Lutherans in the Twin Cities

The texture of the scriptures

Local Lutheran congregation produces Braille texts

In a miniature assembly line in the basement of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Bloomington, Minnesota, volunteers produce the books of Genesis and Revelation in Braille. The 60 volunteers at St. Michael’s are part of a nationwide volunteer network called Lutheran Braille Workers, Inc. About 7,000 volunteers across the U.S. and Canada run metal plates with the Braille dots through a roller-like press to create pages of the Bible. One might say the St. Michael’s group is like the bookends, or the Alpha and Omega, creating the first and last books of the Braille Bible.

At nearly 200 work centers around the country, other volunteers perform similar tasks, producing other books of the Bible. When all 66 books of the Bible in Braille are lined up they occupy nearly five feet of shelf space. “There’s no pocket edition,” says Violet Guderian, a retired school teacher who has been involved with the St. Michael’s group since 1990. There are at least two other Braille work sites in the Twin Cities area.

Monthly output at St. Michael’s is 90 books of Genesis (in two volumes) and 110 books of Revelation. Lutheran Braille Workers never charges for the Bibles it supplies, even though just the material cost for a complete Braille Bible is about $350. Commercially-produced Braille Bibles cost about $1,000.

The national organization, headquartered in Yucaipa, California, also produces hymnals, devotional materials, Bible studies, and children’s Bible studies. It was founded in 1943. The theme for this largely volunteer ministry is “Helping People Touch the Promises of Jesus.”

Guderian says that the Lutheran Blind Mission in St. Louis is complementary to this organization and they don’t really duplicate activities.

At St. Michael’s minimum “shifts” of seven persons work mornings or afternoons Tuesday and Wednesday and afternoons Thursday each week. There’s also a twice-monthly Tuesday “evening shift” for younger volunteers who work at daytime jobs. Many of the daytime workers are retirees, and accommodations are made for those with macular degeneration and hearing loss who are very interested in this form of ministry.

The St. Michael’s group’s brochure states:

** Braille is a ‘tactile’ language. It is designed to be read with fingers skilled in the Braille language. You can help blind people get in touch with Jesus. ** There is nothing more precious to the people of God than knowing all are included in His promise of salvation. You can help thousands of people know from God’s own Word that Jesus died and rose for them. ** …Together we serve our Lord and Savior by helping people touch the promises of Jesus.

Guderian says that announcements in church bulletins and newsletters let people know about the ministry but word-of-mouth is the most effective in recruiting new volunteers. St. Michael’s Lutheran has a budget item for costs of materials for the group working at its church. Memorial gifts and other sources help with the costs, which include special paper that will withstand running through the rollers and punching for assembly into books.

The mission of the organization is “to provide the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to the blind and visually impaired throughout the world.” Free Bibles are provided to people in over 120 different countries in more than 30 languages.

The St. Michael’s group expresses its joy in the mission with a wall plaque in its work- room quoting John 15:11: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Persons interested in the ministry, as well as the fellowship workers enjoy, may contact Violet Guderian at 952/831-6816. The national organization’s Web site is www.lbwinc.org.