TORCH
vision for people with sight loss
Torch News - Spring 2016

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

A Valiant Volunteer

Caroline Vassiliou first contacted Torch Trust after hearing about us from her local church in Trentham. A Torch Fellowship Group was being set up in the area and the vicar of her church had given a talk about Torch’s work with people with sight loss. The idea of volunteering appealed to Caroline and she began to attend the group planning meetings.

Sadly, Caroline was soon to find out that she was seriously ill. Her illness prevented her from further involvement with the Fellowship Group. However, she was determined not to let this stop her from volunteering.

Finding something new

Caroline decided to inquire about opportunities to volunteer from home - at times when she was feeling well enough to do so. She talked with the Torch staff to help her to decide what role would suit her most. Caroline was then put in touch with James Brookman, Torch’s Audio Transcription Coordinator. He visited Caroline at home to train her to be a volunteer audio transcriber, a vital part of Torch’s operations. In this role, volunteers are assigned a book which will be added to Torch’s library; they then record an audio version of the book using equipment loaned by Torch.

Caroline got started on recording her first book, Mother of Malawi, which has recently been added to the Torch library. Caroline’s desire to keep volunteering was wonderful; a great example of her determined, giving personality. The audio book she recorded will now be available to our borrowers, helping to share the valuable experience of reading with those who may not have believed it was open to them due to sight loss.

A last gift

Caroline’s illness worsened and unfortunately she passed away in late 2015. However, she had one last gift to share with Torch Trust: Caroline very generously left us a legacy. Her desire to continue to support the work of Torch is greatly appreciated. We know that Caroline will be deeply missed by her friends and family, and that she will be remembered. People who never met Caroline will benefit from her giving heart, and the Lord’s love will be spread the further for it.

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Volunteering with Torch

Caroline volunteered to help Torch - twice over. ‘Without committed volunteers like Caroline,’ says Torch CEO Gordon Temple, ‘Torch simply wouldn’t be able to continue our work with blind and partially sighted people.’ Our team of volunteers are scattered around the UK, each of them providing a unique set of skills, without which Torch would be much the poorer.

We currently have an urgent need for more volunteers, so if you think that you or anyone you know might be interested in giving a few hours of their time, please do get in touch. There are many rewarding opportunities for Christian service through Torch. We are currently looking for people around the UK, to assist with, or even set up, Torch Fellowship Groups. Regional volunteers may assist with running groups, making tea, driving group participants and plenty more. We also have plenty of opportunities to volunteer at our Holiday and Retreat Centre in Sussex. Roles here include minibus driver, kitchen assistance, general hospitality and help at meal times.

Full details of volunteer positions can be found on our website torchtrust.org, alternatively you can call our Client Services team on 01858 438 260.

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Legacy blessings

Over the last ten years Torch’s income has come from donations and legacies in roughly equal measure. Such gifts are vital - without these contributions from large-hearted donors, our work would not be able to continue. We cannot thank them enough. Rev Michael Heaney, Torch’s Operating Officer, says ‘For Torch, a legacy like Caroline’s comes to us as an answer to prayer. We are grateful to Caroline, and thankful to God for the kindness of all those who include Torch in their wills.’

If you are interested in finding out more about leaving a legacy to Torch Trust, there are a number of ways to do so.

You can get in touch with Client Services on 01858 438 260, or you can email us on info@torchtrust.org. Alternatively, our ‘Support Torch’ web pages on torchtrust.org contain all the information you’ll need to make a legacy gift or a pledge. By leaving a gift to Torch Trust in your will, you assist in the important work started back in 1959. A gift of any size means so much, and every little bit helps to give real hope and blessing to those with sight loss.

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Fresh hope by telephone

Last year, Torch launched Journeying With, a face-to-face befriending service designed to support those challenged by adjusting to sight loss. We are now pleased to announce that our telephone counterpart service Journeying With by Phone is also up and running...

Our first trained Christian volunteers have been matched with clients. Offering a friendly supportive telephone call once a week, for a period of 6 months, they are a ‘listening ear’ and provide invaluable emotional and practical support at a time of crisis.

We know that sight loss can be an emotional rollercoaster, while practically speaking the list of difficulties is endless. Some describe the trauma of sight loss as being similar to a close family bereavement, with the loss of many cherished aspects of life. Our volunteers are able to journey alongside clients and offer the gift of encouragement and support on a regular basis; so that whatever they are facing, they don’t do it alone.

Here’s what Judith and Michael had to say about the benefit of telephone befriending...

‘Meeting my needs and giving me emotional support or whatever you want to call it. I had a need to process what was happening to me in my life. It’s a challenge and a struggle but I feel encouraged to persevere.’

‘Just someone ringing who has thought about you, picked up the phone, remembered your name and some of the conversation you’ve had makes you feel like you’re a person, not forgotten, and that people care. People care and there is help. I was full of trepidation at the idea of it but it has been so beneficial.’

Please do pray for our volunteers and for those that they are befriending. We hope to see a growing number of trained volunteers able to support clients in this way in the coming months, and would ask you to pray for the scheme.

If you are interested in finding out more about Journeying With by Phone please do get in touch and give Client Services a call on 01858 438260.

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Holidays with Torch!

It’s a new year and that means a whole new schedule of all-inclusive holidays at our lovely, recently upgraded and highly accessible Holiday and Retreat Centre in rural West Sussex. Here are just some of the great holidays we’re running this year...

All Torch Holidays are fully inclusive - covering all meals and beverages,

outings and activities. To find out more and read our full list of holidays in 2016, you can visit our website torchtrust.org, and click on ‘Holidays and Retreats’ in the sidebar. Alternatively you can call 01273 832282 or email holidays@torchtrust.org

March 24-29: Easter Celebration. He is Risen! Join us to celebrate Christ’s resurrection - £460

April 25-29: Memory Lane. Take a stroll down memory lane on our history themed holiday - £340

May 10-13: Moving Forward. To encourage, equip, and enable you on the next step of your sight loss journey - £220

June 27-02 July: Adventure week. Our holiday for those who want to start getting more active - £450

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2016: Year of reaching out

Torch CEO Gordon Temple reports on the beginnings of our new five-year plan, reaching from 2016 to 2020.

We are embarking on a new five-year journey. We do so with God as our guide. We’ve taken a long hard look at where we have come from, at what we are doing today and at the context in which we will be operating. The 5-year Strategic Plan: 2016-20 is a fusion of that understanding with the guidance we have sought from God.

Among the many organisations that serve people with sight loss across the UK, Torch stands out as distinctively Christian. This means that what we do is founded on the teaching and example of Jesus Christ. He came alongside those who were marginalised, vulnerable and excluded, and gave them dignity, wholeness and hope.

Committed to Community

Being distinctively Christian means that we start by recognising that every person is made in the image of God and is worthy of dignity and respect. God, who as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is community in himself. Consequently we can only find the true wholeness God intended for us in relationship to others. Torch is therefore Committed to Community in a way that is distinctive. We aim to support blind and partially sighted people to access, experience and enjoy community, especially the community centred on Jesus that is the Church. We don’t want to see anyone left lonely.

Loneliness is the greatest challenge to many who live with sight loss. It has been shown that loneliness can seriously damage your health - both emotionally and physically. We believe that wholesome relationships of mutual giving and receiving are vital to living as God intended when he made us.

To reach out with the love of God, as expressed to us in Jesus, is core to Torch’s ongoing mission and requires that we are intentional in seeking to connect with blind and partially sighted people, and people losing their sight, across Britain and around the world.

Reaching out

Since its earliest days Torch has been reaching out. Christian literature in braille, large print and audio goes to blind and partially sighted readers all over the world. Fellowship Groups, many of them running for over forty years, were started in towns and cities across the UK. International projects extended that reach to other countries and led to the founding of Torch Trust International in Malawi.

In the last five years we have extended our reach in areas of the UK through Book Groups, TorchTalk telephone friendship groups, and Journeying With ‘informed befriending’ schemes. We have witnessed the value of facilitating more face-to-face encounters, and of working with the other organisations that serve the diverse needs of blind and partially sighted people. Growing Torch’s Presence with people with sight loss across the UK, and especially at their times of greatest need, is a top priority in our Strategic Plan.

Isaiah gives us a picture for reaching out...

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. (Isaiah 54:2)

Imagine something more like the tent of the Bedouin than a modern frame tent. It’s home and a place of hospitality. The area overshadowed by its shelter is to be lengthened, making space for more family and guests. The curtains that form walls are to be flung open in welcome. The guy ropes are to be extended to allow for further growth that also requires that the stakes at the perimeter are made stronger.

Inviting people in

We certainly want to reach more people and invite them under the shelter of God’s love. It will surely be by the openness that speaks welcome and the generous hospitality that springs from the generosity of the grace we see in Jesus. It will be by extending our reach with stakes like pins on a map, linked with cords of fellowship that join up our activities across the UK and internationally.

Our awareness of the deep and diverse needs of blind and partially sighted people, and those losing their sight, has never been greater or more challenging. The need for Torch to exist and to grow has never been clearer. It is beyond us. It’s only in God that we can find the strength to rise to the challenges. We are committed to prayer and we need many others to join in that commitment.

Abraham’s faith was fired by the vision of what God would do...

For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:10)

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Bilingual Bibles bring brightness

Tibor Miklós and Grace Davis report on the good news spread over Christmas time with the MegaVoice audio Bible in Moldova...

After Tibor and Gordon Temple’s visit to Moldova in Spring 2015, Tibor, a blind church leader in Hungary, got the chance to return to the country in December. On this trip Tibor worked in cooperation with US mission World Team, and with local pastors and social workers to visit blind and other disabled people around the country. Tibor and the local church team were able to give out food and new dual-language MegaVoice players which contain the Bible in both Romanian and Russian.

Tibor said, ‘It was very good to meet with people personally. I asked them if they could read the Bible, would they want to read it?’ Tibor went on to explain that many of the people were unable to see well enough to read the Bible but had a real longing to: ‘I showed them the MegaVoice and they said what a wonderful Christmas gift it was! Now they can listen to God’s word.’

Conferences were also arranged over two days for blind people to meet together and share fellowship. ‘So many people came that I couldn’t give a Bible to everyone!’ says Tibor. He also shared a special experience he had with one Russian-speaking blind lady: ‘The lady came to me; she started to cry and asked me to give her a Bible. She was telling me that she’s stuck in her home, and this is the only hope that could encourage her. I had never seen somebody cry so sadly just because they wanted to have God’s word. When I gave to her a MegaVoice, this lady rejoiced like a child. I’m very much thankful for this ministry opportunity. It’s an honour to be a worker in God’s garden.’

Back at home in Budapest, Tibor was also able to give out MegaVoice Bibles to Hungarian blind and partially sighted people. A local church offered him a place in which to have a meeting with both blind and deaf people. ‘It was amazing to see how the deaf people encouraged us with God’s word, and the blind people were encouraging the deaf. It was a privilege to serve God in this way.’

Tibor has been working with the Bartimaeus Foundation, started in association with Torch’s long-standing friend George Iordan, from the Romanian Pro Lumina mission. The Foundation brings Christian encouragement to people with sight loss across Moldova. Tibor has also founded Lépés, a Christian organisation similar to Torch Trust, which is based in Hungary.

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The Word of God, prayers and a warm blanket

Torch has long maintained links with Nigeria, and blind church leader Bitrus Gani, via the supply of braille books to Nigerian people. Bitrus´ son, Andrew Gani, now reports from the Knowledge for the Blind Initiative in Nigeria on their activities during a recent day celebrating the skills, lives and abilities of disabled people...

Every year, the third of December is celebrated around the world as the International Day of Disabled People. In 2015 it had the global theme of ‘access for all, the right of all’. At a small but well-attended event we drew attention to the fact that in Christ we all can access quality life. The event had two speakers who shared from their experience how knowledge has helped them in overcoming the challenge of living with blindness. Mr Omotayo Gbodimowo particularly left a strong impression on all in attendance. He has an active faith in the lord, which he explained has always helped him be focused. Although he has been gradually losing his eyesight, he has never lost his drive, and so when the authorities in the university where he was schooling withdrew his admission after reaching year four out of the six year human medicine program, he didn’t let that stop him. He is now in year two in the same university studying Psychology. We installed both of them as our Knowledge Ambassadors.

The end of every year in Nigeria is known as the Harmattan season. This is a time of storms, wind and dust - challenging weather even for those living in nice warm homes. This Harmattan season we have started our

clothes bank program with a focus on providing new blankets to people who are blind. We were able to provide blankets to forty of such people living as a community in Kaduna City. Their ‘Chief of the blind’ had gotten them all together waiting excitedly. They were all wrapped around with the Word of God, prayers and a warm blanket. One lady said that the blanket would keep her and her children warm.

True quality life is found only in Christ and we continue to give this message to all those we meet, as we try to help them with their needs - from clothes, to adaptation training so they can carry on with life as a person with sight loss. Join us on our Facebook page and see how our work for the Lord is progressing at facebook.com/KnowledgeForTheBlind.

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New additions to our library

We’re constantly updating the books in our free lending library. Many of them are now also available for purchase at prices comparable to the standard print edition. Here’s a sampling of three of our great new additions! And if you’d like to join the library or find out more, do get in touch.

Love So Amazing

by Pam Rhodes

The presenter of the world’s number one religious television programme, ‘Songs of Praise’, here she brings together her meditations on 40 of her favourite hymns, reflecting on the story behind them and their meaning. Each concludes with a brief prayer.

Available to borrow in audio (DAISY & USB) and to purchase, price £9.99 (excluding USB).

John Sentamu’s Hope Stories

by John Sentamu

20 people with everyday lives, families and jobs explain how their faith gave them hope in the darkest moments. All stories are inspiring demonstrations of Christian faith in everyday action.

Available to borrow in braille, giant print, audio (DAISY & USB) and to purchase, price £8.99 (excluding USB).

Arthur’s Call

by Frances Young

Written by one of the world’s most distinguished theologians and spiritual writers, here is a book full of hope and help for all who struggle with faith in the face of unremitting suffering.

Available to borrow in giant print, audio (DAISY & USB) and to purchase, price £10.68 (excluding USB). Also coming soon in braille.

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Work with Torch

We currently have three vacancies at our Holiday and Retreat Centre that urgently need filling in time for the busy summer season.

Facility Manager

A full time, permanent position, which will involve site and accommodation management to provide a great experience to all of Torch HRC’s visitors and guests, as well as a commitment to developing the Centre’s occupancy and enabling growth to occur.

General/Hospitality Assistant x 2

Initially for 6 months and starting in summer, these are varied roles supporting the running of events and holidays at the centre. Duties include minibus driving, assisting with meals/housekeeping and acting as a sighted guide.

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Annual day of prayer

Our annual day of prayer will be held on Wednesday 1st June this year. We hope that you can join us where you are in praying for Torch.

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Scripture calendar sale

We still have some of our large print or braille Scripture Text Calendars available to buy - now at the reduced price of £2 each!

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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

Find us on Facebook

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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