Lutherans open more 'outreach centers for blind'

Four more “outreach centers for the blind” — in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Daytona Beach, Fla.; Detroit, Mich.; and Maplewood, Mo. — have opened in recent months, bringing to 28 the number of centers opened Synodwide since 1999.

The outreach centers, opened with the assistance of Lutheran Blind Mission, a ministry of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, are designed to assist blind people by offering such things as computer training, lessons on reading braille, workshops on topics of interest and weekly Bible studies.  They also typically offer a free dinner once a month for blind people and their families.

All are operated by LCMS congregations and involve blind members, and all but two of the 26 centers still in operation are located at LCMS churches — the others are housed on a college campus and at another Christian church.

While the centers offer practical living assistance, they are much more than just “support groups,” according to Rev. Dave Andrus, director of Lutheran Blind Mission.  Their primary focus and goal, Andrus says, is to share the Gospel with blind people, since some 95 percent of the 10 million blind and visually-impaired people in the United States are “unchurched.”

The centers, he says, “will show and speak God’s love in a way [blind people] need.”  They also are helping to “reconnect churches with people who are hurting in society.”

During a visit to the outreach center in Toledo, Ohio, in November, Andrus met Odel Walker, who had come to learn braille.  Walker, 51, has been blind all his life.

“How much Odel will learn, I don’t know,” Andrus said.  “I do know that he felt as though a group of people cared about him and for him.  He even came back the next day to the worship service.”

Andrus, who is himself blind, says he is hoping that the number of LCMS outreach centers for the blind will double within the next year because of the need for reaching blind people, who are often “hidden” from society.  There are blind and visually-impaired people in virtually every community, he said, and “most of these people are not connected to church or to God.”

Posted Feb. 2, 2004

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