TORCH
vision for people with sight loss
Torch News - Winter 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

The greatest gift of all

“People look at me, how I am coping and why I am coping - there’s one reason...God!”

Steve Prowse was diagnosed with MS five years ago. His vision and mobility have been seriously affected - he can no longer walk and has not been able to see well enough to read for the last 18 months. “It’s aggressive MS,” explains Steve, “so it’s got worse, it chips away all the time.”

It was another illness, nine years ago, that first led to Steve becoming a Christian. He was seriously ill and had lost half his body weight. “I sat there talking to God, crying quite strongly. I said to him that I wanted to die. You’ve got to be in a bad place to want that. As I was talking, I said ‘if you are real, take this from me and I promise you I’ll follow you.’ At that moment it all stopped.”

Just two and a half weeks later, Steve had regained his lost weight and was back at work. He felt convinced that God was working in his life - but, he says, it took him a little while to attend church. “It took me six months to go there! I didn’t like it at first, but later I was going every day. I loved it.”

Steve decided to become a Street Pastor, patrolling his town in aid of those who find themselves in vulnerable situations at night. Sadly, he has since had to give this up. The diagnosis of MS left him confined to the house and unable even to read the Bible - a huge loss for Steve. His prayers have recently been answered in the form of a Megavoice audio Bible supplied by Torch. “I love it, because I put it on and I feel it is speaking to me. It’s brilliant.”

Sharing in faith

Steve is working his way through the Bible, and feels that hearing it out loud has been a fantastic gift: “The truth is, the Bible is amazing! I know the Word of God in the Bible, and it’s beautiful, but the Bible comes alive when I listen to it. Having it speak to you is totally different - when you read the Bible you are concentrating on reading, but with this, you are taking it all in.” When a friend of the Prowse’s heard about Steve’s gift, she felt it laid on her heart to cover the cost of the Megavoice. Her generosity has been greatly appreciated by Steve and his wife Joan, who said, “It was amazing to see the joy in his face when hearing the Word of God again. An amazing difference in spirit and body!”

Steve is now using his audio Bible to reach others, playing sections for his visitors and for the various carers that come in to support him. He says that people are amazed by his positivity: “When things are difficult for you, it makes you need God. That’s why I’m OK. What do I have to worry about? People come round and I’m happy and they don’t know why I’m happy. The first prize if I die is to go straight up to heaven. Why would I worry?” Steve also firmly believes that he has more work to do here on earth - instead of going out into the streets, God is bringing people to him: “God can still use me.”

To purchase the NIV Bible on MegaVoice (£50 with charger, £40 without), please contact Client Services on 01858 438260 or email info@torchtrust.org

This version is read by David Suchet and is also available on DAISY audio CD (£15.99)

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Great care born out of love

RNIB Chair Kevin Carey cut the ribbon at our Holiday and Retreat Centre reopening. Here’s what he had to say on the day...

“I am very pleased to be standing here both as the Chair of the RNIB and also as a resident of Hurstpierpoint, living only 500 yards from here. Even so, when my wife Margaret and I did a tour of the refurbished building we were so impressed that we were tempted to come here for a holiday!

“When I was growing up as a blind child, life was very miserable, not only because I was blind, but also because I was driven to learn braille, to do arithmetic and to master many other subjects.

“I think you could say that I was oppressed in my childhood by professionalism. There’s a certain justification, of course, for teaching blind children to read, write and get about; and no doubt many of the people who seek assistance from Torch will want to acquire skills such as the use of computers; but that’s not the essence. What blind and partially sighted people most often need help with are a lot of small things rather than some sort of professional game-changer and this is where you excel. People who lose their sight, essentially, need three things: they need consistency so that they can form good habits; they need attention to detail, because a few inches either way and you can bang your head; and they need care, well, because we all need care, particularly when we are going through a life-changing crisis. But for the Christian it goes further. Let me say, simply, that care is simply a concrete manifestation of love. Yes, of course care is professional and precise but these are not the opposite of love because love is, in its own way, the opposite of sentimentalism.

“I would say that care born out of love constitutes service, exemplified by the Lord Jesus. You have a beautifully refurbished building, fine equipment, good professional skills, but these will be nothing if there is a lack of Christian service. You are well equipped to refresh the body and the mind, but that refreshment will be incomplete without the refreshment of the spirit.

“As Chair of RNIB, and as a Christian, I am proud to cut the ribbon to symbolise a new beginning for your work.”

Holidays Leader Gail Millar led the service at our recent Thanksgiving Celebration, held in the newly refurbished Holiday & Retreat Centre. The day was a great success and Torch would like to thank the more than two hundred people who attended and those who sent their well-wishes or prayed for the day. We look forward to welcoming many more of our friends, clients and supporters to the Centre in the future!

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A haven for people with sight loss

As 2015 draws to a close, we are finally able to take a deep breath and absorb the wonderful results of one of our largest (recent) projects: the extension and refurbishment of Torch’s Holiday and Retreat Centre. Situated in rural West Sussex, in the picturesque village of Hurstpierpoint, this building has been with us for more than forty years!

The building itself dates back to the 1860s, and was originally a farmer’s house. Over the years it has been extended, changed and used for many different things including a hospital during the war, a convalescent home, a base for the Church Army and, of course, Torch Trust headquarters for a time.

In 1997 God called a young family to what was then known as Little Torch, with a vision for what could become of it. The home was in much need of attention, development, and a fresh purpose. Gail and her family worked to create a place where people’s lives would be enriched and transformed. That vision has brought about not only a beautifully extended building specifically designed for people with sight loss, but also a programme of activities to enable, support and encourage those who are on that journey.

The Centre is a place of warmth, of welcome; a place where family values and Christian care come together to impact on peoples’ lives. “It far surpassed my expectations,” explained Phil, a recent guest on our Creativity Week, “the joy and kindness of all the staff, the food, and the organisation were the best I have ever experienced.”

Accommodating up to 28 people in a range of twin and single rooms, the Centre provides hotel-standard facilities with full board and with all activities included in the booking price. Guests Gwen and Kate said, “There is no other place like it. It is faultless; we could not wait to come back. It is spotlessly clean and everything has been thought of.”

And just because the building work is finished, doesn’t mean the Centre is standing still: the holiday programme continues to develop, with an important recent addition being a series of short Moving Forward breaks. These short breaks are tailored to encourage, equip, and enable those who are struggling with sight loss. Elfreda was a guest on one of our Moving Forward breaks and said: “It will bless you, change you, and you will have an experience like no other.” And long may that continue!

Would you like to join us?

In 2016 we have plenty of exciting holidays coming up, including our new Movie Week in October, a trip to the Keswick Convention in July, and two exciting activity holidays in July. We hope to meet you there for fun, fellowship and brand new experiences!

To find out how you can join us on an upcoming holiday, please turn to the holidays insert included with this edition of Torch News - or ring Client Services for extra copies.

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Give thanks

Torch CEO Gordon Temple looks back over the year...

At our Thanksgiving Service this September, held on the lawn of the now fully upgraded and extended Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre, we celebrated another year of God’s blessing upon Torch and our work nationally and internationally.

And we are coming towards the end of the period covered by our 5-year Strategic Plan, a plan, prayerfully formulated, which we have understood to represent God’s guidance to us... and as the years have gone by we have seen this confirmed to us in so many ways.

So our thankfulness is not just for the last year - our 56th year - but also for all the blessing we have experienced over five years. That’s not to say everything has been easy. We have been delayed and frustrated in a few areas but the encouragements enormously outweigh these factors.

Let’s just remind ourselves of what is now part of Torch’s portfolio of services and ministries that wasn’t there five years ago...

We have plenty to celebrate from the past 5 years:

Year of faith and fruitfulness

This year we have entitled our Year of Faith and Fruitfulness. Words of Jesus underpin this theme: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me will bear much fruit.”

We have moved ahead in faith, supported by prayers and gifts from many, many people, and by the efforts of numerous volunteers up and down the country. Thank you all.

We have relied on Jesus’ promise of fruitfulness and - though we realise that the sower isn’t always the one to witness the fruit - we have certainly observed the first fruits.

The most heartening thing of all is the feedback, and the messages of appreciation that confirm that we are scratching where it is itching - making a very real difference in the lives of thousands of blind and partially sighted people across the UK and around the world.

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Torch finances

Operating Officer Rev Michael Heaney reports on Torch’s financial matters...

As our financial year came to an end on the 30th September we were yet again incredibly humbled by God’s provision for the work of Torch. We have to admit being concerned through the months leading up to that time, remaining constant in prayer and trust in God. And then it started happening, as day after day we saw God’s hand at work receiving donation after donation large and small which cheered our hearts.

Donations can come in all manner of ways, and those accompanied by notes and letters were just so encouraging.

One letter accompanying a donation told us, “We have a feeling that this money is coming to you at just the right time, so we’re sending it with great grins on our faces - and I believe the Lord is also smiling!”

And one specially created card accompanied a letter:

“We are a small group of children within the Church Sunday Club. The girls place their offerings to God each week in a small teddy bear and annually are asked to spend time thinking about where they would like their offerings to be donated. Bethany said she would like to help blind people. The enclosed is to help people with sight loss grow in their Christian faith. May God bless you in the work you do.”

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

Matthew 21:16

We go forward into a new financial year, not with any significant monetary reserves, far from it, but rather seeking to remain close to God, hear his voice and see his provision. Thank you all from the youngest to the oldest for journeying with us.

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Great joy in serving Jesus

Janet Stafford writes from Malawi...

An outreach and clinic in the central region of Malawi was planned recently as there are a number of blind people there. The outreach team consisted of sixteen blind men and women, nine sighted guides, four cooks, myself and Precious (one of Lapson Mbewe’s orphan lads) to help me with the clinic. Lapson headed up the team, fulfilling the vision to see blind people ministering, not just to fellow blind people, but also within the church.

The lorry was loaded with the team, food, pots and pans and the journey commenced. What an amazing weekend! On Saturday a clinic ran from 7:00am to 6:30pm, together with a special time for the children, teaching and sharing sessions. The day culminated with an overnight time of fellowship led by a team of blind people. Forty-three blind people, four hundred sighted adults and hundreds of children gathered together for this overnight session.

We also had a service on the Sunday morning, run by the same team. The impact was truly wonderful! Many people could not believe what they were seeing and hearing. In the majority of churches the blind people and others with various disabilities are usually sidelined but here they were giving testimonies, singing, preaching, and praying.

During the service some time was spent sharing the needs of the blind people and ways in which the church could respond. People were greatly challenged and seeds of change were planted, which we believe will bring inclusion in the church of this area in the days to come for those with sight loss.

The joy of the blind people in serving Jesus was contagious and the unity of team spirit was very evident. God truly came down and blessed the village, and lives will never be the same.

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TorchTalk: for Christian friendship, support & fun

We have two new TorchTalk groups available to people with sight loss.

These are:

If you or someone you know would like to participate in these groups, or in any other existing TorchTalk groups, please contact Client Services.

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Curl up with a good book!

Publications Leader Lydia Tebbutt reports on some of the engaging new titles recently added to the Torch catalogue of accessible books, illustrating the diversity of Christian reading we can offer blind and partially sighted people...

Faith on the Streets

By Les Isaacs

11,000 trained volunteers; 11 years; 280 towns; 8 countries; 100,000 pairs of flip-flops. These are the numbers that are bringing about change, town by town. These are the Street Pastors and this is the church in action - taking its faith onto the streets.

Available for loan in braille, giant print, DAISY & memory stick, and to purchase price £12.78.*

Digging for Diamonds

By Cathy Madavan

What is hidden always shapes what we can see. Cathy Madavan encourages us to dig deeper and discover more of the life-transforming treasures of our identity, strength, character and purpose that God has already placed within us - right where we are. Cathy Madavan’s husband Mark is registered blind.

Available for loan in DAISY, memory stick, giant print, braille, and to purchase price £9.99.*

Our Annual Christmas offerings:

Our Advent book this year is Comings and Goings by Gordon Giles, published by BRF and is available for loan in braille, giant print, DAISY & USB, and to purchase price £7.99 in all media.*

Our FREE give-away this year comes from the Hayes Press and is called: “Who is better than Santa?”

This short tract is available in audio CD, braille and giant print.

We have around 60 Christmas titles - here are just a few!

The Case for Christmas by Lee Strobel - A short study book. Available in all media for loan only.

Real God in the Real World by Tristan Owain Hughes - A devotional book. Available for loan in braille, DAISY & USB and giant print and to purchase price £8.00.*

A Treasury of Christmas Miracles by Karen Kingsbury - True stories Available for loan only, in braille, DAISY & USB and giant print.

*Note: we are not currently able to offer audio books to purchase on memory stick.

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Reflections at Christmas

Don’t forget to tune in to our Christmas Special! This is an hour-long episode of our radio programme, which will be broadcast on RNIB Insight Radio at 9am on Christmas Day, and again in the evening. The show will feature lots of seasonal interviews, readings, songs and more! More details can be found on the Torch website.

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Scripture Calendars

We still have plenty of our Scripture Text Calendars for the year ahead available. They come in giant print and braille, and cost £3.50 or £10 for 3!

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How To Respond

If you would like more information about anything featured in this issue of Torch News, please do contact us by calling Client Services on +44 (0) 1858 438260. Here are some of the things you may wish to know more about:

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Information

Here to help you

Client Services: +44 (0) 1858 438260

Library: +44 (0) 1858 438266

Holidays: +44 (0) 1273 832282

Prayer Line: +44 (0) 1858 438277

Reflections: For responses to our radio broadcasts: +44 (0) 333 123 1255. Go to 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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