Larry Pitcher
President

The Seventh-day Adventist Church owns 56 publishing houses. But Christian Record Services (CRS) is unique.

CRS operates standard publishing house equipment such as offset presses, paper cutters, folders, collating equipment, a high-speed insertion machine, and so forth. In addition, CRS operates three Braille presses, special collating equipment, and finishing equipment for its Braille publications.

The CRS production department has the look, feel, and inky smell of a typical high-tech pressroom. It stands alone, though, in producing Christian reading material designed for blind and visually impaired individuals.

More than 50,000 children, teens, and adults in 75 countries receive one or more CRS publications each year. To meet the needs of the blind, CRS employs about 160 people in the United States and Canada.

"Ministry to the blind--not printing--is Christian Record Services' primary business," asserts Harold Baptiste, a General Conference vice president and CRS board chair. As the church's official ministry to blind people, CRS staff have one central purpose--to help the blind see Jesus. As a result, tens of thousands of blind and visually impaired people have met Jesus through 106 years of ministry.

"This Discover Bible course [the CRS Braille edition] has helped me understand and believe in God because it explains how and why Jesus came to earth," Janet Barnard shared recently in a letter. She went on, "It explains how the stars were made. . . . The way it is explained makes me feel loved and wanted, and sometimes I don't feel that way. The lesson makes me feel like I fit in. It's a nice, wonderful, and God-made feeling. Thanks for sending me this lesson. I love God and the lessons very much."

Christian Record Services employees and volunteers provide eight specific ministries for blind people:

Available to blind people worldwide:

1. Subscription magazines in Braille and large print (in English).

2. Study guides published in Braille and large print and available on the World Wide Web that help blind people find the truth about Jesus as Friend and Savior.

3. A Web site that provides worldwide access to CRS English and Spanish publications for blind people (www.christianrecord.org).

Available to blind people in North America:

4. Full-Vision books that combine Braille and large print with an audio CD, enabling blind parents to read to their sighted children and sighted parents to help their blind children learn
to read Braille.

5. The CRS lending library, which maintains more than 2,000 books in Braille and on audiocassette.

6. National Camps for Blind Children/Adults (NCBC), which operates throughout North America providing life-changing experiences for thousands of blind campers.

7. CRS scholarship assistance, which provides cash assistance on a limited basis to blind young people enrolled in college.

8. Personal visitation of blind people in the North American Division by skilled CRS representatives.

Something else, unique at Christian Record Services, is a new coordinating position for these various outreach ministries. David Klinedinst, CRS personal ministries director, directs CRS volunteers in their special visitation ministry to blind people. He supervises NCBC camp pastors and provides local church disabilities coordinators with information about CRS publications and services. In addition, Klinedinst helps train CRS representatives in relational ministry for blind people and supervises the CRS Bible School.

"The purpose of CRS personal ministries is to nurture the kind of relationships that will connect blind people to the local Seventh-day Adventist church," explains Pastor Klinedinst.

Set Apart
One of the ministries that sets Christian Record Services apart is its National Camps for Blind Children/Adults. These two dozen camps span North America and each year challenge blind campers both physically and spiritually. That is what Ashley found when she attended NCBC camp at Yorktown Bay in Arkansas. Ashley's badly blurred and limited vision was complicated by neuropathy, which impeded her muscle control. So Ashley arrived at camp with her walker and wheelchair.

Following her parents' suggestion, camp staff challenged her to be active. Ashley accepted the challenge and attempted almost everything. She rode horses, scaled the climbing wall, enjoyed canoe rides, and played in the water.

"She was definitely an inspiration to the other campers and to the counselors, too," said CRS representative Norine Westerbeck.

Two special strengths of the NCBC camping program combined to help Ashley. First, she had the opportunity to try activities she previously considered impossible. This helped to build her self-confidence. Second, she was encouraged by CRS staff who live God's love. At each NCBC camp a pastor presents the love, goodness, and truth of Jesus to the campers. Since the founding of NCBC camps in 1967, these two characteristics have combined to change the lives of 46,579 blind and visually impaired people who have attended these camps.

The story of Revvy illustrates how CRS publications and services combine to influence blind and visually impaired campers to join the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The love of Jesus has a powerful effect, often causing a chain reaction.

After the Holy Spirit convicted Revvy that Jesus' sacrifice was for him, he requested baptism. Like all who are eager to learn about Jesus, Revvy spent time in Bible study prior to his baptism during NCBC camp at Broken Arrow Ranch (Kansas) in 1997. But he chose to be baptized at camp rather than at his local church because he wanted to influence his friend Rocky.

It worked. Three years later, during the summer of 2000, Rocky decided to be baptized. He too wanted to witness through his baptism to his friend Paul. The chain reaction continued during NCBC camps at Broken Arrow Ranch. Four years later, in 2004, camp pastor Richard New, from Omaha, Nebraska, baptized Paul.

Integrating Blind people Into the Church
How can church members help blind people see Jesus? Another special function of Christian Record Services is to help integrate blind people into their local churches.

"A lot of times blind people feel shut out of churches," says Donnie Brown, a Seventh-day Adventist man who is blind. "So the opportunity to worship in church is not always there. Some church members make us feel like we are dumb, possibly deaf, and retarded. Because of the stereotypes society has of blind people, there is not always the opportunity for blind people to learn about Jesus Christ." Christian Record Services representatives help change this situation by educating church members on how to be at ease with blind people.

Not Just North America
The special ministry of Christian Record Services to blind and visually impaired people is not limited to North America. Each year thousands of blind people worldwide read CRS Braille publications.

For example, Jamlick Kirimi Nyamu wrote from Kenya to Christian Record Services Bible School director Maria Butler. He explained that he loves CRS large-print publications. First he started studying the Life and Teachings of Christ Bible course. Recently he sent in his answers to lesson 26 of the Discover Bible course.

In giant letters Mr. Nyamu wrote, "I have completed the Discover Bible lessons and I want another more Bible courses in large print. I'm so most interested to learn more about the Bible from the beginning of Genesis up to last book of Revelation. I want to know more of the whole truth of the Bible. I have made the Bible to be my very valuable book and my essential basic book to instruct me and guide [the] whole of my life."

Cassie Martsching, a CRS editorial assistant, received this note from Michael Kofi Kumah, from Ghana: "I have received the [large print] books sent to me and I wish to show my appreciation. I really thank the donors and those that made it possible for me to have them for free.

"I have read the first four books and found out they are gems indeed. . . . Thank you, and may God richly bless you and the Christian Record organization."

Whether the publication is in Braille or large print, in audio or Web based, the workers for blind and visually impaired people at Christian Record Services seek to help blind people see Jesus. We expect that when Jesus comes, His face will be the first these children of God will see. Then the vision of these dedicated CRS workers will be literally fulfilled--blind people will see Jesus in all of His power and glory.



 
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