TORCH
vision for people with sight loss
Torch News – Summer 2015

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

Contents

Journeying With - Journeying to faith

‘I was apprehensive, I didn't think it was "me" but it's been so beneficial and it's really helped me to grow.'

Michael Rinaldi has been on a turbulent journey in these last 18 months. Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of nineteen, Michael's sight has begun to deteriorate rapidly. Feeling trapped, disorientated and lonely, Michael felt prompted to pick up a Bible: ‘I was a person without faith … it wasn't of myself, I felt drawn toward Jesus. I had this need to find out more about God.' From then on Michael's faith began to blossom.

Several months later, Michael attended a routine eye appointment. By chance, someone handed him a leaflet for Torch Trust. ‘I just put it on the back burner but after a while I thought, well I'll give them a ring!'

Taking a chance

Michael found himself drawn to the Journeying With befriending service. Becoming one of the first people to sign up for the telephone-based version, he was matched with Janet. The pair would share regular phone calls in which Janet would be able to support Michael through his experience of sight loss. Prior to their first call, Michael admits he was rather nervous: ‘The thought of someone ringing up … it's nerve-wracking. I didn't know whether we'd hit it off! But I thought it can't hurt me, it can only be a beneficial experience. So I just went for it!' Much to his relief, Michael found that he and Janet clicked immediately! In Janet he found what he had longed for: someone to talk to who would understand the changes in his life, emotionally, spiritually and physically.

Retinitis pigmentosa is a hereditary condition: Michael is the third person in his family to be diagnosed. The condition is degenerative, with Michael losing first his peripheral and night vision. He says it can be difficult for other people to understand, explaining that ‘friends would say "How can you read a book but then not see at night time? It can't be true" But if you educate them, they become really interested, they're more able to understand.' It's this message of education, patience and understanding that Michael is keen to pass on. He feels that his talks with Janet have given him the confidence needed to make the first step in really communicating with people.

A New beginning

There are plenty of other changes in Michael's life too: with Janet's encouragement he has been in touch with Guide Dogs about getting a dog of his own. Michael has found a local church which suits him perfectly: ‘I wanted to find a church and didn't know where to go, and Janet encouraged me and prayed for me. A few weeks later I came across one on a website and have been going there since!' Michael has been throwing himself into church life, sharing his testimony and even reciting a poem at a Christmas service. He was baptised on Easter Sunday, an affirmation of faith which was particularly important to him.

Michael's baptism coincided with an appearance on the Easter Sunday special of Torch's Reflections show on RNIB's Insight Radio! Michael credits his faith with giving him a new beginning in life, saying that ‘a lot of the things I've done in the past year I would never have done if God wasn't in my life!'

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Journeying With - find out more!

Journeying With is a distinctively Christian befriending service which brings Christian volunteers alongside people with sight loss at their times of greatest need. Befrienders and clients can meet up at home, go out and about or talk over the phone - just like Michael and Janet.

We are currently building a national network of volunteers and clients so if you would like to find out more about this service, please contact Client Services on 01858 438260 or visit our dedicated website at with.torchtrust.org

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Getting there - and getting there sooner!

CEO Dr Gordon Temple describes how Torch Trust is making huge steps forward in meeting the most urgent support needs of blind and partially sighted people…

Getting there earlier: serving people for longer on their sight loss journey - coming alongside at their times of greatest need. That's the essence of the fresh vision that is driving Torch's priorities, now and into the future.

With rising numbers of people across the UK losing their sight, and with many falling down the cracks between health and social care, there's an acute need. Four out of five people with failing sight have no one to support them.

When I look into the Gospels I see Jesus coming alongside those who were distressed and disorientated. We need to be there, reaching out with the love of God and Journeying With people struggling with loss of sight and all that follows from it.

Over its 56-year history, Torch has been focussed on meeting the needs of people already considered blind or partially sighted. We provide a comprehensive range of Christian resources and activities that are vital to a fulfilling Christian life. These continue, but we have been working to extend our reach to include people losing their sight, convinced that this is where God is leading us.

We now have three ways of helping people come to terms with sight loss:

Over four years we have been developing these projects: researching the needs, praying, planning our response, recruiting and training staff and volunteers, developing appropriate resources and piloting the programmes. Moving Forward breaks are now a regular part of our programme, Journeying With has been running for over eighteen months in Northern Ireland and Journeying With by Phone has been piloted.

All have been demonstrated to meet the needs of those challenged by the consequences of losing sight, with practical, emotional and spiritual benefits clearly evident.

All this sits happily alongside Torch's existing services. People reached through the new initiatives go on to benefit from our established network of local Torch Groups, Torch Holidays, TorchTalk Groups and our huge range of accessible Christian literature.

At the recent Christian Resources Exhibition in London we launched Journeying With as a national service, seeking the volunteers and local church links that will enable us to both start Journeying With schemes in more localities and grow the Journeying With by Phone service. Our conviction is that we can serve many more people with sight loss, doing so in the name of Jesus.

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A lifeline to Malawi

Michael Stafford reports on Janet Stafford's recent visit to Malawi…

Back in January we sent a 40ft container from Torch in the UK to Malawi, little knowing at the time how vital the contents would be. In the weeks that followed, the southern area of Malawi, where a large number of blind people live, was hit by storms which caused devastating floods: people lost their houses, goods, livestock and all hope of any harvest. Several, including some blind people, were swept away and never seen again.

Janet Stafford went to Malawi at the beginning of March, knowing that a big challenge lay ahead. It was a matter for rejoicing when the container arrived a little ahead of time and was quickly cleared and transported to Lapson Mbewe's compound at Konzere in the Shire Valley. Since then, Janet and Lapson have been fully occupied visiting the stricken areas and distributing clothing, toiletries, as well as items specifically for blind people.

Many people whose houses were destroyed were given temporary accommodation by the government in tented camps. In the camps food has been extremely scarce and many have gone hungry for days at a time. There is no harvest and most have no money to buy food, but thanks to funds provided by people in the UK, Lapson has been able to purchase many tonnes of maize flour, which has proved to be a lifeline.

The camps are now envisaged to be closed by the end of June, and people will have to build themselves houses. However, with no resources this is going to be an impossibility, especially for the blind people, so the challenge is how to help them in the coming months before the rains return in November.

Janet reports that she and Lapson have been able to visit many Torch Fellowship Groups with both spiritual and physical help. In one place she said that when the blind people arrived their heads were down on their chests and they were in despair. However, as the Word of God was shared, and songs were sung, little by little their heads came up and smiles appeared. One man was jubilant to receive a blanket from the container. He said that since losing everything he had had nothing even to cover himself.

It is vital that we continue to pray for these needy people, and for Lapson and others who are seeking to help them, in the weeks ahead.

If you want to know more or to learn of the help needed, contact Janet Stafford at Torch House: janetS@torchtrust.org

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Light in the darkness

Torch CEO, Gordon Temple, tells of his recent visit to Moldova…

‘So what's Moldova like?' was the question in my mind as our plane landed in Chisinau, the capital. I was travelling with Tibor Miklós, the blind pastor of a church in Hungary whose moving story we told in the Autumn 2014 edition of Torch News. Missionaries from US mission World Team had invited Tibor to Moldova to speak to blind people, social workers and church leaders. In turn, he had invited me to be his guide, enabler and co-worker for the week-long mission trip.

‘Cold and grey' was my first impression of the country. Data identifies Moldova, which lies between Romania and Ukraine, as one of the poorest countries in Europe. I saw it as a place of contrasts - much acute poverty and some ostentatious wealth. Also apparent in the architecture was the legacy of the Soviet era. It's a strongly Orthodox country and there are Russian-speaking communities alongside those who speak Romanian, the official language.

Blind and other disabled people have it hard here. There's a stigma associated with disability. It's not uncommon for someone to make the sign of the cross after passing a disabled person in the street. Addressing a group of 105 blind and partially sighted people from surrounding villages brought together in one provincial town, we were told by the social work manager that more would have come - but they were ashamed to be seen out and about. She was excited by our positive Christian perspective on disability. Sadly she admitted it was all they could do to keep the blind people in their care alive. When Tibor told this crowd of blind people his life story, and described how he found faith in Jesus, there was a great response.

On the Sunday morning, we met a group of blind and partially sighted people at a Baptist church in Chisinau and learned of a network of blind Christians. They meet together in a manner similar to a Torch Fellowship Group so I felt immediately at home - though obviously language was a challenge!

Please pray for the blind and partially sighted people of Moldova. They have so little of what we take for granted. There was a lot of interest in the local language version of the MegaVoice audio Bible and we would like to get some to them. Please also pray for Tibor in Hungary. He has launched Lépés, a Christian foundation working with blind people that's akin to Torch, and attracted much interest, but lacks resources to respond to the need.

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A new way to communicate!

David Palmer, leader of Torch's regional work writes…

We sometimes moan about technology and how complicated it can be - well I tend to do so! But actually it can be incredibly useful. TorchTalk, our telephone friendship Groups, are a great way of utilising the advances in technology to connect with many more blind and partially sighted people living in the UK. Small groups meeting over the phone are touching a real need and proving very popular.

We have recently started two brand-new Groups. The first is a Bible explorer's course called The Word Heard and Shared. Facilitated by a retired partially sighted minister, this Group has been looking into the Biblical characters integral to the Easter story. If you are looking for some in-depth discussion on Biblical matters then this Group could be just right for you!

Parents raising young children face huge challenges today in juggling their needs and the other demands upon their time. Therefore our second monthly Group is for visually impaired parents with children under the age of 16. The Group facilitator is Hazel, a partially sighted mother of two energetic boys.

Beside these two new Groups we have a variety of other telephone Groups, including a Prayer Group, two Men's Groups and a monthly Book Group. We are also exploring weekend Groups and a Christian Enquirers course. If you would like to find out more about how the service works or the different Groups available then why not join one of our hour-long Saturday Enquirers sessions?

If you are interested in TorchTalk or know someone who might benefit, please contact Client Services at Torch House.

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Our adventure of faith

CEO Dr Gordon Temple reports on Torch's finances…

Many people who partner us - in prayer, volunteering or giving - also decide to leave a legacy to Torch Trust in their wills. We are enormously grateful and blessed by this thoughtful and loving giving. Over many years they have contributed at least a third of Torch's income, and we pray that Torch's work will be blessed through legacies for many years to come. Contact us if you would like to know more about this subject.

Of course, we have little idea what will come to Torch from legacies, or when it might come. This is all part of our ongoing adventure of faith. But I confess that at times my faith is tested! Our cash reserves are all but exhausted and we find ourselves praying that the next legacy we have been advised of will arrive in time to cover the bills.

So our longstanding and heartfelt prayer is for a continuing rise in the regular committed giving that provides a steady income which helps us plan for the future, particularly when we feel led to launch new services like Journeying With. If you are looking to support Torch financially then please consider standing order or direct debit options. Thank you to those who already use them.

Torch Trust's Report and Accounts for the year ending September 2014 are now available. Download them from our website or contact Torch House if you would like copies sent. We rejoice that we can look back and see God's provision for the work. The year was noteworthy in that a higher than usual proportion of income was ‘restricted', monies specifically earmarked for the extension and improvements to the Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre that have so delighted our many guests.

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Unless the Lord builds the house…

Gail Millar, Torch Holiday Centre Manager, reports on the wonderful developments at the Centre…

Since September of 2013 we have witnessed God's amazing provision, both financially and practically, enabling the extension and refurbishment of our very own Holiday & Retreat Centre in Sussex. We now have very comfortable accommodation to offer in a beautifully decorated home with all of the facilities especially for people with sight loss. We have high contrast decor throughout the house, decorative guide rails, large print and braille signs, a talking lift, contrasting textures and tactile surfaces. We have 3 fully accessible rooms and can accommodate up to 29 people in a mixture of twin and single rooms.

Our menus have all been refreshed and we provide an abundance of home cooked meals. Our all-inclusive holidays are full of variety and exciting new adventurous activities. We have a great team of volunteers, speakers and guests that bring the sparkle to the Centre. We have a fabulous 16 seater minibus to take our guests out and about.

"Unless the Lord builds the house the builders build in vain." (Psalm 127:1)

But why has the Lord built this house?

We believe God's plan for the Centre is now only at its beginning. The last 20 years have been about preparation, but the next 20 years are about provision. We want to provide a place for people adjusting to sight loss - all of whom are at different life stages and need different kinds of support and facilities. For some it may be a holiday, a place to relax, a place to have fun and to be renewed. For some it may mean training, equipping and strengthening. For some it may mean challenging, adventuring and trying out new ways of doing things. For some it may mean friendship, and encouragement. For some it may mean refuge, sanctuary and a safe haven. But most of all for everyone - and that includes family and friends of people with sight loss too - there is a place of rest, of God's presence, a place of his love, a place of welcome and acceptance and a place to find Jesus.

We need more wonderful and amazing volunteers to be a part of our holidays and events, as well as drivers to enable people to get to the Centre. We need people with passion to be a part of our staff team, we need people with a heart to make a difference one by one to each person dealing with the consequences of sight loss. We need your continuing prayers and support to fulfil the vision God has given.

Please contact Gail at Torch Holiday and Retreat Centre on 01273 832282 and join the journey.

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News from Torch

A warm welcome to…!

Rose Heaney joins us as Client Services Assistant. Rose began her working life in the Civil Service; since then she has helped her husband with his ministry in various churches and worked in an administrative role at a Christian charity for 13 years. Rose enjoys reading, swimming and spending time with her growing family, including her four grandchildren.

And we would also like to welcome Sarah Hamilton as our new Personnel Co-ordinator. Sarah has previously worked for the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health and the Institution of Risk Management, supporting their members and volunteers. Sarah is married and enjoys yoga and cooking, as well as helping to run a local Junior Church.

Finally, Sarah Brookman has joined as our Journeying With by Phone Co-ordinator. Sarah started her working life as physiotherapist before marrying James and starting a family. They now have three boys and live near Evesham. Sarah previously worked for Torch as a radio producer. Sarah has a deep Christian faith and enjoys arts and crafts and art therapy.

Congratulations!

Well done to Miriam Leach, who has recently completed her internship at Torch's Holiday and Retreat Centre and has started in her new role there as Trainee Assistant Manager.

And congratulations to Irene Overton on celebrating her 100th birthday this year! An active member of the Hinckley Torch Fellowship Group for over twenty years, Irene is also a member of the WI, Vista and enjoys audio books and arts and crafts! Happy birthday Irene!

Day of Prayer

Torch's annual Day of Prayer will take place on 4 June. Please note the date in your diary and perhaps you will be able to join our prayers from wherever you are!

Thanksgiving Celebration

This year the Annual Thanksgiving Celebration will be at Torch Holiday and Retreat Centre on Saturday 19 September from 2pm.

Disability Sunday

Disability Sunday is an annual day for churches to celebrate the abilities of disabled people. This year it's on 5 July. Churches for All is offering new downloadable Disability Sunday resources for use in churches. The pack includes interactive sermon outlines, a drama, resource booklet, materials for Sunday schools and more. Go to www.churchesforall.org.uk to download or, to obtain a copy in a variety of formats, phone our Client Services team at Torch House.

Staff and Volunteers

There are two vacancies for General Assistants at Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre that need to be filled urgently.

We are always looking for volunteers from across the UK to support our work with people with sight loss.

If you are interested in applying for a vacancy or volunteering please do contact us on 01858 438260 or at info@torchtrust.org. Alternatively, visit our website torchtrust.org for more details.

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Information

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 http://www.torchtrust.org/reflections 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

email: info@torchtrust.org

website: torchtrust.org

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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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Response Slip

If you would like more information about anything featured in this issue of Torch News, please do contact us by calling Client Services on 01858 438260 or emailing Torch at info@torchtrust.org. Here are some of the things you may wish to know more about:

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