Dear friends & supporters,
You are truly amazing and we thank you.
Since you and I began this journey of restoring sight to the blind and furthering the gospel in Togo, we have touched more lives than I had ever imagined. Even if you have only given $150 in the life of Sight.org, there is a person in the world who was blind that can now see because of you. It may be someone who is now able to work, or a child who can now go to school. If it were not for your selfless act of reaching out to make a difference, someone in Africa would very likely have remained blind to this day and for years to come. You would have never given to Sight.org if you didn’t have a heart for others, and this characteristic in you is something the world longs to see.
You have been generous, and the world is a better place thanks to you!
Through your support, the team has been growing in tremendous ways. We’re finding that even though we are performing eye surgeries and sharing the gospel, the greatest thing God is calling us to do is to love. Every time I go to Africa, I’m hearing God telling me that my job is to love and his job is to heal. And as a result of simply loving others, I’m seeing healing in the lives of others that far surpass what I have ever seen.
On my last trip to Africa, we went to visit a new house church that we planted a few months prior. Everyone is a new convert, and we spent the majority of each day doing church, praising, worshiping, and reading from the Bible, and throughout, we would take prayer requests. On the second day, we asked the group if they had testimonies to share. This question was brought up every day, and every day we received reports of miracles! To my knowledge, God answered every single prayer that the villagers requested! From physical healings to relational healing, God was moving in such tangible ways that the missionaries (me included) were taken by surprise! As a result, a buzz went across the village of news that this little group of Christians was hearing from their God. It was amazing in ways that I cannot describe.
I have never seen a group of new believers so excited to be Christians.
Here is one of my favorite examples of an answered prayer: A lady requested prayer for her son’s return home. He had been gone for four years. She had no idea where he had gone, she had no way of contacting him, and she didn’t even know if he was alive. The following Tuesday, guess who came into town? That’s right, her long lost son! He took three days traveling across three countries to return to his mother. After four long years, her son was finally home!
As we look back over 2016, we are so thankful for supporters like you.
Last year, we performed 450 eye surgeries. The transformation of a blind person being able to see is enormous. But what I’m finding is that the transformation through surgery doesn’t hold a candle compared to the transformations we are seeing in people who have had an encounter with God. I would like to further express the power of love through the testimonies of the following stories of Jeanaway and Malibow. For each of them, we asked God to show us how to love these two people. We knew little of what to do, but we knew that if we could love these two people, God would do the rest.
Jeanaway was seventeen years old and had been blinded by cataracts since he was seven. We immediately checked his eyes, and afterward, we asked if we could pray for him. He said that no one had ever prayed for him before, and after we prayed, he gave his life to Christ. A week later, we performed eye surgery on Jeanaway. But since then, he only wants to talk about Jesus. Months later, everyone who knew Jeanaway before has expressed that he is unrecognizable compared to who he was before.
Today, Jeanaway is a man of deep conviction whose calling is to pray for others.
People are traveling far to receive prayer from Jeanaway, and many are leaving the local witchcraft traditions as a result of his prayers over them. This is the Jeanaway we have always known, but Jeanaway tells us a darker past. Jeanaway loves to tell us about the man he was before, as he rejoices at the transformation God had made in his life. Jeanaway tells us that he tried to end his own life by drinking poison…twice. Good people stayed away from him, and bad people were attracted to him. Every time he could get ahold of money, he would spend it all on alcohol.
By his own words, he was living for hell, but now, Jeanaway says he is in paradise.
Jeanaway asked that I shared this message to others: “If I can say anything to people who have lost hope, tell them the history of my life and say, if you go and wait for Jesus, your life will change like how God changed my life. Don’t lose hope because Jesus loves you.”
Malibow is a young lady I met a few months ago who joined a house church that we started in her village. Malibow has epilepsy, and at one point an episode caused her to severely burn part of her face. Sadly, people in Malibow’s situation are often treated as outcasts in rural African society.
When I saw her for the first time, she was drenched in shame. At the time, she kept her head down and couldn’t even look us in the eye. But over the course of these few months, God has done a major work in Malibow. Before, I refrained from taking photos of Malibow due to her emotional condition, but now, it’s a different case.
These days, she is glowing! She is a star member of our church, and every time she prays, tears start raining down her face. I feel like these pictures speak for themselves!
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and know that you are a big reason why all of this was possible. These testimonies are being shared to hurting people throughout Togo thanks in large part to your support! You are doing a wonderful thing, and we are very grateful for you!
God is so good.
After performing eye surgeries, we returned to the region to share the gospel and plant house churches. In every village we went to, we found many happy people whose sight has been restored, and we found big smiles and warm hospitality everywhere we went.
In one of these villages, we planted a new house church with 20 to 30 new believers in Christ.
And the coolest part about it? They accepted Christ just a few days before!
After the new Christians accepted Christ, we asked them to meet us the following day. At that time, we got to know the new believers and asked them to identify who we call “The Person of Peace” as described in Luke 10. The person of peace is someone who the group identifies as the respected, trusted and responsible person from the village.
In one accord, the entire group pointed to one lady. This lady accepted the responsibility of managing an audio Bible that we gifted to the group. She will coordinate weekly meetings to listen to the audio Bible followed by open discussion. From now on, pastors and ministers from Sight.org will return to that village to continue in discipleship.
And one day, we hope and pray that they will grow to a point that they are prompted to reach out to the surrounding villages to further the gospel and start more house churches. Honestly, watching a new church come together like this is the most beautiful thing ever. I would love to do it every week of the year, and I don’t think I would ever get sick of it. It’s simply too amazing to describe.
We saw amazing restoration in many people, and one of my favorite stories of restoration was in one of our new sisters in Christ. With our volunteer nurse, Rachel, this ministry week began with offering basic medical care for those in need.
During that time, many came with very sad conditions. One lady suffered from epilepsy, and one of her episodes led her to fall into a fire where she severely burned her face. Sadly, this is very common for people with epilepsy in Africa, and such people are often treated as outcasts. In her own words, she had no one.
Deep hurt and shame was plainly seen in her eyes. People like this often hear people say bad things to them. She hears that she is cursed, a nobody, and much worse. I asked some of our team to pray over her with me. We began, and the tears ran down her face. It’s hard to describe, and I have only seen it a few times with this level of clarity, but it was very clear to everyone praying that God was bringing major restoration in her life. To the point of convulsion, she wept throughout the five minutes we prayed over her. Then, when it was all over, joy was all over her face. At that moment, she had received Christ.
The next day, she came to our first church service. She was in the back corner, looking up and praising God. Before, she was drenched in shame, and now, she is restored. One of our pastors went to talk to her, and she explained that something happened during our prayer, and that she knows that her life is forever changed. It’s so clear to see a life restored by God. As I looked into her eyes, it was like I was looking at a totally different person. God is so good.
God is so good.
I am writing you this letter while on the mission field in Togo, Africa.
When I arrived on August 10th, I traveled directly to our team. They were already prepared and ready to perform cataract surgeries the following day. As the surgeries began, I found myself as a spectator observing a well oiled machine. Everyone on the team had become masters of their individual positions, and they performed 62 surgeries in three days.
We have a beautiful video of a daughter watching her father as he reads the eye chart. Our missionaries said she was WEEPING with JOY, praising God that her father could see again!
I am so impressed with this team. Even though they serve the blind throughout the year, they serve with as much compassion as they had when they first began.
After surgery, the team danced and rejoiced with the patients who had their sight restored. Then they wept as people praised God and shared their testimonies of freedom and restoration. You can seen a video of this rejoicing during our “Celebration of Sight.”
Today, we did eye screenings and were able to schedule 54 surgeries for next month. God continues to bring a constant flow of needs to us and we plan to serve until they stop coming.
As I am writing this, I’m watching our team and our volunteer nurse, Rachel, serve the people in the community around our headquarters. Rachel is offering consultation to villagers who have never seen a doctor, while performing minor treatments as we are able.
We are even finding cases that we believe is likely syphilis. This is a terrible disease, but with modern medicine, it is easily treatable. We sometimes find families that have passed this disease down three generations, and sadly, they don’t even know they have it. We will be taking the patients we are seeing today to a Catholic hospital tomorrow for syphilis testing and treatment.
Next week, we will be going out for a ministry outreach in the same villages where we performed eye surgeries a week ago. While performing ministry activities, we will also perform minor medical treatments and consultation like we are today.
I have to say, eye surgeries are much easier for me to handle than the type of health care we are offering today. For our eye surgery program, we are either able to perform the surgeries or not. But when offering to help in other areas, it’s not always so easy.
Just moments ago, I had to pause while writing this letter to join the team to pray for a lady with advanced cancer. I wish there was a program here that we could refer her to, but we know that it doesn’t exist here. At times, we are able to cure a disease like syphilis, and at other times, we can only offer our love and prayer.
Regardless of what we are able to offer, we are very grateful to God and our supporters who enable us to stand before these people today. It is extremely sobering when we are confronted by such need. It makes us feel very small in a big world of suffering.
We are so grateful for our supporters. What you do is very important.
Extending Christ’s healing hand,
Jeanaway is an incredibly funny and outgoing seventeen-year-old boy.
I can only communicate with him through translators, as he only speaks the local dialect. But somehow, every time Jeanaway has something to say, all of those around begin to role with laughter. Jeanaway is certainly outgoing, but he has a difficult life compared to many of those around him. Jeanaway’s livelihood is in farming, and he has been almost totally blind since he was 7 years old.
For the last 10 years of Jeanaway’s life, he could hardly make out objects within an arm’s reach away, and he could not see anything with detail.
So for Jeanaway, being almost totally blind, his life as a farmer has been a big challenge. One day, I even received news that he was being kicked out of his home because he could not repay $1 that he had borrowed to pay for a pair of flip-flops. I cannot imagine living in times that are so tough that I’m $1 away from being homeless. But for Jeanaway and many of the blind we serve, this is his reality.
One day, I had the honor to lead Jeanaway to Christ; and it became very obvious very quickly that God was moving in him in a big way.
It’s clear in scripture that the growth of a Christian is not up to the one who introduces him/her to Christ, but it is God who gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:7). So neither I nor my own righteousness can take credit for Jeanaway’s growth…and thank goodness for that.
But as a new Christian, I was amazed to see Jeanaway blossom unlike anyone I have ever seen.
He radiates Jesus to everyone around him. I gave Jeanaway an audio Bible, and within 3 days he had finished the 4 gospels and 20% of the New Testament, and within a few weeks, he had likely finished the entire New Testament. I have never seen someone so engaged with the Bible. He would describe chills going through his body when he would hear about Jesus’ ministry, and within a few days we were having theological discussions.
After coming to Christ, there was virtually nothing else Jeanaway wanted to talk about.
Within days of being a new Christian, Jeanaway was explaining symbolic dreams and a vision (while blind) that was so overwhelming that he described it as “terrifying” (which aligns with the reaction most people have in the Bible when they are confronted by God’s glory). The messages of each were symbolic, and each gives the impression that Jeanaway will do big things for Jesus.
After watching Jeanaway burn for Jesus for about a week, we were able to put Jeanaway through a cataract surgery. The surgery was a success and Jeanaway was able to see for the first time in 10 years!!!
Up to this point, Jeanaway only wanted to talk about Jesus. But after receiving his sight for the first time in 10 years, there was a part of me that wondered if the conversations would change to wanting to describe his new life with physical sight…but it didn’t. Jeanaway never skipped a beat. You would have never thought that Jeanaway was blind for the past 10 years, because even after having his sight restored, all he wanted to do was talk about Jesus.
Since I left Togo, Jeanaway has joined our team of evangelists. Despite being a new believer, I’m already hearing stories of Jeanaway leading people to Christ. Jeanaway has encountered his perfect Father for the first time, and all he wants to do is lead others to Him.
The hardest part of our job is telling a patient they will never see again.
There are times when a patient comes to us and their eyes are beyond repair for various reasons. When this happens we give the patient to our prayer team.
This week, during eye screenings, one such patient came to the attention of our Medical Team.
Jeanaway knows that Christ is the Great Physician! In the video below, he is the one on the left praying over this patient. We know that you will not be able to understand what he is saying since he is speaking in Ewe, but surely you can feel the presence of God through his prayer. Please join us in praying for this patient. It is truly heartbreaking for them to hear that they cannot have surgery. But we serve a mighty God!
You can also watch Lewis’ story about Jeanaway on this video.
The evening sun was finally out and the breeze seemed to cool the heat of the day.
After another day of the heat, the evenings were something to look forward too. I have been to Africa four times and this was by far my hardest trip. I’m not sure why, given that I have always liked the excitement and adventure of Africa. But this trip wore on me a little more then usual.
One hundred degree heat, no air conditioning, food challenges and no running water for a few weeks took their toll.
These things that would typically not bother me or at least bother me less but they seemed to just dampen my spirit and ultimately twist my outlook. But one thing was for sure, the children were always happy to see us and thankful that we came.
And one child in particular would come to steal my heart and put things in perspective.
The children always arrived in the evening to either kick around a ball, blow bubbles or just see what we were up to on the farm. We organized a game of Duck Duck Goose, which all the kids found very entertaining. And then I saw him, covered in dirt like most of the other children, clothes that were dirty and worn with holes and little flip flops that barely stayed on.
But unlike the other children he was severely malnourished and the whites of his eyes had a yellow hue.
He did not look well. When it was his turn to be the “Goose” he barely made it around the circle before he collapsed to the ground, out of breath and fleeting energy. This was not a boy that could play with children his own age. He gashed his knee and without a tear he let me clean and bandage his wound. I would soon find out that little time had been taken in this young boy’s life to nurture and care for any of his bumps and bruises. Intent on finding out more about this boy, I asked to find out who he was and where he lived.
His name was Chris and it turned out that he lived in the neighboring village with his grandmother.
I asked if I could meet his grandmother and invited them to stay for dinner. His grandmother arrived, a frail woman in brightly colored clothing and a walking stick. She was skin and bones. This explained why Chris looked so malnourished. The grandmother was malnourished too. The more I learned about Chris, I wondered how he had made it this far in life.
Diagnosed with Sickle Cell Anemia as an infant, he was then taken to a witch doctor who did a horrific treatment to try to “bleed out the bad blood” and left about thirty scars on his stomach. He also told Chris’ parents there was no cure and to just let him die.
His family left him with the grandmother and carried on with life without him. He never saw another doctor or received any treatment during this time. He was now ten years old but looked more like he was seven.
The grandmother agreed to let Chris come back morning and evening to be fed.
In the beginning he could only take a few small bites but as time went on his appetite grew and so did his personality.
After two short weeks, this boy with little expression now started to smile.
We spent the next few weeks going to doctor’s appointments, feeding him, playing with him and building a relationship. Its not to say that he wasn’t given love by his family. It was obvious that his grandmother cared for him the best she could, but I am sure he experienced many feelings of neglect and rejection from his parents who relinquished their care of him for reasons we may never understand.
He became my little buddy.
He would smile as our van would drive up to the farm and he would often arrive first thing in the morning, long before I woke up, to have breakfast together. The boy who had trouble eating more then a few bites in the beginning was now eating more than most of us would put on our plate for one serving. We started him on folic acid and Vitamin B12 and started him on a plan where a doctor would see him once a month. The first appointment we went to, he sat on my lap as we got the news from the doctor regarding his blood work and the progression of this disease.
Because Chris had not received treatment during the course of his life, several organs had been damaged and the doctor felt that he would not survive as long as those who had had treatment. He had a life expectancy of eighteen.
Had I known these would be the words that would come out of the doctors mouth I would have found a way to shelter this young boy from theses words. Here was a boy told his whole life he would die. If there were anything that would kill ones spirit I would imagine it would be this. What it must feel like to be a kid and not know what it feels like to just run around with other kids, to dream of the future or have the warmth of a parent hold you when you are scared. I would hate for any child to be in his shoes.
But Chris now has a family that loves him and cares for him. Although we are a mixed family of the team members on the farm, Beth, Lewis and myself, we just love him.
He will never go another day in his life without one of us showing him his value and making sure his needs are met.
And so as I reflect about the dampened spirit I experienced on this trip in missing the comforts of home, here was a boy that put it all into perspective. Sometimes we have to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes to know how much we have to be thankful for.
Chris has a quite the journey ahead of him and we just recently learned that he will have to have surgery because of a large mass that was found in his chest. Please pray for Chris as his surgery approaches. He needs a big miracle.
Written by: Naomi Swann
Dear friends and supporters,
I just returned from an incredible 6-week trip in Togo, Africa that I am excited to share. So much happened that it’s hard to know where to begin, so I’m going to try to summarize my experience and spare you from a 20-page letter.
We officially moved the team to our permanent headquarters on our 20-acre farm, we had 75 surgeries performed in our new ambulance donated by ETMC Regional Health Center, two new missionaries joined our team to volunteer for a year, and a new friend of mine became a convert to Christianity.
God is always working on my heart during these trips, and it’s always so much to take in. It’s such a blessing to see so many lives impact in such powerful ways. Some of the people we serve are receiving their sight after a decade of blindness, like a 17-year-old boy who had been blind since he was 7 (and who also gave his life to Christ). While others, seemingly neglected by the world around them, are simply longing for someone to care for them.
For the most part, I’m always traveling solo on my flights to Africa, but that was not the case this time. My wife, Naomi, my Communications Director, Beth Reed, two ministers, Larry and Linda Payne, and two missionaries, Wayne and Elaine Riley, all joined me on this adventure. The trip began with us moving from our old headquarters in the capital city of Togo to our new headquarters three hours north. This new headquarters is geographically central to our region of eye care, making all of our areas of operation a couple of hours within reach. This new move brings down many of the costs and hours spent on the road on a weekly basis. Our new headquarters is also a beautiful 20-acre farm with lot’s of things to do and with many wonderful people that come through to greet us on a daily basis. It’s incredibly lush throughout most of the year, and has become our new oasis.
While heading out for our first medical mission, I had the pleasure of riding in the back of our new ambulance. It was the first time for me to see our new mobile eye clinic in action. Our mobile clinic, which is a modified ambulance donated by ETMC, has made a world of a difference in how we perform surgeries. With our team going to the poorest and most remote parts of Africa to perform eye surgeries, each outreach has been a logistic nightmare. Previously, we had to create makeshift surgical rooms in dilapidated bat infested clinics, and it would take a couple of days to prep the rooms before we had a sterile environment suitable for surgery. This ambulance brought this two-day logistic nightmare down to a two-hour breeze. With this ambulance, we’re able to drive into some of the most rural parts of Africa, and within two hours we are ready to perform surgeries in a sterile air-conditioned environment.
Watching the surgeries performed in the ambulance was a dream come true. The ambulance was so practical for performing eye surgeries that it seemed as if it wasn’t designed for anything else; and there were no fears of bats flying over our heads either! If I were to receive an eye surgery in Togo, Africa, this is where I would want to be. 75 surgeries were performed in the short time I was with our team, and all of them were a success. Their eye patches are removed the following morning, and at that moment, they could see! Rejoicing, hallelujahs, and songs of glorifying God often follow. I would compare their expressions to someone who is being released from a dark dungeon… and in some ways, that’s exactly what’s happening.
Witnessing people receive their sight was such a joy, but a greater joy was the people whom I had the honor to serve alongside of. The level of sacrifice and passion in the hearts of our team is simply mind-blowing. Our team of volunteers and employees are made up of 7 nationalities and many live far from home and family in order to serve. For 4 days out of each week, this team travels to some of the poorest and most remote parts of Togo in order to share the good news of Christ while extending Christ’s healing hand to the blind. So many lives are touched by this group, and through them, many are coming to know Christ.
The time I spent with this group of people is invaluable to me. A few of the team members were separated from their family during brutal war back when they we children, yet they are so grateful for how faithful God has been in their lives. One may stay up praying until 2 am, while another wakes up to begin his prayers at 4 am. Each has a wonderful personality and all of our team members bring something unique to the team. I always have a spiritual boost when I visit the team in Africa, and often it’s because I’m seeing the size of our challenges face to face. What this team has already accomplished in such a short period of time is nothing less than extraordinary, and we can only thank God for that.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. There are some amazing stories and experiences that I will send in future letters, as they are worthy of being stories of their own.
In His service,
We are enabled by donors and empowered by prayers.
Giving the gift of sight and the gospel costs $150.
Also, you can give $12.50—monthly at Sight.org/donate to restore a person’s sight each year.
Join us in prayer at Sight.org/pray.