vision for people with sight loss
Torch News - Winter 2014

Enabling people with sight loss to discover Christian faith and lead fulfilling Christian lives.

Christian resources and activities for blind and partially sighted people worldwide.


Confidence restored!

“I can’t see a thing. It’s just totally black ... I was so frightened ...”

Jean Beer had been partially sighted from birth – but last year an accident and complications meant she lost her sight completely. She found it traumatic. A quiet person, she withdrew into a shell and admits that she sometimes felt like giving up. It took quite some persuasion from friends – including Torch trustee Rona Gibb – for her to go on a Torch Moving Forward break. But she found the new skills she gained there restored her confidence – and now life is so much more positive.

Janet Eardley, Torch’s Area Presence Developer for the South West, talked to Jean to find out more.

“It’s hard. Sometimes I’ve felt that I want to give up,” says Jean. “But that’s no good, is it?”

Jean has good support from family and friends, and lives with her daughter Anita in Moretonhampstead, the small town nestling in the middle of Dartmoor where she’s lived all her life. But she still found losing her sight “a trauma all round”.

Her confidence at a low ebb, Jean was reluctant to go to Moving Forward when it was suggested, even though the break is specially designed for people new to sight loss. Going anywhere different was a challenge – as was the thought of meeting new people without the advantage of eye contact. But when her cousin Margaret agreed to accompany her, Jean plucked up courage.

Most Moving Forward breaks take place at the Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre overlooking the beautiful Sussex Downs. The programme is very practical – helping a small group of guests learn new skills and ways of doing things that sighted people take for granted. It’s run by Christians who are fully trained to advise on everything to do with sight loss, under the guidance of Torch Holidays Leader Gail Millar, a qualified Eye Clinic Liaison Officer.

“I was worried at first,” confides Jean. “But I found it very helpful. They were very friendly and welcoming. The food was lovely, the place was lovely. We even had a cup of tea brought to us in bed each morning!”

Jean soon found herself absorbed in the programme and surrounded by new friends, learning new skills and finding out about various ways to make life a little easier.

“There was a gadget that would tell you what colour your clothes are, and talking scales so you could weigh things out. You learned how to pair up socks and match them ... about different lighting ... about benefits ...”

Jean found there was plenty of help, whether she was learning to walk with a cane or to handle money. Along with practical support, vital emotional and spiritual support is a key feature of Moving Forward, as with all Torch Holidays. Pastoral care is gently woven in, with brief “thoughts for the day”, an optional chapel service, and the availability of the team to chat or pray as needed. There’s plenty of fun, food and trips out, too.

Jean says she would recommend Moving Forward to anyone new to sight loss.

“Before I went, I was always terrified of everything ... every noise ... so I have come out of that. There was nothing the team wouldn’t help you with, if you couldn’t manage. They were always there for you.”

The short Moving Forward residential breaks are open to anyone over 18; family and carers are welcome too. If you would like to go on a break, or know someone who might benefit, Gail Millar and her team would be delighted to hear from you. Phone 01273 832282 or email

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More Holiday News

And many more ways of Torch moving forward ...

Breaks like Moving Forward are just a small part of an extensive programme of events which take place at the Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre in West Sussex, which has recently undergone Phase 1 of an ambitious extension and renovation plan. Says Holidays Leader Gail Millar, “We give thanks to God for the resources, skill and prayer that have enabled this to happen. The Centre has been beautifully refurbished to create a welcoming, fully accessible venue, with all ensuite rooms, which means we can run even more holidays and events to support people with sight loss.”

Gail and her team, while enjoying the benefits of the new-look Centre, are excitedly anticipating the next phase.

Continuing in prayer

“There’s more work planned for Spring 2015 which will add a further three ensuite rooms to complete the vision that God gave us for the building some 16 years ago,” Gail says. “So we are continuing in prayer as we seek the Lord’s provision and resources to do this.”

Meanwhile, plans are in hand for a bigger programme of holidays for 2015 to make full use of the new facilities. These include an activity week, local history outings and holiday weeks focused on everything from technology or gardening to walking, music or books, as well as a range of summer holiday weeks.

“One of the fun holidays we’re planning for 2015,” says Gail, “is what we’re calling the Great Torch Bake-Off – and we’re scheduling that to liven up the dull days of November.”

For full details, go to our website ( Do note that the prices for all our holidays are totally inclusive – all meals, refreshments and even the full costs of outings are included. All holidays are mobility-graded to help you make your choice.

... or holiday at home!

Perhaps the idea of a holiday is attractive, but the travelling isn’t! Emma Meade, Deputy Leader of the Cambridge Torch Fellowship Group, shares her experience of a recent “holiday at home”.

Emma writes:

When our prayer and planning team organised an outing for our group, travel arrangements were becoming complicated, so we decided to hold a “holiday at home” at a nearby local venue. Local churches run similar schemes but we decided on a one-day event in August – when most clubs take a break – and on a Saturday, which can be a lonely day for many of our members.

The volunteers who usually provide transport to and from our monthly meetings helped to drive everyone to the “holiday at home”. We all sat down to a tasty two-course meal. We didn’t ask for financial contributions but found that the costs were covered by donations.

The theme of the day was “Buildings”, picking up on biblical references about Christians being “living stones”, being “built together”, and being “temples of the Holy Spirit”. After lunch, we were all given a kit to make up a box, which we decorated. We arranged the finished boxes to make a house to show that God’s Church is the people. Everyone took their box home to remind them of their preciousness to God and being part of each other.

The day included more activities on the theme, such as the game of Jenga. It was lovely to hear the loud peals of laughter as the wooden towers fell down! After ice cream came worship, led by Margaret, an accomplished singer and musician.

We are all looking forward to the next “holiday at home”!

... or help out as a holiday driver

As the “holiday at home” story (above) illustrates, travelling to a holiday or even to a monthly fellowship gathering can be one of the biggest challenges faced by blind and partially sighted people – while the gains of going can be enormous. A number of potential guests for Torch Holidays are prevented from going because they simply can’t manage the public transport. We are always looking to link them up with volunteer drivers prepared to drive them door-to-door. If you feel this is something you could get involved with, do contact Beth Bromham on 01858 438260 ( As well as trips to our Holiday & Retreat Centre in West Sussex from all parts of the UK, we are also always in need of volunteer drivers to assist people attending local Torch Fellowship Groups.

... or holiday “up north”!

Whitby calling! By popular request, Sneaton Castle Centre has again been booked for a Torch break in Yorkshire. Last year 50 blind and partially sighted people and friends enjoyed a couple of days there together, with a programme of talks, trips out and wonderful food. This Centre stands in beautiful grounds next to St Hilda’s Priory and within walking distance of the historic seaside town of Whitby. For 2015, three days have been booked: 20-23 April. For more information, contact David Judson in Leeds ( or 0113 2166411).

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Taking hold of God – and taking hold with confidence

When we take hold of God and he takes hold of us there is hard work to do – but there is also great confidence in the future.

This was the theme taken by Rev Jonathan Edwards at this year’s September Thanksgiving Day. It was a great joy for Torch staff, friends and volunteers to welcome this former General Secretary of the Baptist Union and now ambassador for the learning disability organisation, Prospects, to speak to them as they celebrated the tenth anniversary of Torch House and the 55th year of the work.

Jonathan reminded the packed meeting room that Torch was God’s work and that should be celebrated, along with “his greatness, his love, his faithfulness and his provision through the years”.

Referring to Torch’s “year of taking hold” (from Philippians 3:12), Jonathan described how the world and values of the writer Paul had been overturned when God took hold of him, and his longing became the desire to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.


“Torch is fired up by the same desire to see men and women come to find that transformation in their own life,” said Jonathan.

“There is nothing more wonderful in the world than to see someone move from darkness to light; from despair and hopelessness to joy and hope; from being lost to being found in Christ. There are many worthy and wonderful things that we will do, but nothing is more wonderful than helping people to meet Jesus as their own personal Saviour.”

Jonathan went on to describe the Christian’s sense of purpose and direction in life, often so different from the aimlessness and disillusion of the world. But taking hold of God’s purposes, he added, “was hard work.”

“If you have been captured by Christ and found salvation in him, then it is certain that there will be hard work for you to do,” he said.

“I acknowledge the hard work of Torch ... the hard work of maintaining the excellent work when often the funds are not generously available ... the hard work of loving people who are not easy to love ... the hard work of caring for people who struggle with life. Hard work ... is the privilege of all those who have been taken hold of by Christ.”

Alongside that hard work, said Jonathan, is the confidence that comes from knowing that the future of Torch is in the hands of God. And so, despite difficulties, he concluded, “our Guide will never leave our side, and so we can go forward with confidence – confidence that we will take hold of that for which Christ has taken hold of us.”

Moving ahead with purpose and direction

Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple spoke at Thanksgiving of the organisation moving ahead with purpose and a renewed sense of direction.

“Torch is on the move in the sense that there is a sustained, purposeful, progressive transformation that reaches right across our work – and deeply into it.”

Gordon explained that during the working out of the current strategy for the work, there was a definite change of emphasis as new initiatives were bringing Torch closer to people with sight loss, with more face to face contact.

In terms of resources – Christian literature in accessible formats – new technology was simplifying transcription and enabling Torch to become much more responsive to clients, explained Gordon. Increasing efficiency in that area was releasing resources to enable much more personal contact with people. And that meant getting alongside people at their times of greatest need – engaging with their practical, emotional and spiritual needs.

This contact was being progressed through programmes such as Moving Forward breaks and other holidays, through the Journeying With friendship scheme, through TorchTalk telephone friendship groups and local Groups – growing for the first time in over 20 years.

Listing the many recent achievements for which to thank God, Gordon included the take-up of audio CDs and memory sticks which was now outstripping cassettes; greater automation to produce braille and large print on-demand; and the amazing response being received to much longed-for distribution of Megavoice audio Bibles in African languages.

Financial update

Gordon also spoke frankly about Torch’s finances. “God has provided in an amazing way for the extension and upgrading of the Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre with specific gifts and grants and we give him thanks,” he said, recognising also that the wider work of Torch had also been sustained through another year and that many had given generously and sacrificially.

“We embark upon another year without much in hand – but we do so trusting that God will provide. He has proved faithful in meeting every need over 55 years and that gives us confidence as we pray for his gracious and generous provision for what is his work.”

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“Dear Lord, please give me a new bicycle tyre ... a cardigan ... a pair of sunglasses!”

Torch International Leader Janet Stafford reports on a day of great excitement in Malawi.

When the committees from 17 fellowship groups in southern Malawi met for a day of fellowship and teaching, they were in for a few surprises!

The gathering of 127 leaders, many of them with sight loss, between them represented a total of 875 blind and partially sighted people linked through the groups. Each group gave a faithful report of their activities. They described their monthly meetings, and the way they reach out to visit each blind person at home every month, and give other practical support such as building latrines, providing food, or reading the Scriptures.

To do all this, the committee members travel many kilometres, particularly in the more remote areas, so bicycles are essential. But, at the time we met, many of the bikes had worn tyres or punctures.

Praise God! We were able to provide two new tyres and inner tubes to everyone who had bicycles, and gave packages of assorted items to everyone else.

In conversation later, a partially sighted man told me that he had been longing for a pair of sunglasses and found them in his package. A blind woman had been asking God for a cardigan and there it was in her parcel; another blind man had prayed for a sweatshirt and, again, found it in his parcel.

We had only one of each of these items and distributed the parcels randomly – but everyone had exactly what they needed and had prayed for! What a time of celebration there was!

Our God is amazing and does amazing things! Praise his Name! It was such a privilege to be with and encourage these dedicated men and women in the ministry to which they are so committed, to reach out and support blind people in Malawi.

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Christmas is coming – read to get ready!

Seasonal titles from Torch, introduced by Publications Leader Lydia Tebbutt

If you or someone you know with sight loss is looking for some seasonal reading, then the Torch Library has a number of great titles to introduce.

The annual commercial razzmatazz in the lead-up to Christmas makes it increasingly difficult to remember that for centuries Christians have regarded Advent as a time of reflection, prayer and preparation, just as Lent is a season of preparation for Easter.

Dr Rodney Holder has written a book of daily Bible readings and reflections with the lovely title Longing, Waiting, Believing which will take the reader on a journey of discovery from 1 December through to 6 January. The author’s prayer for his readers is this: “... that our longing for Christ will be fulfilled, our waiting for him rewarded and our believing in him strengthened.” This title, from publisher Bible Reading Fellowship, is available from Torch in braille, giant print and DAISY CD, price £5.60.

Are you wondering if you can ever come to Christmas in a really fresh way, as if for the first time? Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, believes he can help – by telling the story backwards! His book, Walking Backwards to Christmas, also gives the perspectives of some characters from the Christmas story we don’t usually think about, such as the prophets Anna, Isaiah and Moses, and Rachel who wept for her children. These unusual voices give freshness to a fascinating read. It’s available in braille, giant print and DAISY CD and costs £7.99

The birth of a baby is always good news ... but our free gift to you this year to celebrate Christmas is a birth announcement with a difference! Mary & Joseph announce ... is the title of a leaflet produced by the Good Book Company. This explains the Good News of Jesus simply but powerfully, and is great to send someone as a greeting or to give out to your group. It’s available on request in braille, giant print and audio CD.

If you are planning a carol service this year and want to use the much-loved Bethlehem Carol Sheet, then don’t forget to provide versions for people with sight loss. Free copies are available in giant print and braille from Torch. This is the 56th edition of the carol sheet, produced by Embrace the Middle East (formerly BibleLands), which partners with local Christians to support disadvantaged people.

And finally, please note that our 2015 Scripture Text Calendar is available now in braille and giant print at the same price as last year – just £4.

Read all about it!

Do you know about our magazine Reading for All? Issue 2 is out now and available on request. It will give you details of many new additions to the Torch Library.

For any of these publications, or to talk about your reading needs, call our Client Services Team on 01858 438260. You might also like to visit the literature page on our website

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Radio programme receives accolade!

Torch Trust’s weekly radio programme, Reflections, was a finalist in this year’s annual Jerusalem Trust awards for religious broadcasting, with an Easter programme broadcast on RNIB Insight radio.

The Jerusalem Trust, one of the Sainsbury Family Trusts, recognises excellence in the realm of Christian radio and internet broadcasting. CEO Dr Gordon Temple, Client Services Leader Sheila Armstrong and producer Rachel Dalby attended the award ceremony. Gordon says, “We were delighted to be among the three finalists in the Easter section, and to do so well even though we were in competition with some heavyweight BBC programmes.” Reflections goes out weekly on RNIB’s Insight Radio (online, Freeview 730, Sky 0188 and Freesat 777) on Sunday after the 9am news, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. It is also broadcast on Premier Christian Radio on Sundays at 4pm (online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, DAB, and Freeview 725).

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Well done, all of you!

Congratulations to Leonard and Daniela Campbell on the arrival of Katelyn, a sister to a delighted Sophie! Leonard has been overseeing the development of the new Journeying With befriending scheme in Northern Ireland.

Congratulations to Nessa Graham, former staff member and now volunteer at Torch House, who won the Healthy Heart Award in the 2014 “Oldest Athlete Celebration” event run by Leicestershire and Rutland Sport. Nessa, born without sight, goes to her gym twice a week, as recommended by her GP, which has made a big difference to her fitness levels.

And congratulations to John Flanner, former staff member and Torch supporter over many years, also contributor to our Journey audio thought for the week. John, who lost his sight as a young man, has been awarded an MBE for services to equality and diversity. For many years he has given motivational talks within the Civil Service. John is delighted that the news is out; he found the hardest thing was keeping it quiet!

40 years – and still serving!

When the Southend Torch Fellowship Group met to mark their 40th birthday, there was an extra reason to celebrate. Margaret Knight has been a faithful driver and helper at the group since it began 40 years ago. Thank you! If you have served for 40 years or more we would love to hear from you! Ring our Client Services team on 01858 438260.

And more news about people ...

Welcome to our three new Regional Coordinators: Jan Turner for the East Midlands, based in Market Harborough; retired vicar Chich Hewitt, adding to the North West team and living in Bolton; and Robert Ainsley-Raffel, supporting Sheila Tuck in the North East and living in Hexham.

And here are some more “welcomes”!

Robert Yule has joined Torch as the Deputy Holidays Leader. Rob is completing his final year of part-time study for an applied theology degree at Regents Theological College, and brings much experience in hospitality management, lay ministry and missional leadership.

Miriam Leach, who recently completed a fine art degree at Loughborough University, will be joining the team at the Holiday & Retreat Centre during her gap year.

Jane Stewart-Sandeman joins the HRC team as the new cook. Jane qualified from the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London and has held various catering roles, including running her own catering business.

At Torch House we welcome David Shepherd, Torch’s new Development Leader (Resources). David worked in financial services for 20 years, then as a business trainer, and latterly as manager of a Christian bookshop.

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Here to help you

Client Services: 01858 438260

Library: 01858 438266

Holidays: 01273 832282

Prayer Line: 01858 438277

Reflections: For responses to our radio broadcasts: 0333 123 1255. Go to for details of how to listen to Reflections.

Torch News Is also available in audio CD, braille, email, standard print and large print (17-, 20-, 25- and 30-point) and can be viewed on the Torch website.

Torch Trust

Address: Torch House Torch Way Market Harborough Leicestershire LE16 9HL UK

Tel: +44 (0)1858 438260



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Chair: Marilyn Baker

Chief Executive: Dr Gordon Temple

Council of Reference members: Rt Revd Richard Atkinson OBE; Revd Dr Steve Brady; Revd Dr David Coffey OBE; Revd Malcolm Duncan; Jonathan Lamb; Revd Roy Searle; Dr Elaine Storkey; Revd Dr Derek Tidball.

The Torch Trust for the Blind

A charity registered in England and Wales no. 1095904; a company limited by guarantee no. 46165260

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