Mercy Moment

Touching God’s Word

An Oklahoma congregation partners with Lutheran Braille Workers to put Braille and large-print resources into the hands of the visually impaired.

Through grassroots volunteer efforts across the United States, thousands of blind and visually impaired people receive their own copies of the Bible, in Braille or large print, each year.

One such story began back in 2022, when members from First Lutheran Church in Ponca City, Okla., were inspired to partner with Lutheran Braille Workers (LBW), a Recognized Service Organization of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), to open a new Ministry Production Center at their congregation.

First Lutheran’s youth group had the opportunity to volunteer with LBW at the 2022 LCMS Youth Gathering in Houston. The youth group’s excitement from this experience helped initiate the conversation about opening a Ministry Production Center back home.

“When we were boxing up the books [to mail out], and First Lutheran youth saw the shipping labels on the boxes for Tanzania, Kenya, Australia … they got really, really excited to see who was actually receiving the books,” said Daniel Jenkins, LBW president.

Volunteers serve at First Lutheran Church’s Ministry Production Center in Ponca City, Okla.

Then, members of First Lutheran’s chapter of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) got to volunteer with LBW at their district LWML convention. Once home, three of these members — Lynn Turnipseed, Nanette Hill and Sandy Sibley — got the ball rolling to open a center at First Lutheran.

After two years of planning, fundraising and training, First Lutheran’s own Ministry Production Center was officially dedicated on March 10, 2024.

“[Opening a center] was something everyone wanted to see happen, and everyone realized that this is really something we can do. It’s manageable, straightforward about what it will cost, and it will make a real difference,” said the Rev. Joseph Highley, pastor of First Lutheran. “People who are blind will now have the Bible who didn’t before.”

Once the congregation decided on a room to house the center, LBW sent them a Braille printing press. Soon after, a staff member visited to train them on how to use it.

In their first two months of bookmaking, the church’s volunteers met their goal of making 46 copies of The Book of Favorite Hymns, which will be sent to a school in West Africa.

LBW’s unique volunteering model greatly reduces the cost of producing Braille Bibles and other Christian books and devotional materials. Hundreds of Ministry Production Centers operate across the country. In 2023 alone, LBW volunteers produced close to 180,000 Braille and large-print books, which will be distributed for free to blind and visually impaired people all over the world.

“Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of book orders waiting to be fulfilled because the demand is outpacing our supply,” Jenkins said. “This is why our volunteers are so critical.”

What’s more, anyone can volunteer. Members of First Lutheran hope that in the future, other congregations, youth groups, LWML groups and people from the community will start coming to volunteer at the center.

“This is such a real, tangible way to put our faith in action,” said Highley. “And Braille makes people able to literally touch and feel God’s Word.”

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Sarah Reinsel

Staff writer and editor for LCMS Communications.

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