's hands and given it to one of his neighbours – to David. It then predicted that the Lord would hand over the Israelites to the Philistines and that Saul and his sons would be killed.

Some time later this was fulfilled – his sons were killed in battle and he was mortally wounded. He called his armour-bearer to kill him, but when he refused he fell on his sword and committed suicide. The Philistines took the body and exposed it to public disgrace in one of their cities. Such was the sad and shameful end of a man who had started so well, but fell into the sins of disobedience, pride and jealousy.

Saul's life is a salutary warning to all of us that we need to be careful not to grow careless in our Christian life as we get older. Even the godly George Muller prayed "Lord keep me from dying a wicked old man".

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Penfriends' bulletin

Here are two people who would like to correspond with others. If you would like to communicate with either of them, introduce yourself by giving your name, your postal address, email 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.

IBRAHIM ABDULKARIM, PO Box 5426, Kano, Kano State 700001, Nigeria. He is 43 years old and blind. He would like friends from all over the world. He likes shortwave radio listening, home study courses, reading in braille and audio CD, perfumes and surfing the internet. He would like letters in braille.

ADRIJANA PROKOPENKO, bul. Jane Sandanski, 43. 5 / 6, 1000 – Skopje, Macedonia. Adrijana is a 32-year old blind lady and a teacher of English from Macedonia. In her free time she likes to read, spend time with family and friends, do volunteer work, travel, correspond and enjoy life in general. She is hoping to gain some friends from the magazine and says feel free to email her at: adrijana.prokopenko@gmail.com, or send a braille or tape letter.

A NOTE FROM ALBERT JOSEPH KAMPUNZE: Albert (previously listed in Penfriends) asks that he be contacted by email rather than by post as this takes too long. His email address is: kampunze@gmail.com.

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