The Torch – Issue 3 2016

Produced and published by Torch Trust
Torch House,
Torch Way,
Market Harborough,
Tel: +44 (0)1858 438260
Fax: +44 (0)1858 438275

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.



Hello again, readers of The Torch magazine! We greet you all in the name of our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ.

We marvel that this magazine now goes to people in 78 countries around the world, everyone receiving it in the accessible medium of their choice—braille, large print (various sizes), audio CD, or email—and it is also accessible on the website in either text or mp3 audio form.

Every time the magazine goes out (currently five times a year) we pray that it will bless every single person who receives it. We regard you as part of the Torch family—what a far-reaching family!

Those of us who live in the western world are fortunate to have it delivered right to our doors by our postal service, but we know that many of you in other countries walk, possibly many kilometres, to collect your magazine from the nearest mail depot. Your perseverance and keenness to receive it blesses us—and we trust that your endeavours are rewarded as you read the magazine.

Well, this issue is special—as we celebrate its 85th anniversary! In the article Happy birthday to The Torch! we reflect on its birth and how it became the inspiration for the name of our organisation, the Torch Trust.

We pray that this issue will bless you all and draw you closer to our wonderful Lord.

Jill Ferraby and the editors

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Happy 85th birthday to The Torch!

In 1959 Ron and Stella Heath (co-founders of Torch Trust) made contact with visually impaired young people training at the newly opened centre at Hethersett, Reigate. The students came to their house regularly and some of them put their trust in the Lord Jesus. But the Heaths had a problem. They encouraged them to read the scriptures, but the young students found the King James (Authorised) version of the Bible difficult in braille, as it had special religious contractions which they had not learned. It was then that the Heaths found a small magazine called The Torch.

Away in Cumbria Miss Ada Trench was also having a problem. Twenty-eight years earlier, her sister Miss Eva had learned braille in order to teach it to her coachman who had lost his sight. Then in May 1931 she started a little braille magazine and called it The Torch. Each issue consisted of just one sheet of braille paper, and went to around 60 readers. The theme of the first issue was ‘Jesus the Light of the World’. Gradually more people were added to the original circle of 60 to receive the magazine. But Miss Eva died, and Miss Ada found it difficult to keep the little magazine going. She did not know braille herself, so all letters from readers had to be sent away to be transcribed. By this time she was in her eighties and was feeling she should give it up. Thankfully she knew a missionary aunt of Mrs Heath’s, who suggested she wrote to them.

When Miss Trench’s letter came asking the Heaths if they could take over the editorship, they both felt this was God’s timing, and that they could fit it in with the other things they were doing, little knowing that Torch was to become a lifetime’s work for them both! So they took up the challenge, widening the magazine’s scope to include Christian teaching and items of interest for their young contacts.

There were around 700 readers by this time, and the braille was printed on zinc plates using a home-made electric frame which embossed one dot at a time! A small team of devoted ladies painstakingly worked at those early copies. They soon had to move on to more professional ways of producing the braille in quantity.

It was in this same year, 1959, as the volume of braille production was increasing rapidly, that the work established its charitable status, taking up the name of that first, of many, regular publications in its title: Torch Trust for the Blind. The Trust papers were signed on 8th June 1959.

The Torch magazine was still sent to people on Miss Trench’s list. One such was a Pastor in China who was in prison because of his Christian faith. Even though people suggested it would not be wise, Ron and Stella felt they should continue to send the magazine to him as there was no indication on its cover of its Christian content. Wonderfully the magazines did reach him. Years later they had a letter from his son: “My Father has just passed away. Thank you for sending the magazine; it was a great comfort and strength to him in his cell.” Yes, he evidently received every copy!

Gradually, audio and giant print versions were added, and then audio cassette. Now, The Torch is sent out in braille, various sizes of large print, audio CD, email and is also accessible on the website in either text or mp3 audio form. It goes to around 5,500 readers in 78 countries. We think it’s the largest circulation of a magazine for blind people in the whole world!

So, happy 85th birthday to The Torch! We pray that God will continue to use this little magazine to bless many more people all around the world.

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Old Testament Characters

by Michael Stafford

30. Ruth

All the characters studied in this series so far have been men, so the balance must be redressed, though there are few women of note in the Old Testament because women were excluded from the priesthood and female prophets were very few.

We begin with this remarkable woman, Ruth, who was not even an Israelite and was from the heathen nation of Moab. The characters in her story lived in the time when Israel was ruled by judges, not kings.

The story begins with an Israelite family consisting of Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and two sons Mahlon and Kilion. Due to famine they had moved to the land of Moab where food was available, but their stay there was not a happy one. First Elimelech died, then some years later both sons also died, leaving their Moabite wives, Ruth and Orpah, as widows along with Naomi.

1. Ruth’s determined choice

When Naomi heard that the famine was over in Bethlehem she determined to return there without her daughters-in-law, as she expected them to want to stay with their own people. She was wrong! Both women decided to go with her to Bethlehem, even though the religion, culture and people were unknown to them. The three started off together, but soon Naomi realised that it would be more sensible for the younger women to go back to their own home and find new husbands.

The two women made different decisions: Orpah took Naomi’s advice and went back, but Ruth was determined to stay with her mother-in-law and so she said, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth’s character shines out in the choice that she made: she was loving and faithful to a woman who had suffered so much, and stuck with her though she had no idea where this choice might lead her. Certainly it would appear that she would not be welcomed as a gentile in an Israelite community, and what possible hope could she have of a marriage and a family?

The women’s arrival in Bethlehem caused great curiosity and surprise, especially when the people discovered how Naomi had suffered. However, the inhabitants of Bethlehem were too busy with the harvesting of their grain to spend time and effort helping Naomi and Ruth, who had to sort out their own future and the more immediate task of obtaining food as, although the family farm was still there, it had not been planted and so yielded no harvest.

How they were going to survive was a challenge, but Naomi knew well the Law of God given through Moses and was aware that it said, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest... leave them for the poor and alien...” (Leviticus 19:9,10). As a poor person she had the right to glean from the land of others, and she was happy for Ruth to go and get what she could.

2. Ruth’s unexpected liaison

God has a habit of arranging circumstances to accomplish his purposes, and in this case he steered Ruth to glean in the field of Boaz, a relative of Naomi. Boaz was interested to know who this young woman was, and clearly was attracted to her. He showed her every favour, which amazed Ruth who said: “Why have I found such favour in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10). She then learnt that Boaz knew all about her and he commended her for her faithfulness to Naomi. He continued to show favour to her with the result that she went home laden with grain, to a delighted Naomi.

Naomi encouraged Ruth to continue gleaning each day in the field of Boaz. She began to think that Ruth’s liaison with Boaz might take on a new meaning, as he was a ‘kinsman-redeemer’, which meant that he had a responsibility towards a close relative who had lost a husband. The closest relative was to receive the property of the dead man but must also take on the duty of marrying his widow and producing children by her. Boaz was not the closest relative, but when he found out that that relative did not want to fulfil his duty it fell to Boaz to buy the land that had belonged to Elimelech, Mahlon and Kilion from Naomi and to marry Mahlon’s widow.

3. Ruth’s divine descendant

Boaz was very happy to fulfil his duty and so we read in Ruth 4:13: “So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son”.

Boaz was from the tribe of Judah, the ‘royal’ tribe to which all the kings of Judah would belong. This line of kings began with King David, whose grandfather was Obed, the son of Ruth and Boaz. The Davidic line continued until the last king of Judah—Zedekiah—was taken away in captivity to Babylon. But the royal line continued, though often through insignificant descendants, until a humble carpenter called Joseph married another descendant of David, named Mary, and, as we know, she became the mother of Jesus—born of David’s line.

Therefore, included in the human ancestry of Jesus was a gentile called Ruth. The Israelites of old were very exclusive, and would not consider that God could include the gentiles in his plans, but God is definitely not exclusive, and his love is for all the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall have eternal life” (John 3:16). Therefore Jesus has become our ‘Kinsman-Redeemer’, who has ‘bought’ us with his own blood and given us an inheritance as ‘joint-heirs’ with him of all the riches of Heaven.

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My story

by Graham Moody (Torch Trust Production Leader)

Being brought up in a Christian home and regularly attending church, I started questioning this routine and God’s very existence at an early age. As part of a progressive Church of England church in the late 1970’s, with lots of encouragement and support from others of a similar age, I came to Christ when I was 18 years old.

An experience I would like to share is a mission trip to South Africa. Our Baptist church was organising this through BMS (Baptist Mission Society) and asked for people to put themselves forward. I thought in my mind I would love to go, but didn’t make this known, little did I know that I would be approached to be part of the team. This gave me the confirmation I needed to make the commitment to go.

Emerging from our overnight accommodation, blinking bleary eyed in the bright sunlight, our group of 10 met up again. We saw for the first time, after our late night arrival in Cape Town, the majesty and beauty of Table Mountain looking down on us. We were greeted by our hosts for the next two and a half weeks, the Pastor and his wife from a lively Baptist church in George, a small town on the Garden Route South Africa. We had gone with the purpose of building links with the church and assisting with their ministry.

We set off in the mini bus for the seven hour journey to George with anticipation, excitement and a little trepidation, not knowing what was in store for us as individuals and as a team. As we climbed slowly out of Cape Town on the road high into the hills, the contrast of wealth and poverty was very stark, to the point of shocking.

Within the first half hour of our journey some of us were questioning the very purpose of our visit: what difference can I make? Overwhelmed by thoughts of our own inadequacies, we looked to the scripture. ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13 KJV). We took strength from this, not that we can do all things, but in all that we face, our strength can come from him. God had put us together, each with our different skills and characters, but with mutual faith in him, to trust him and his Word. We were a team that, although couldn’t possibly change a whole country, we could, through God’s enabling, make a difference to those we met.

The following story reflects that truth: The Boy and the Starfish. (Author unknown)

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water. Time and time again he kept hurling things into the ocean. As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied,” I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, said the man, “you can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”

The boy looked down, frowning for a moment; then bent down to pick up another starfish smiling as he threw it back into the sea.

He replied, “I made a huge difference to that one!”

We received a great welcome and our days in George had been planned with visits to people’s homes, house group meetings, hospice visits, setting up a book library in the church, mural painting and generally joining in with the charismatic church gatherings. What a joy to be in such a place with a joyful and unique style of worship. It is my prayer that we did make a difference to those we met, they certainly made a difference to me.

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Let the scriptures speak

This scripture passage will lead into the article following it.

Luke 14

Jesus said, “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

“Still another said, ‘I have just got married, so I can’t come.’

“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

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The gospel as an invitation

By Gordon Temple

Torch’s Year of Reaching Out

One of the nicest things I know is to be invited to a party, or for a meal, or simply to be welcomed into someone’s home. It tells me somebody wants my company, and they want to share with me.

Sometimes I have to refuse an invitation because of an existing commitment. You have to be careful when turning down an invitation; it’s been offered in generosity and the refusal may appear as a rejection.

Even as I write this I find myself challenged about how often I make invitations. At Torch House as well as our Torch Holiday and Retreat Centre we set out to be welcoming and hospitable. We do so because we think that’s what Jesus would do if he were physically with us today.

Jesus accepted invitations and he made them. I think of how Jesus cooked breakfast on the beach for the disciples after they had endured a night’s hard fishing. I would have loved to be there. I suspect he was good at cooking fish! And there was his invitation to them to join him for the Passover meal—what we now know as ‘the last supper’. Jesus presented the gospel as an invitation, an invitation to be gratefully and joyfully accepted.

Jesus told a story of a party to illustrate the invitation of the gospel which we can find in Luke 14.

The invitations had gone out—and even the reminders—but the invited guests are more than decently late. The host—Jesus refers to him as ‘the master’—sends his servants to remind them. Apparently, they all have much better things to do than to show up for this exceptional banquet.

Seeing the vacant places, the master acts in a quite extraordinary way. He sends his servants out into the streets to bring in poor and disabled people. In fact, a second mission to the streets is needed. There’s no mistake here. The master’s determination is that his house ‘may be filled’. And notice – there’s no mention of the disabled people being healed before they can come in.

This is a banquet where those who are customarily left out get invited. It’s not like most that I’ve attended, where guests are selected according to their job or position in society, or fame, or notoriety, or popularity. Usually, people who don’t fit in or can’t ever repay the favour don’t get invited. But at this party everyone is equally welcome - though sadly not everyone takes up the invitation. Instead of a party full of ‘somebodies’, it’s full of ‘nobodies’. The invitation comes to ordinary people like you and me.

I think it is clear that in this story Jesus is referring to himself as ‘the master’ and that his servants who take out the invitation to the streets are any and all of us who follow and serve him.

The word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’ and that is what it is. It’s an invitation to the party, a welcome into the community of God’s people, a passport to the Kingdom of Heaven, no less. And we have the task of extending that invitation from Jesus to anyone we can, and, as the story suggests, especially to those who don’t usually get invitations. He wants his house to be full!

Jesus proclaimed a gospel that’s inclusive: the party invitation is an open one. Let’s take care we don’t make it exclusive to us and our friends, to ‘our sort’ of people. What are we doing to fulfil the mandate of Jesus, who at the outset of his ministry adopted words authored by Isaiah for his mission?

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. (Luke 4:18,19)

Jesus states that his mission is to bring good news and to carry it especially to people who are poor, captive, blind or oppressed. Blind and disabled people around the world can often feel that they are in all four categories at the same time.

Isolation and loneliness that results has long been understood as the most common consequence of sight loss. And loneliness is a very bad thing. We are made in the image of God who is in himself community: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and we are therefore designed to function properly with the companionship and fellowship of others. The psalmist tells us “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6). So an invitation to get together with others is going to be a thoroughly good thing.

Two thousand years ago when Jesus walked the country, the towns and the cities of the ancient world people gathered around him. He made them feel welcome and put them at their ease. He loved them and they loved him. And after he had risen and ascended they continued to gather around him and we do so to this day.

Torch Fellowship Groups and other groups like them meeting across the UK and around the world have an invitation to make, offering a warm welcome and hospitality, especially to blind and partially sighted people and to people losing their sight.

We value our Christian fellowship so much, let’s make a special effort to invite others to join us as we gather around Jesus, whether in a fellowship group or local church. Let them know we love them as Jesus does—and introduce them to him.

And if in reading this magazine today you have realised for the first time that Jesus invites you to join him in the Kingdom of Heaven’s party then now would be a good time

[Includes an extract from the book Enabling Church by Gordon Temple with Lin Ball (SPCK, 2012).]

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