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Picture of Founder John Erickson and Guide Dog

The beginning of the Braille Evangelism endeavor dates back to July 7th, 1937, when John Erickson gave a talk at Zion Lutheran Church, Warroad, Minnesota, where he had just resigned after serving 10 years as lay pastor. In his mind since way back in Seminary days in Rock Island, Illinois, in 1926, namely, that there was a real need for Christian literature in the embossed type. An offering was taken for the cause that he presented, which amounted to $6.11. The Erickson's, together with their 3 little children, headed out in their house trailer, presenting his messages in many churches in northwestern Minnesota. The response was quite gratifying, and sufficient funds were gathered that summer to pay for Brailling Hallesby's Under His Wings, 100 copies at a cost of about $400. Copies were given free to blind who desired this book, and also placed in Government Lending Libraries for the blind throughout the country. They continued going out speaking in behalf of Braille Evangelism from time to time even though John had accepted a call to serve the Holmes City Parish, and even later, when they took up work in Big Lake, Minnesota.

In 1948 John resigned from the Big Lake parish and moved to Dassel, Minnesota. to help Reverend Philip Leaf, and Erma his wife worked in the church office, From time to time they went out on speaking tours and Reverend Leaf and his Church Board gladly paid their salary even if they were gone for a week or two at a time. After 9 months of serving there they felt led to devote full time to speaking in behalf of Braille Evangelism, because receipts at meetings were sufficient not only to pay them a small salary, but also to have more titles Brailled. They moved to Scandia, Minnesota where they had their headquarters for a couple of years spending more and more time on speaking tours.

That summer, 1949, Reverend. Stewart Dale, head of Ephphtha Mission for the blind and deaf at Faribault, Minnesota, contacted the Ericksons about the need of more Christian literature for the blind. They drove down to see him, and decided to pool their interests, and The Christian Lending Library for the Blind was established upstairs in the Ephphtha church, Books were added from time to time and were loaned free to blind readers in many places.

In the meantime, because we wanted some organization to sponsor the work, friends of the Ericksons from several Synods of N.L.C. gathered in the spring of 1952 to consider this matter, and after several meetings The Lutheran Braille Evangelism Association (LBEA) was organized at Bethesda Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, June 14th, 1952, Reverend, Trevor Sandness, then pastor at Epiphany Lutheran Church, Minneapolis (United Lutheran Church in America) was chosen at first president, and John as promotional director.

They had been sending out Christian tracts in Braille from time to time to the blind, and in 1954 it was decided to publish a monthly Braille magazine, The Tract Messenger, while they were sending the Braille tracts they were preparing them for mailing in their own home, having run them off on a Perkin's Press. Their daughter, Eunice, helped them out with this work.

Moving the Lending Library from Faribault to Minneapolis was undertaken in 1955, More titles were brailled and Talking—book Records were added. The mailing list was increased, and more help was needed. So Reverend Dale was with them for a year, but it was soon realized that the LBEA treasury was not sufficient to carry the extra load. He therefore accepted a call in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. But, while he was with the Erickson's, he got the Christian Magnifier, a large print monthly, started, and was first editor. This kind of a publication met a real need, as there are so many older folks with slightly impaired vision.