Introducing the Torch Trust

Torch Trust

Author: Tim Jeffery

Let me introduce you to David.

Around four years ago he very suddenly lost the sight in one eye. No warning, it just stopped working. Investigations found a rare condition and David was assured that it was very unlikely to happen in his other eye. They were wrong. A year or so later, David woke up one day completely blind and will never see again.

He was found a place in a care home that has some capacity for those with sight loss. The adjustments he has had to make are mind-boggling. Prior to this happening, he had been living happily at home, attending his local church and was a volunteer for Torch Trust. David  has a lovely speaking voice and over many years has recorded over 500 Christian audio books for Torch to distribute to our thousands of blind and partially sighted friends.

Having blessed so many people with sight loss over the years, David now found himself reaching out to Torch for help as a blind person himself. I had the privilege of meeting David on one of Torch’s holidays, specially designed for those with sight loss. What an inspiration he was to me and to so many others. Despite the many struggles and adjustments, David’s faith in a loving, present God shone through as he described how he was coping and the amazing attitude he has to his circumstances.

David’s situation is at the more extreme end of the spectrum. Every day in the UK, 250 people are given the life-changing news that they are losing their sight. The vast majority are over 70 and have some form of degenerative eye condition. Whilst the medical services available to them and some of the practical support received from social services and local charities are generally pretty good, only 17% are offered any kind of emotional or psychological help. That’s where Torch Trust comes in. Our calling is to support people living with sight loss, helping them to encounter Jesus, to find support, a sense of belonging and to grow in their faith.

One of the things we do to help people with sight loss encounter Jesus, is to offer anyone with sight loss in the UK a free audio Bible player. The first thing we did, when we first received samples of these players, was to have several blind and partially sighted people trial them for us.

One chap came into our office at great pains to point out that he was not a Christian and didn’t believe in God. After being shown how to use the player he sat and became engrossed in listening to David Suchet read parts of the New Testament to him. When asked by one of our team how he was getting on, he told them to shush and remarked that he could listen to that all day! In the two years since we launched this scheme. we have sent Pathway Bible players to over 1,200 people and the stories coming back are so encouraging. Here’s a small sample:

“She is delighted with her Bible player and phones her friends and relatives and plays the Bible verse to them down the phone.”

“Thank you so much for sending my father your Pathway audio bible player. He is thrilled to bits, after two days  he has already listened to the gospel of Matthew.”

If you’re reading this and you are someone, or know of someone, who is struggling with their sight and would like to have a free audio Bible then do ring us on 01858 438260 or follow this link and we’d love to bless you or them in this way.

Torch Trust began over 60 years ago when our founders met some blind young people who came to their Bible study group but had no access to braille Bibles. Ever since then,  a central element of Torch’s work has been to produce Christian literature in a variety of accessible formats. We produce Bible reading notes, Christian books, Christian magazines etc in braille, large and giant print and audio. We have a library of Christian books that people can borrow and can produce books to order. Our driving philosophy is that people with sight loss should have the same access to great faith-building materials as those who are sighted – and at the same price! It can cost us hundreds of pounds to produce a new braille book when someone orders something new but they’ll pay the same price that a sighted person would pay for a mass produced version. How do we manage that? By the faithful, generous support of the many people who partner with us to keep this ministry going.

Just recently our Christian literature work has ramped up to a whole new level. In October, Torch took over the production of braille Bibles on behalf of Compass Braille. Working through Bible Societies in many countries, Compass sends thousands of braille Bibles in 55 languages around the world. New languages are being transcribed into braille every month so that blind people can have access to the amazing Word of God in their heart language. What an amazing ministry and what a privilege for Torch to be expanding in this way.

There’s so much more I could tell you about Torch. But more than all of this, what has most struck me as a sighted person working alongside people with sight loss, is just how amazing human beings are! I have been quite literally awestruck by the things that people with little or no sight are able to do. I think of one of our trustees who is completely blind and has to catch four trains to get to a Board meeting – on his own! It has been such a blessing to see how people who have lived with sight loss for some time are able to come alongside and encourage those who are just losing their sight. Sight loss brings many challenges, but there is help available and more importantly, there is hope in a God who knows each of us and walks with us through all the trials of life.

Tim Jeffery is the outgoing CEO of Torch Trust. We’re delighted to work with Torch to equip those ministering among older people who are people living with sight loss. To find out more about Torch and the resources they offer please visit their website.