The Torch - Issue 1 2013

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



We offer a special greeting to all Torch readers in this first edition of "The Torch" for 2013.

As always at the start of a new year, we have little idea of what lies ahead. Writing during the season of Epiphany when we remember the visit of the wise men to Jesus, I have been thinking about the star that provided them with a means of guidance. That must have been brilliant - how often would we love something as distinct and unmistakeable to guide us! But the good news for us is that God has promised to guide us clearly, not necessarily by a star, but clearly none the less, by one means or another.

But was the star there for the wise men continuously? The answer to that, according to the Gospel accounts, is no. There was a gap. The first sighting of it was in their own country, given as a sign that the awaited king of the Jews had been born. They acted on this sign and set out on their search - with no star for this part of their journey.

There are times in our lives when God gives a sign, or some sort of instruction or guidance. Our part then is to step out in faith, according to the sign he has given us. If things become less clear or even problematic, we may lose faith a bit as we become uncertain as to where we are heading - just as the wise men did. We think, "Where is God now?" But as we continue in our walk, he graciously re-appears in some way or another, and confirms to us his original sign - just as the star re-appeared, guiding the wise men finally to their destination.

I am reminded of one of my favourite verses of Scripture:

Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. (Isaiah 50:10)

May we all know God's continued presence through 2013, trusting him at those times of seeming non-presence.

God bless you all.

Jill Ferraby and the editors

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The same but different

by Gordon Temple

It's a time of great change for Torch and it's prompted me to think about the subject of change. Some people find change quite scary and upsetting while for others it can be exciting, offering opportunity and adventure.

I've been to churches where the Scripture text written on the wall behind the pulpit is: "Jesus Christ ... the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). It seems to me that we can fall into the trap of thinking that as this is true of Jesus, it follows that it should be true of everything good, especially church!

But without change there is no life. We look approvingly upon change when watching the growth of our children and grandchildren. "Look how much he's grown," or "She's getting to be a clever girl," are the sort of comments we make. Of course, it's not so good when they become sullen and uncooperative teenagers! When we get older we start to experience association between "change" and "decay": the changes to our bodies are not welcome! Whatever, there is an undeniable link between "life and living" and "change" in our physical experience - some of it good and some of it not so good.

There are times when it can be helpful to reflect on the past, but we need to be careful which aspect of our past we appeal to when we hark back to better times.

I'm constantly drawn back to the story of the foundation of Torch and it still inspires me. Wendy, the blind young person at the centre of that story died recently and I was invited to say something about Torch at the Thanksgiving Service for her life. I read again the accounts of the beginning of Torch recorded in the books written by Stella Heath, co-founder of Torch and remembered by many as "Mum".

The story has three characters: Wendy, Lillian and Stella. Only Lillian remains with us now, Stella completed her earthly journey in 2009.

The year was 1958. Ron and Stella Heath lived in Reigate. Lillian and her twin sister, Helen, had come to faith in Jesus through the Friday Nighters girls club in the Heath's home.

One day Lillian asked Stella if she could bring a blind girl from the place where she worked as an assistant cook. Wendy was at what was then known as Hethersett, a large house near the Heath's home that the RNIB had taken on. With 25 other blind youngsters Wendy was there to learn vocational and life skills, but she was not a well-motivated student. That was until she too came to faith in Jesus after coming to Friday Nighters for just three weeks.

The principal of the RNIB centre was so impressed by the change in Wendy that he suggested the Heaths take an interest in the other 25 students. They opened their home to them on Sunday afternoons. Wendy was part of that group. Many had the same encounter with Jesus that Wendy had, including Wendy's husband Dudley.

The Heaths looked for Christian literature in braille for these young people but found very little that was suitable. They learned braille themselves so that they could copy out things for these young people.

In their search they came across The Torch magazine, edited by an elderly lady in the North of the Lake District. She saw the opportunity to give a future to the magazine and asked the Heaths to take it on. And so in 1959 the Torch Trust was born. It grew and grew and in less than 10 years the Trust had its own property at Hurstpierpoint in Sussex.

In the Heath's home Wendy and her fellow students found Jesus, they found Christian fellowship and they found access to Christian literature. Fifty-four years later Torch still seeks to help blind and partially sighted people find these three things.

Of course Torch has changed from those Sunday afternoon get-togethers and changed again as it has grown and broadened. For one thing, that was a group of young people, whereas the blind and partially sighted people we serve today are often older people who have lost their sight later in life.

From time to time people say to me something like: "Of course, Torch has changed". My response is usually slightly ambiguous: a "yes, but" answer. More fully, I might say, "Well yes it has, but in important ways it remains very much as it always was" - its core values have not changed.

The scene in which Torch functions is very different today and we must constantly adapt. But going back to that foundational story reminds me of what is at the core - of what does not change.

Torch started not from a grand plan devised by Ron and Stella Heath, but at God's initiative. It is God's work today as it was then. It grew in response to the needs of blind people and as doors opened to it. It was dynamic and varied. It brought blind and sighted people together on equal terms, to have fun and food and fellowship - to enjoy themselves and to meet with Jesus. And it brought access to God's Word and to Christian literature, so vital to growth in the Christian life. The way these things are done may have changed and be changing again, but at the heart they are the same things, done for the same reasons and done for the same Lord.

Sometimes I fear we want to put God in a box, to contain him in boundaries and set limits of what he can and can't do. Jesus Christ, the person, may be the same, yesterday, today and forever but it doesn't mean he always does the same things and in the same way. Living the Christian life is much more of an adventure than that. It means our walk with God is based on a dynamic daily trust in Jesus that means that we do what God wants and do it his way, even when it makes little sense to us.

It means following Jesus Christ, God's Son, wherever he leads us. It means seeking out God's will every step of the way and doing it. Sometimes we will find that God wants us to continue in what we are doing; other times he will want us to do something different or do it a different way. And doing it the wrong way can be just as disappointing to God as not doing it at all.

Paul writes: "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2); and that transformation should be ongoing: "And we ... are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God once said to his people: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Christian faith is transformational and that transformation is ongoing as we grow in our faith, as we grow more like Jesus and as we seek to follow him. Living by faith is a great adventure!

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by Stanley B G Moyo - Torch Trust Malawi Administrator

I started going to church when I was young and it became routine for me because my parents took me regularly to the Evangelical Church of Malawi (ECOM). I grew up in that situation, and did my primary and secondary education during this time.

In 1988 I was selected to Magomero Community Development College. There was no branch of my church there so I joined a Presbyterian Church where I was baptized at the end of 1988. I graduated in 1989 and started duty in another area. In 1990 I was appointed as a Church Deacon and in 1992 as a Church Elder.

Four years later, as there was an ECOM church there, I asked permission from the Pastor to allow me to attend this church. The Pastor agreed to this and I was received into membership and appointed as a Church Elder after one month.

Ten years on, in 2006, I joined a Church Ministry which was made up of members from different churches. This Ministry is called "A Time of Repenting and Deliverance". I appreciated the fellowship and started enjoying the word of God. I started singing choruses and conducting dedicated prayers.

This Ministry had overnight prayers and fasting sessions. One night we went to a mountain, led by the founder of the ministry who is a Living Waters Church member. That was in June 2007. While there we sang and prayed. It was dark and showery and it was during that time that I saw a bright light and in the sky a white dove was flying. I was caught with joy because that had never been seen by my eyes before.

After those prayers I saw myself as a changed person spiritually and now I go to church as a born again Christian because I witnessed the greatness of Jesus Christ and God himself. It was from then that I knew that Jesus Christ came to stay in my life and I submitted myself as his servant.

Let's all realise that if we accept Jesus whole-heartedly, we accept peace, protection, prosperity and everlasting life that shall be enjoyed.

As people often go to church on a routine basis, they should not think that that automatically means they have received Jesus. We need to dedicate ourselves to him in order to be embraced by the Holy Spirit and we will then realise that he is the King of our souls.

Isaiah 12 states clearly how merciful our God is to his people and how he rescues his people from trouble.

Jesus is and shall be our inspiration and comfort in our lives and we shall be made new creatures if we accept him into our lives.

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Let the Scriptures speak

Isaiah 12:2, 4-5 (NIV)

God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.

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Old Testament characters

by Michael Stafford

14. Samson

So far in this series we have looked at a number of great men of God. We now come to someone quite different from all the others. Samson was a judge of Israel for 20 years, but unlike Gideon and others he never showed himself to be a man of God, and the only mention of him speaking to God in prayer was just before he died.

Samson's Birth and upbringing

His birth was special, as his parents had no children because Manoah's wife was barren. An angel of the Lord appeared and promised them a son who, he said, would be special as he would be a Nazirite from his birth. (This does not refer to a person from Nazareth, but was a term used for someone set aside by God for a special purpose). As a Nazirite he was never to have his hair cut, so people would know he was set apart by God.

Samson was not a very pleasant personality. He behaved like a spoilt child (and perhaps he was - being an only child, of parents who had given up hope of ever having children). He ordered his parents to get him a wife who was a Philistine, an enemy of God's people, despite their protests. Later, after having been shamefully treated by his in-laws he sought out a prostitute. Then finally he again married a Philistine woman, who was eventually to bring about his downfall.

Samson's Strength

He used the enormous strength which God gave him to bring destruction and death to many Philistines, though it was in God's purpose to remove them as they had brought misery to Israel for many years. The story of Samson is one of those episodes in the Bible which we all find confusing and difficult to understand. How could a righteous God use a man like Samson to accomplish his purposes? We might, however, say the same about King Cyrus, a pagan king of Persia, whom God used to restore his people to their own land, and who was spoken of by Isaiah the prophet as "God's shepherd". God is sovereign and uses many people to accomplish his purposes who are not his own people, but this does not mean that they are personally saved as a result. Only a personal faith in Christ can accomplish that.

Samson's Exploits

It is in Judges chapters 13 to 16 that we find the stories of Samson's exploits. There we find him displaying his strength as he tore apart a young lion and then later discovered a swarm of bees and some honey in the carcase. This resulted in a riddle which he posed to the 30 young men who were to attend him at his marriage to the Philistine girl. The famous riddle is this: "Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet". When the men could not find the answer they threatened his wife, who cajoled him into telling the secret. This was not to be the last time that Samson gave way to a nagging wife, as we shall see - he was strong in body but weak-willed in his heart.

Samson's anger against the Philistines was greatly increased when he found that his wife had been given by her parents to another man. He exacted vengeance by catching 300 foxes, tying their tails together with a burning torch and letting them loose in the grain fields of the Philistines, so that all the grain was destroyed. When the Philistines took vengeance on the girl's parents, Samson went out and slaughtered hundreds of them.

When Samson's own people tried to hand him over to the Philistines because his antagonism to them was resulting in even more suffering for Israel, he took a donkey's jaw bone and killed 1000 Philistines with it. Such was his amazing strength; but this strength was not his own, which he was to learn to his cost.

Samson's Downfall

He now fell in love with another Philistine woman called Delilah. She was treacherous, and agreed to help her people overcome Samson, by getting him to reveal the secret of his strength:

"Delilah said to Samson, 'tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued'. Samson answered her, 'If anyone ties me with seven fresh thongs that have not been dried, I'll become as weak as any other man'. Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh thongs that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. With men hidden in the room, she called to him, 'Samson, the Philistines are upon you!' But he snapped the thongs as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered." (Judges 16:6-9)

She was then told by Samson that he would lose his strength if he was tied with new ropes, but the same thing happened as with the thongs. Again she tried to get the secret from him, and he instructed her to weave his long hair into a piece of cloth on the loom, and he would then be weak. This again was a trick, but now he was getting dangerously close to the real secret of his strength. We need to learn a lesson here from Samson - it is dangerous to compromise our behaviour as Christians. We can so easily come near to falling to temptation, yet not quite fall. But next time we may go too far and sin against the Lord in what we do. This is what happened to Samson. He at last gave in to the constant nagging of his wife and told her the real secret - that he would lose all his strength if his hair was cut off.

Sadly, this was his downfall. The Philistines caught him and found he was as weak as any other man. They gouged out his eyes and imprisoned him. But Samson had the last word, as one day they brought him out to display him at a great party with hundreds of people present. His hair had grown again by this time, and he knew his strength had returned. He used that strength to break the pillars holding up the roof of the building where the party was held, and brought the whole building down on top of the people, killing all of them and himself. Such was the sad end of a man who could have been a great man of God.

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My story

by Bro. K. Selvaraj, BBSF

My name is Selvaraj. The fourth son to my parents, I was brought up in a Hindu orthodox family of Tamil Nadu. When I was a baby I lost my sight in both eyes due to the false medicine and some of the temple treatments.

In 1967 I was admitted to the government school for the blind in Poonamalle, Chennai, and eight years later, studied for a diploma in agriculture. I then got two acres of land, but was not able to carry out the farm work properly as I lived alone and had to do some tasks for daily living.

At the same time I practised atheism with the Marxist people. I preached against the existence of God, but then, while collecting evidence to prove atheism, I happened upon a Bible portion in Malayalam braille. Our Lord spoke with me through the word of God from the Gospel according to St Mark, chapter 7, verses 20-23 where I found 13 things which defile a man and which come from his heart. I examined myself and realised my sins and accepted the Lord Jesus as personal Saviour on 23rd March, 1986. I was baptised 3 years later and gave up all my bad habits, such as smoking and drinking liquor.

In December 1989 I got a factory job with the ministry of defence in the government of India. I had all the facilities there for visual impairment without delay, though many other people were waiting for them. I received devotional books from the Torch Trust for the Blind in the UK, on a "read and return" basis. They sent autobiographies of missionaries such as Watchman Nee, Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone and others. Those books influenced me to live for Christ. I also did the Bible correspondence course and received a hymn book as a gift.

The word came to me: "Love thy neighbour as thyself." I gave up my job, returned home, and started an organisation called "Bezer Blind's Serving Friend" in 1994. This registered charity assists blind people in various ways. It runs a sheltered home for blind women where there are now 16 women getting food and shelter. All have accepted the Lord and have fellowship with a Brethren Assembly. We distribute braille Bibles, audio Bible in the Mp3 format in the form of cd roms, memory cards etc. We conduct Bible campaigns once a year in the villages of Kerala, meeting the blind in their homes, braille letter evangelism, teaching braille at their homes through the project called "Braille at Home", and we assist the blind families financially for the rural works.

I married a blind woman called Vijayakumari, who was also from a Hindu family, as I was. We have a girl of 12 years who is sighted and she is studying in the seventh standard.

Thus my God blessed me and my family. I was thankful and grateful to those who helped me in the past. Also I will pray for them, including the Torch Trust and Lutheran Braille Workers. I pray for God's blessing and strengthening in their ministry among blind people.

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