The Torch – 2016, Issue 2

Torch Trust
Torch House,
Torch Way,
Market Harborough,
Leicestershire,
LE16 9HL UK
Tel: +44 (0)1858 438260
Fax: +44 (0)1858 438275
email: info@torchtrust.org
website: torchtrust.org

The Torch Trust for the Blind
A charity registered in England and Wales no. 1095904
A company limited by guarantee no. 4616526

The Torch is available in the following formats: audio CD, braille, email and large print (17, 20, 25 and 30 point). It can also be downloaded from the Torch website as an HTML file.

Contents

Greetings!

Welcome to this second edition of The Torch for 2016. I love spring, don’t you? In fact, it’s my favourite season. Everywhere you look there’s new life popping up ... birds start to sing once again ... lambs bleat in the fields ... the sun is climbing higher in the sky ... the days are getting longer - and even better is to come: summer is just round the corner!

New Life! What better time to celebrate than when Easter has been fresh in our minds - the time when Jesus conquered death, the time when Christ died to take away our sins and rose again victorious. Easter day is the day of universal hope; the day when sin was defeated and new life in Christ became possible - for all those who accept the gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ.

That’s worth celebrating!

And it’s worth proclaiming! In this dark world of sin and bad news, it’s great to have good news to proclaim. In his sermon on the mount as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus exhorted his hearers to shine as lights in this dark world and not to hide the light. Well, there are many ways in which we can shine as lights, and surely sharing the good news of Easter is a key one. What better news than that Jesus´ love for us moved him with compassion to such an extent that he suffered the very depths of hell, just so that we could have new life - abundant life!

So let’s praise him at this special time of year - and beyond - as we accept, enjoy and share that new life which he came to give.

Jill Ferraby and the editors.

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Partners

Assurance to the blind

By Gabiro Benedict, Kisoro, Uganda

I am the director of Mutanda Life Christian Students. Our setting is in a rural, remote setting of Kisoro district, South - Western Uganda.

The area is surrounded with vegetation, lakes and rivers. These physical features harbour vectors that accelerate transmission of eye diseases, some of which finally cause blindness.

There are many cases of blind children in our locality. I saw the way these blind and partially blind children were suffering and had pity on them. The snag with our hard to reach remote area is that even when there are some donor communities to assist, with resources, this assistance doesn’t reach us. The news reaches us when it is already expired. But my concern is: how can we best assist these vulnerable children?

I came up with a thought of including a programme to assist the blind and partially blind to the existing one - Mutanda Christian Life Students. It is not an easy task developing a charity to assist these various categories of needy people - the blind, Secondary School students and Nursery School kids. This is because owing to poor infrastructure development leading to unemployment, our source of income is meagre.

Despite the setbacks, I approached students who had taken training in Special Needs Education (SNE) for technical advice. I used their suggestions to design a way of helping these vulnerable children.

But how could we get resources for the blind? The Torch Trust came with some awesome assistance. The resources they supplied are in maximum use.

People are surprised and amazed at how the blind are now able to read using tactile method - the blind are enjoying this too! The partially blind are also enjoying reading the large fonts literature.

You can contact me by email: benlifen@gmail.com

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Old Testament Characters

by Michael Stafford

29. Jonah

The prophet Jonah is found among the twelve so-called “Minor Prophets” at the end of the Old Testament. The word “Minor” doesn’t mean they were of less importance than the “major” prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. It simply means that their books are brief in comparison.

Jonah was from a small town to the north of Nazareth, called Gath Hepher, in the time when Jeroboam II reigned as king over the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This was about 800 years before Jesus was born.

Jeroboam II was just one of the many kings of the Northern Kingdom who did evil, according to the book of 2 Kings, chapter 14 and verses 23-25, where there is a brief mention of the prophet Jonah.

Most of us are familiar with the Book of Jonah, and especially the amazing story of how he was swallowed by a big fish. There are only four chapters in his book and we will consider them one by one:

Jonah runs away from God - chapter one

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me”. But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. (Jonah 1:1-3).

Why was Jonah so reluctant to go to Nineveh? It was because Nineveh was the great capital city of Assyria, which had been causing terrible trouble to Israel for several years by invading its land and causing misery to the inhabitants. Jonah could not understand why God would have mercy on such a nation by warning them of judgement and giving them the chance to repent and change their ways.

So he decided to go in the opposite direction from Nineveh by taking a ship to Tarshish, which was probably in Spain, far to the West. However, the Lord stopped him in his tracks when the ship ran into a great storm and was in imminent danger of being wrecked. The sailors did all they could to make the ship safer by throwing out all the cargo to make it lighter, but to no effect.

Jonah, meanwhile, had gone to sleep in his cabin and had to be woken by the captain who told him to call on his God. The crew were terrified when he told them who he was and why he was on board. He said to them “pick me up and throw me into the sea ... and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you” (Jonah 1:12). The crew were very reluctant to do this, but in desperation they obeyed and were amazed when the sea became calm, knowing that Jonah’s God had done this.

It was at this point that God provided a great fish which swallowed Jonah!

Jonah runs to God - chapter two

Jonah spent three days and nights inside the fish and spent the time praying to God. He had been running away from God; now he turned to God in his desperate situation. Sometimes a person has to come to the end of all earthly help before he or she will turn to the Lord in repentance. Jonah now had the faith to say that God would save him and enable him to sacrifice with songs of thanksgiving at God’s Temple in Jerusalem (chapter 2 verses 4 and 9).

At the end of this second chapter we read that the fish vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Many people think that this story is only a myth. They say that it is impossible for a fish to swallow a man, no matter how big it is. However, there is a true story of a sailor in the 19th century who fell into the sea and was swallowed by a whale. The whale was harpooned and when it was cut open the man was discovered, still alive though bearing the marks of his ordeal as his skin had become wrinkled and yellow. It may be that Jonah also carried such marks, and this would have been a source of wonder to the inhabitants of Nineveh in the next chapter.

Jonah runs for God - chapter three

Jonah had learnt his lesson - he would no longer try to run away from God. God gave him a second chance and this time he obeyed and trekked the long road to Nineveh which was an enormous city which took Jonah three days to cover with his preaching. He shouted out his warning to all the citizens: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (3:4). The citizens, and even the king, were terrified and all of them repented, so avoiding God’s judgement.

Jonah complains to God - chapter four

We probably think that Jonah was overjoyed at the success of his preaching. “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry” (4:1). Why? Well, Jonah was typical of many Israelites in his time, who believed the Jewish nation was specially favoured by God and every other nation was outside the love of God. Their attitude was exclusive and totally opposed to God’s original intention for his chosen people - that they should be an example and a light to other nations, showing them the way to God.

Sadly, some Christians and churches tend to be exclusive today - believing that their denomination is the only one that God can bless. But in fact none of us and none of our churches are perfect, and we cannot claim we are the only ones who are right. In fact, we are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) and should act in acknowledgment of that fact.

Jonah hoped that God would destroy the people of Nineveh, despite their repentance, as he felt that this was what they deserved. His behaviour in this last chapter appears to be childish, as he sat on a hill outside the city waiting in hope that God would do something spectacular. He grew faint in the scorching sun and was glad of a vine which quickly grew up to give him shelter, but very angry when it withered and died. God used this as an illustration to impress upon Jonah that the welfare of the citizens of Nineveh was vastly more important than the life of a mere vine.

Our God loves people and has shown this in the greatest way by sending his Son to die to pay the price for our sins - so that his love can be unconditional and able to forgive us, no matter how deeply we have sunk in sin. In Jonah’s thinking, no-one had sunk lower than the people of Nineveh, yet God was ready to forgive and withhold judgement.

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Here’s a thought

Mercy is God not doing what we deserve…grace is God doing what we don’t deserve.

Steve Brady at 2004 Torch Thanksgiving celebration in Bournemouth.

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My story

by Jack Tsankhwimbj (Bangula, Southern Malawi)

As one of the members of Torch Fellowship at Bangula Centre, which is operating under the leadership and guidance of Pastor Mbewe, I would like to give my testimony, mainly on how my spiritual life has changed.

First, I really thank the almighty God for inspiring people at Torch House UK with the idea of establishing libraries for blind people. As an individual, the extension of the library from the UK to Konzere and Bangula is a big step for me to grow in my Christianity and spiritual life.

Just to give an example, the book entitled Happy in trouble by F Foulkes has given me courage when I face serious challenges. The book is in a form of a commentary covering one of the epistles in the New Testament, Philippians. When I read about the problems that Paul faced as he was preaching the gospel to different cities, his imprisonment, the way he was tortured, and the way he conducted himself in such troubles, I am really touched. Indeed, on page 41 of the book, the author quotes Paul’s words in Philippians chapter 1 verses 19 and 20:

I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

The book has made me to be a strong believer in Christ at all the times of my life. With no doubt, I have been reformed into a dedicated Christian, always longing for promoting the name of Jesus Christ and the word of God as a whole.

The author of Happy in trouble has tackled some areas such as: the need to love others, the need to have confidence for the future, the need to praise and worship the almighty God and the different attitudes that different people have towards the people who carry out and raise up the flag of Jesus Christ. These areas have done “no mean achievement” towards the development of my spiritual life.

In a nutshell, the library is an essential tool which is making my visual impairment to be nothing to worry about because even at my church, my preachings have drawn the interest of many because I am able to read using my own fingers. I know in myself that I raise so many questions in the minds of those who listen to me, but I always thank God for allowing me to be in such a state of impairment and I do capitalise on this to teach my listeners the love of God and the need to praise him.

It is my prayer that more books should be sent to our library. In addition, I ask God to bless all the well-wishers who have always provided their donations towards the production of Christian braille books. My special thanks go to those who work tirelessly in carrying out the library services as well as in teachings and preachings to our fellowship.

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The wide open door

by Gordon Temple

Matthew chapter 21:12-15 says:

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a den of robbers.”

The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. (NIVUK)

Holy Week, as it’s sometimes called, starts with Palm Sunday when we are reminded how Jesus entered Jerusalem just days before he was executed on a wooden cross. Welcomed and honoured by the people, this unusual King rides on a donkey. It’s a striking image and one that sets us thinking about who Jesus really is.

The Temple in Jerusalem was the place of worship and forgiveness that sat right at the heart of the life of the Jewish nation. But as Jesus entered its outer enclosure he saw something he really hated. Commercialism had invaded the house of God; this was not just business - it was corrupt - a racket.

Under the Old Testament system, sacrifices had to be made to secure God’s forgiveness. Centuries earlier people would have offered the best of their own livestock. In Jesus´ day it was made simpler: a bird or animal for sacrifice could be purchased in the outer Temple courtyard.

But making that purchase was not that easy. You couldn’t buy your sacrifice with ordinary money: the Temple had its own currency called Tyrian Shekels. Why was this? With the blessing of the Temple authorities these business people were profiteering, making money hand over fist from rich and poor alike. So before you could buy a sacrificial offering you had to exchange money - and at an inflated rate, of course. Bringing your own sacrifice was banned so they had it all sewn up.

Then there was a raft of restrictions about who could proceed into the Temple complex itself, beyond where the money changers and sacrifice sellers operated. Over the centuries these prohibitions had developed, designed to keep the Temple “respectable” with the “right sort of people” welcome while others were turned away. The term “sinners” was used loosely to label undesirables who needed to be kept out. How strange, since the whole point of the sacrifices was to enable sinners to be forgiven!

Shepherds had a dirty job and they were on the banned list. So were disabled people. And of course children were kept out too. Immediately after the drama of the account of Jesus upsetting this shameful trade we read that “the blind and the lame came to him [Jesus] in the Temple”. Children got in too and it all caused a great upset.

Jesus did not accept these restrictions. He refuted the then traditional understanding that disability was necessarily a consequence and sign of sinfulness. Encountering a man born blind, the disciples had once asked him: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”. Jesus´ response is very interesting: “‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:1-3).

The further you went into the Temple the more restrictive it became. Right at the heart of the complex was a tall building called the Holy Place and within it a great curtain that divided off the Holy of Holies. This was where the ark of the covenant was kept, where God was understood to have his unique earthly dwelling place. Only the High Priest could enter and then only once a year to offer sacrifices for the people.

When Jesus died on the cross this curtain was dramatically torn apart, and significantly, torn from the top to the bottom. This was an act of God showing that there was now a way into his presence, through the death of his Son on the cross. The Temple and all it stood for was no longer required. We do not need to go and offer animal sacrifices at a Temple in Jerusalem to secure God’s forgiveness. Jesus himself had made a way for people to be put right with God.

By telling people they were forgiven, Jesus shocked the religious types who sustained the Temple system. He did this on many occasions, in people’s homes and on the street. Forgiveness had been democratised.

The totally amazing thing is that Jesus was - and is - God. We know him as God’s Son, not because he was born to God but because he inherits God’s character and characteristics. And he entered the world he created as one of us - experiencing what it means to be human. But the totally astounding thing about Easter is that Jesus died. The difference between mortal humans and immortal God is that humans die and God doesn’t. There is no way that Jesus can be more human than to share our inevitable experience of death.

Because God’s Son Jesus has entered so fully into our human experience, even to the extent of death, there is no situation in life where we can say or think that Jesus doesn’t understand, doesn’t share our feelings. We can come to know him as a brother.

The Lord Jesus whom we worship is not one who calls us up to God’s glory, as one exalted way above us, but as one who comes to us in humanity, even in death, to lift us up to him.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

The climax of the Easter story is the resurrection of Jesus. He has been through death and come out the other side. He has pioneered a journey so that we who follow him in this life will follow him into eternal life in his presence.

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Let the scriptures speak

Hebrews 10:19-24 (NIV)

Since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.

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