Blind World Magazine

Blind faith in an international ministry.

San Luis Obispo Tribune, California USA.
Sunday, April 09, 2006.

In a small room tucked behind a preschool at a Paso Robles church, six volunteers have formed an efficient human assembly line.

They deftly push thick, silky ivory paper into zinc plates, run the plates through a wooden press and organize the bumpy, Braille-stamped pages into books.

The books are titled "Deuteronomy," "Jeremiah" or "Good News," a devotional book.

They are stacked in cardboard boxes marked Mitabali village, South Africa, or Katsma, Nigeria -- the homes of blind people who may not have access to religious materials in Braille.

"It's wonderful for the people we send the material to and wonderful for the people here," said Thelma Friedrichs, who coordinates a group of about 65 workers at Trinity Lutheran Church.

The church is one of at least two in San Luis Obispo County and one of 200 workstations nationwide that produce Braille Bible chapters and devotional materials in more than 30 languages to send to more than 120 countries around the world, free of charge.

Half a dozen volunteers work at Peace Lutheran Church in Arroyo Grande.

"I feel I am doing something for these people through the Lord," said Ursula Lorenz of Pismo Beach, one of the program's coordinators. "Since they aren't able to read the Bible themselves, these books are a ministry to them from us."

The Arroyo Grande volunteers work Monday and Tuesday mornings in a room in the church's educational facilities. Many of the books they produce are shipped to Africa.

The churches receive orders each week from Lutheran Braille Workers Inc., which was founded in 1943 to fulfill the spiritual needs of people who are blind or otherwise visually impaired.

"There's a big need," said Jan Fisher, the organization's executive assistant. "We get orders for Braille and large print daily -- about 180 orders last week."

The Yucaipa-based organization sends labels, boxes and paper to the churches, which produce the books and ship them worldwide.

The Paso Robles volunteers' equipment takes up most of the space in a room, which was set aside specifically for the Braille workers when the church constructed a new facility in the early 1990s.

Cabinets line one wall; one holds dozens of folded cardboard boxes, another thousands of sheets of paper.

The group punches 5,000 sheets of Braille each week.

Their work is steady but quiet. On the wall hangs a walking stick, a tribute to Ed Iversen, who was blind but punched Braille daily with the group since it was founded.

"When you get to my age, you have to keep busy," said 89-year-old Glenn Muggelberg, Camp Roberts' first National Guard Post commander, who volunteers one hour a week. "It's making a contribution."

Cynthia Neff can be reached at 781-7935.

End of article.

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