TORCH
vision for people with sight loss
Torch News – Winter 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

Finding a lifeline

Torch’s new Journeying With by Phone service reaches out.

By her own admission, Rebecca has been having a tough time in the last couple of years. Facing the deterioration of her sight, along with a hip operation and treatment for clinical depression, Rebecca had started to feel lost and challenged by her situation.

Although Rebecca has the support of her family and friends, she worried that her sight loss was dominating her conversations with them, and felt wary of burdening them with too much information. When she heard about Torch’s Journeying With By Phone friendship scheme she was eager to get started, looking forward to having someone in her life who understood on a deeper level and who was there specifically to discuss her sight loss. ‘Knowing that each week somebody outside my everyday life will ring to talk to me has been so important,’ she explains.

Rebecca was matched with Christine, who is one of the first volunteers to work on the scheme following last year’s pilot runs. Christine underwent training with Torch to ensure she felt ready to work with her first client: ‘I felt privileged to do it and enjoyed my first assignment ...The prior training gave me confidence to embark upon the service, proving to be relevant and applicable.’

Changing the focus

Speaking over the phone every week gave Rebecca and Christine the chance to really get to know one another – and Christine was able to observe Rebecca’s gradual growth of confidence. She encouraged Rebecca to set herself tasks each week and report back on how they went. Over their time together Rebecca felt able to attend family gatherings and other outings.

When asked why it was so helpful to have Christine in her life, Rebecca replied that: ‘If I had a bad week I would think “look, Christine is going to be ringing on Friday” and that was so good. She was a rock. If I’d have rung a helpline instead, say, I’d have felt like more a number than a name – they wouldn’t have known I had a hip problem and was being treated for clinical depression. Although I knew it wasn’t going to go on forever, it gave me the strength to continue going on a daily basis during this time.’

Rebecca was also thrilled that the service had a Christian emphasis, remarking ‘That was the attraction of it, that it was Christian. I was aware of God’s still small voice ...I could remember what Christine had said and that was part of hearing God’s voice.’

Moving forward

Toward the end of the six months, Rebecca and Christine agreed that their calls would become fortnightly. Christine helped Rebecca to find other outlets – from going on a Moving Forward break at the Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre, to joining TorchTalk telephone friendship groups hosted by Torch, and others run by the RNIB. Rebecca felt that ‘for me it was the right amount of time. So many things have sprung from Torch and I don’t feel at all left in the lurch.’ Christine added that by the end of the six months ‘Rebecca felt she could cope now, with all the personal and professional support that has fallen into place, including the weekly Torch Talk. On reflection, when prompted, Rebecca agreed that her life and therefore our telephone conversations were “more balanced”, including so much more than just her sight loss challenges, which recently hardly got a mention.’

Rebecca was even happier to report that the service had helped her gain the confidence she needed to go out and meet someone special. ‘Love has come into my life. Knowing I’d have weekly contact with Christine settled me down so much and that helped me as I met him. She was a rock of strength in that time!’

If you’re interested in getting involved with Journeying With By Phone, or its in-person counterpart Journeying With, please do get in touch. Torch is currently building a national network of volunteers and churches to work with. For more information visit with.torchtrust.org or contact us via telephone or email.

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And now for something extraordinary ...

CEO Gordon Temple talks about current challenges and opportunities for Torch ...

After fourteen years as CEO and an involvement with Torch since my own student days, I still find myself challenged over the life experience of people with sight loss. Reading a recent survey I learned that less than a quarter of blind and partially sighted people of working age have jobs. Apart from employing a number of people with sight loss there’s very little that Torch can do about that, but there are other things that grab my attention as I meet the people impacted by sight loss. The guests who linger, reluctant to leave the fellowship and community of a Torch Holiday because at home they are lonely. The blind and partially sighted people who tell me that all the specialist services that supported them in leading full lives have been stripped away. The couple, both blind, for whom there is no local support.

Of the many excellent charities working hard to support blind and partially sighted people across the UK, Torch stands alone as overtly and distinctively Christian. And we offer something extraordinary: the love of Jesus – a love which enfolds everything we do.

With a little under forty staff we are not a big charity, but we have big ideas – a God-shaped vision. However effective the services for people with sight loss may be – helping them overcome the limitations brought on by blindness and supporting their independence – these services are not the complete answer. They are not enough. Only when the blind or partially sighted person finds their place in their community, ultimately a community of people where the love of Jesus is expressed, can we consider the job is done.

In recent years we have added new services to better respond to the needs of the people we serve, with the aim of coming alongside with Jesus´ love – particularly at the times of greatest need.

Now we aim to propagate these services across the country and join them into a flow that moves from individual support to group support, and from isolation and introspection to community and relationship, just as has happened for Rebecca in our cover story.

Doing these new things inevitably adds to our running costs and, despite savings made by streamlining our Resources work, our overall operating expenditure rises – without any corresponding rise in income.

For example, the TorchTalk telephone friendship groups, which have proved a blessing to Rebecca, are now enabling almost one hundred people to regularly enjoy some Christian fellowship, many of them leading lonely lives.

There are now thirty-five sessions each month and we have taken on a part-time staff member – Jan Turner, incidentally a blind person – to organise the groups, and recruit and train facilitators. Then there is the conference call service provider to pay too. TorchTalk alone has added costs of over £1,700 per month to sustain. On average each session costs Torch £50.

Many of the charities serving people with sight loss are doing great work but are increasingly constrained by declining government funding – nationally and locally. Our work is supported by the living God through his people. So at a time when our income has been falling short of covering our running costs I ask for your prayers for his provision to support Torch in rising to the challenge in 2017.

And if you would like to support TorchTalk telephone friendship groups then please use the response form on the mailing slip to request more information.

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Giving thanks and looking ahead

Grace Davis reports on Torch’s 2016 Thanksgiving and Open Day ...

As some readers may know, 2016 marked the start of a brand new five-year plan for Torch. The plan sees us continuing and growing our services – and always seeking God’s will at the heart of our work.

The ending of our last 5 year plan and the beginning of a new one felt like a momentous occasion; something we wanted to share with everyone connected to Torch. We decided that the best way to do this would be through our annual Open Day and Thanksgiving Celebration. It would be the perfect time to share with our clients, supporters and friends the developing vision that Torch has to support people with sight loss.

September the 17th was the agreed date and Torch House saw a flurry of activity to get it ready for our guests – it just so happened that this coincided with the renting of a portion of our premises to an outside organisation.

Implementing a strategy that sees us streamlining our resources work and growing our work with people in their communities across the UK has freed up space at our headquarters. So we have invited VASL (Voluntary Action South Leicestershire) to join us as a tenant in Torch House. Getting the offices ready for VASL was a great chance to have a real clear-out and clean-up!

Our temporarily empty upstairs office also meant that we had the luxury of designating it our ‘exhibition room’ – which we filled with displays, demos and more! The tour continued throughout the building, allowing visitors to find out a bit more about what exactly happens in each of our departments and giving a picture of how each aspect of the Torch services work in harmony together. The day also saw the launch of our new brochure – please see page 8 of this issue to get hold of a copy in your preferred medium.

Torch CEO Gordon Temple gave visitors a snapshot of the new and ongoing work undertaken by Torch in his ‘Torch in Ten Minutes’ talks, and the day concluded with a very special service of thanksgiving led by Rev Michael Heaney, Torch’s Operating Officer. Speaking at the service, Michael said ‘Torch is always reshaping to be the ministry God is calling us to be – extending its reach, offering people more of a lifelong relational experience alongside reading resources.

Torch’s shape today is very different from what it was when it began almost 60 years ago. Its ministry is increasingly nomadic and becoming more rooted and localised than centralised. But its motivation remains exactly the same – it’s distinctively and unashamedly Christian.’

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the day, whether in person or by sending prayers and well-wishes. Next year our Open Day and Thanksgiving Celebration will be taking place at the Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre in West Sussex, on Saturday 16th September – we hope to meet you there!

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New team at Torch Centre

Since May of this year a new team has emerged at Torch HRC, and we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to them all.

Aga and Kasia both come from Poland – they met and became friends after moving to England and working in Kent. Aga was looking for a new position, having worked in hospitality previously, and her journey took her to Torch. Aga and Kasia said as they went on a prayer walk they prayed for God’s peace and as soon as they arrived on the steps of Torch they felt a deep sense of that peace. A friend gave Kasia a Bible verse before her interview which said ‘Be still and know that I am God’. As she sat in the Centre’s lounge being interviewed she looked up and saw that same verse on the wall. Aga said that to her Torch ‘is a beautiful place where people can find God’s presence. In the centre of everything we do there is fellowship in serving one another and using the gifts that God has given us’. For Kasia it is working in a community where ‘you learn lessons of humbleness, forgiveness and team work. Torch is a haven of God’s peace.’

Benjamin arrived in England from Madrid in Spain and came to work at Torch in November 2015. He was aware of Torch and its work as some of his friends in his home church had volunteered when Torch was at Hallaton. Benjamin agreed that ‘you feel the peace of God all the time at the centre.’

May 2016 saw Liz join the team as Facilities Manager. She says: ‘The moment I stepped over the door I had this incredible sense of God’s presence in the place. The peace and calmness. Facilities is very much a background service ensuring the rooms are cleaned, communal areas are comfortable for guests to relax and feel at home. Praying with one another each morning joins us together as a team.’

Carol joined the team in October 2016 in the role of Assistant Centre and Holiday Leader. Carol will be helping Miriam on holidays and growing Centre bookings by churches and groups in the gaps between Torch Holidays.

This team is rounded out by Miriam the Assistant Holidays Leader and Jane the cook, both of whom started working at the Centre in 2014. Jane sees Torch as a place where ‘people arrive perhaps depressed or low and leave by the end of the week thinking life is worth living and they go on to do other things. They are given hope.’

Miriam’s role sees her spending her time planning and leading the yearly programme of exciting holidays for people with sight loss. Miriam says ‘I would summarize Torch HRC as joyful, because God has brought, and continues to bring, true joy to people’s lives through his ministry here.’

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Braille blessings in Africa

Torch’s International Leader Janet Stafford has recently travelled to Malawi, along with a container full of donations from supporters of Torch. Janet and her husband Michael report on the personal impact that Torch’s work has had on one particular blind man ...

Jack Tsankhwimbi is a blind teacher in the south of Malawi who testifies to the blessing that he receives from braille library books supplied from the sub-library in his area, which has been established by Torch:

‘To begin with, I really thank the almighty God for inspiring people at Torch House with the idea of establishing braille libraries for the blind people. As an individual, the extension of the library from the United Kingdom to Konzere and Bangula, where I manage to access books, is a big step for me to move up in my Christianity and my spiritual life. Although I have not managed to read a lot of the books from the library, these few books that I have as well as the magazines have really changed my life.

To put everything in a nutshell, the library is an essential tool which is making my visual impairment to be nothing to worry about because, even at my Church my preachings have drawn the interest of many because I am able to read using my own fingers. Internally, I know that I raise so many questions in the minds of those who listen to me, but I always thank God for allowing me to be in such a state of impairment, and I do capitalise on this to teach my listeners the love of God and the need to praise him. It is my prayer that more books should be sent to our library. In addition, I ask God to bless all the well-wishers who have always provided their donations toward the production of spiritual braille books. Lastly my special thanks should go to Sister Janet Stafford and Pastor Lapson Mbewe for their tireless efforts in preparing the library services as well as in teaching and preaching in our Fellowship Group.’

Jack has recently been promoted to the headship of a secondary school in the Nsanje area. This is a remarkable achievement for a blind man in Malawi.

In Malawi, Torch produces the braille Bibles in nine African languages and Easy English. If you would like to support our Braille Bibles for Africa fund, £4 covers the cost of a single Bible volume; £50 pays for a complete braille New Testament (14 volumes)

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The Servant Queen and the King she serves

Produced by The Bible Society, LICC and HOPE to mark the Queen’s ninetieth birthday, this book has been a smashing success! Using the Queen’s own words, this resource draws out the central role that her faith in Jesus Christ plays in her life.

After reports of great numbers of the standard print version being distributed to churches, communities and more around the UK, Torch is pleased to add that almost one and a half thousand copies have been requested in accessible formats. Breaking the numbers down, this means we have produced 533 audio CDs, 15 DAISY CDs, 159 braille copies, and 721 various sizes of large print. Altogether this means that The Servant Queen and the King she serves is one of the most requested items ever produced by Torch!

If you ordered a copy we hope you have enjoyed it, and if you haven’t read it yet there’s still time to get your accessible version now. We’re making this resource available to people with sight loss completely free of charge. To request copies in an accessible format, just call Client Services on 01858 438260 or email info@torchtrust.org

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PJ – a life well-lived

I write this a few days after learning that Peter Jackson, a giant figure in Torch’s history, has passed away during dialysis. Though saddened we celebrate an extraordinary Christian life. Peter (or PJ, as he was often called) was known to many as a blind piano tuner, to many more as a remarkable and endlessly versatile pianist, and even more as an engaging preacher and evangelist.

After first becoming involved with Torch, by starting a group in Birmingham back in 1970, he sensed a call of God to develop local Torch Fellowship Groups nation-wide. Over the next seven years he led the charge that started over 60 groups. This is an incredible achievement and a vivid testimony to his passion, commitment and energy.

The momentum that he energised continued over the ensuing years with many more groups opening right across the UK. Many of these groups continue to this day, having operated continuously for over forty years. These groups have been a lifeline to often lonely, isolated blind and partially sighted people. Many thousands have had their lives touched with more than a few finding faith in Jesus through the groups.

Torch Groups are as important now as they were in the 1970’s. For some people with sight loss they are the only outing in the month. In his later years PJ was again involved with the starting and encouragement of Torch Groups especially near his home base in South Wales.

Peter was inspired and inspirational. For him the Fellowship Groups were a work of the Holy Spirit. I believe this is as true today as when he was out on the road. And the need is as pressing and widespread as ever it was, if not more so.

His life and his ministry leave us with a challenge today. Some of the groups PJ started are in danger of closing for lack of enough volunteers to sustain them. Is God calling you to make a difference in the lives of blind and partially sighted people in your church and locality? If you would like to learn more about helping with a local Torch Group or getting something new started, call us at Torch House or indicate your interest on the response form on the mailing slip.

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Bringing out a brand new brochure

Torch is pleased to announce the launch of our brand new brochure! Covering Torch’s vision for the future, our responses to the needs of people with sight loss, and detailing all the areas in which we work, this brochure is a great way to get a clear overview of Torch – perfect for sharing with those who know a lot, a little, or nothing at all about Torch!

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A warm welcome to ...

We are pleased to welcome a number of new staff members filling some gaps vital to the work at Torch House. Paul Rhodes joins us as Trainee Production Assistant, while Rachel Lightbody and Jeanette Payne complete our Client Services team.

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Reflections Christmas Special

Join us on Christmas Day for a festive hour-long episode of Reflections Radio. Featuring seasonal stories, interviews, carols and hymns and much more, the show will air on RNIB Connect Radio at 9am Christmas morning and again in the evening. Tune in on Freeview channel 730 or online at rnibconnectradio.org.uk. More details can be found on the Torch website.

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Scripture Calendars available

Once again Torch is offering Scripture Text Calendars for the year ahead. Available in large print and braille, the calendars feature a different Bible quote for every day of the year. The format this year is slightly different which happily allows us to offer the calendar at a lower price, costing just £2.50.

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Our resources for Christmas and Advent

This year we have a free gift for you to celebrate Christmas in the form of a very special episode of Torch’s Reflections radio show. This is an hour-long festive edition hosted by Marilyn Baker. Just contact Client Services for your copy.

We are also transcribing two books especially for Advent. Both are available to borrow in braille, large print, DAISY and USB memory stick, or to buy in all formats except USB. The first is The Little Book of Advent compiled by Canon Arthur Howells; a collection of readings from some of today’s most celebrated spiritual writers. Purchase price is £4.99.

The second is Love Life Live Advent by Paula Gooder and Peter Babington which offers a prayer activity for every day of December, designed to enrich your understanding of this special season. Purchase price is £2.99.

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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 www.torchtrust.org/reflections for details of how to listen to Reflections.

Torch News Is 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

t: +44 (0)1858 438260

e: info@torchtrust.org

w: torchtrust.org

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Chair: Marilyn Baker

Chief Executive: Dr Gordon Temple

Council of Reference members: 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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