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A vision for serving the blind: Braille ministry founder passes on

January 31, 2012 No Comment

by Ian Adnams 

Frieda Fink

Family friends and members of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Elmira, Ontario gathered Saturday, January 28 to give thanks to God for the life and service of Frieda Fink, founder of Lutheran Braille Workers – Canada. She was 93 years old. For her funeral service, Frieda picked the Bible verse: “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).

In addition to her work with LBWC, Frieda served many years as the church secretary at St. Paul’s and was deeply involved with the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML). Her connections with LWML set the stage for service to the blind.

In 1969 as the president of the LWML Ontario District she attended a league Board of Directors meeting in St. Louis where she first heard about a Braille work centre in Louisiana. It sparked Frieda’s interest. A year later at an LWML convention in Louisville, Helene Loewe, then executive director of Lutheran Braille Workers (LBW), told the women about the Braille ministry. She explained how teams of volunteers in congregations create Braille copies of Bibles and send them around the world. In Frieda’s words, “That was it! I was hooked!” The thought of people with no knowledge of Braille bringing the Word of God to the sightless, was the opportunity of a lifetime. Frieda opened the first Braille Work Centre in Canada in 1974 at her home congregation, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Elmira.

Others learned of Elmira’s work centre and in 1979 Diana Lund established the second centre in Oakville, Ont. Others opened in the following years eventually growing the number to ten. The centres in Canada were branches of the US-based parent organization, but Canadian tax policy forced the Canadian offices to make a hard choice: either the six Canadian centres must close down or LBW in Canada could take a leap of faith and incorporate in Canada. Frieda and three others formed a task force to investigate how to incorporate. In October 1992 Lutheran Braille Workers – Canada incorporated as a non-profit charitable organization with its own constitution and by-laws. Frieda was president; Marjorie Kohl, vice president; Marie Hartwig, treasurer; and Mable Brown was secretary.

Current LBW-C president, Judy Obelnycki joined the board shortly after incorporation and said “Frieda became my mentor. She explained how she considers it “an honour and a privilege to have known her and I appreciated deeply her advice and support. She was a very gracious and graceful lady with a warm sense of humour.”

Today, LBW-C has eight work centres—seven in Ontario and one in Regina. The 210 volunteers produce 5000 volumes annually in such languages as English. French, Amharic, Kiswahili, Indonesian and Estonian which are sent around the world. Lutheran Braille Workers – Canada is a listed service organization of Lutheran Church–Canada. For more information go to www.lbw-c.org/ or visit the LBW-C Facebook page.


Ian Adnams is the former Director of Communications for Lutheran Church–Canada and past editor of The Canadian Lutheran.

With additional information from Judy Obelnycki, President of Lutheran Braille Workers-Canada.

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