Hairy Arms

Hairy Arms

Dennis was one of the most stubborn and ornery three-year-olds.

 

Every time we saw him, he fussed and let out this cringeworthy cry. It was so annoying that it was endearing. We all just laughed when we heard him fussing because there was something about Dennis that we all loved. We all just wanted to try to make him smile.

 

Dennis had been blind since birth. He had thick cataracts that covered both eyes. 

 

 

He didn’t trust anyone but his dad. He stayed glued to his dad all day. If his dad moved, he moved. If his dad stood up, Dennis stood up. If anyone besides his dad tried to get near him, he screamed.

 

 

Our medical team first saw Dennis a year ago, but they knew he would have to wait until we scheduled children’s surgeries.

 

Eye surgeries for children are more complicated than eye surgeries for adults. When we operate on adults, it only takes fifteen minutes and they are awake for the entire procedure. When we operate on children, it takes two hours and they have to be put under full anesthesia. Because of that, we have to schedule all the children at the same time and make special preparations.

 

Dennis had waited for a year for his surgery, and his time was finally here.

 

 

Dennis and his father arrived five days early since they lived far away. They did not stay in a hotel. They slept on the hard ground, outside, every night in 100-degree weather. They claimed a spot right by the showers, so every night I walked past them to get my shower. They both seemed to be sleeping so peacefully.

 

I will never forget the picture I saw one night as I walked by. Dennis’ father was lying flat on his back while Dennis laid face down on his chest. They were both sound asleep, on the edge of a concrete step. Never once did his father complain. Never once did he ask for better accommodations.

 

I stared at them every night, thinking about how their life was so different from mine.

 

I imagined what it would look like for me in the United States if my son was blind and waiting for his eye surgery. We would be staying in a hotel with air conditioning, running water, and a comfy bed. We would show up at the hospital a few hours before the procedure and wait in soft chairs. My son wouldn’t be able to eat breakfast because of the anesthesia, but we would entertain him with toys or some sort of screen. We would know exactly what time surgery would start. We would make life as easy as possible for our son.

 

Surgery day came and we could hear Dennis crying from a mile away. He wasn’t allowed to eat breakfast because he would be having anesthesia. He waited with four other children, who were also fussy and hungry. No one knew who would go first. They all just waited for their name to be called. Dennis wasn’t entertained with toys. He didn’t have air conditioning. He didn’t have a comfy chair. He and his dad sat on a wooden bench for hours, waiting, hungry.

 

 

Of course, we Americans couldn’t stand it anymore. We had to entertain this child in some way, because that is how we take care of kids right? We entertain them.

 

Todd broke out his guitar. For the first time in hours, Dennis stopped crying. For the first time all week, Dennis became unglued from his father and found his way to the guitar. He got so close to the guitar strings, Todd could barely strum. Dennis pressed his ear on the wood so he could feel every vibration.

 

 

Then Ezekiel brought out a second guitar. Dennis was in heaven. He walked back and forth between the two guitars. He couldn’t move fast enough. He wanted to hear them both at the same time. I think he would have sandwiched his head between the two guitars if he were able. Nothing made him happier than those guitars.

 

 

Todd played and sang “Break Every Chain” over Dennis. The whole world stopped at that moment. The presence of Jesus was so strong as he sang. Dennis, this three-year-old who hadn’t stopped crying for days, was now calm and happy. He was drawn to the music. The Lord was soothing him with his song of hope and love. We will never forget that moment.

 

From then on, Dennis thought those guitars were his. He sat in Ezekiel’s lap and hugged the guitar. It was his.

 

 

Hours later, Dennis’ name was finally called. The nurse carried him into the operating room screaming and flailing. He was a strong little thing. None of us could hold him still.

 

 

As they laid him on the table, we heard the bad news. One of the machines needed for children’s surgery was not working. It needed an oxygen tank and the oxygen had run out.

 

We wouldn’t be able to get more oxygen until Monday, and this was Friday.

 

 

We were all completely heartbroken for Dennis and his father.

 

Again, I imagined how I would respond if that were my son. I would have been livid. I probably would have yelled at someone out of frustration. Had I just sat on a hard bench with my son in 100-degree weather for hours for nothing? Had I endured my son’s hungry cry for nothing? Had I come all this way for nothing?

 

Dennis’ father reacted very differently. He heard the news with grace and patience. Dennis and his father went on with life as usual. They held hands and walked to the market to find food. No big deal. They just had to wait three more days. They just had to sleep on the ground three more nights. No big deal.

 

 

After a full week of seeing Dennis and his father every day, we all grew quite fond of them. And Dennis got used to us. He no longer ran away from us screaming. He even walked all the way across the courtyard all by himself when he heard a group of us singing and playing guitar.

 

Todd figured out one day that Dennis liked the feeling of Todd’s arm. Most Africans do not have hair on their arms. Todd’s arm was quite hairy. This was a new experience for Dennis. How fun it was for him to touch those hairy arms.

 

 

Todd was winning Dennis over with his guitar and his hairy arms.

 

Monday finally came. Today, surely Dennis would get his surgery. He skipped breakfast again, but this time, he didn’t fuss. He was happy and calm. We didn’t even have to distract him with a guitar or hairy arms.

 

 

They called Dennis into the operating room and no one had to hold him down. He happily clung like a koala to the large manly assistant named Peter.

 

 

Two hours later, Dennis walked out the door holding his dad’s hand with patches over both eyes.

 

 

Twenty-four hours later, our optometrist took the patches off Dennis’ eyes. Cranky, stubborn Dennis was back. He refused to open his eyes. In typical Dennis fashion, he was only going to open his eyes when he was ready. Again, we just laughed. This kid had our hearts.

 

 

We just wanted to see him see for the first time in his life. But he made us all wait, of course. He would not be persuaded.

 

Until Todd put his arm under Dennis’ hand. Immediately, Dennis opened his eyes to look at Todd’s arm. He wanted to know what that furry thing was that he had been feeling for days. He looked for a split second and then quickly shut his eyes again.

 

 

In that first hour of sight, Dennis opened his eyes a total of four times. Each time, he only opened them for a split second. He was overwhelmed by his sight. He was seeing for the first time in his entire life, and it was a lot of information to take in.

 

Can you imagine being three-years-old and seeing for the first time? Talk about information overload.

 

Even though Dennis only opened his eyes for a split second, we all got so much joy in those moments. He could see! All we could do was laugh with joy.

 

Eventually Dennis acclimated and kept his eyes open for longer periods of time.

He looked at his father for the first time in his life.

And smiled.

 

I’m So Not Excited

I’m So Not Excited

If you had asked me two years ago where Togo is, I would have responded, “Isn’t that off the coast of Australia?”  

 

That’s what I said when Lewis approached me about getting involved with Sight.org. (I was confusing Togo, a small West African country, with Tonga, a tiny South Pacific island!)  Find Lome, Togo on your map app. That’s where Beth, Lewis and I will step off the plane into a ninety degree February morning. I may well be saying to myself “Togo – we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

 

I’m excited about seeing a place on the planet where daily life is radically different from how I live 24/7 in the buckle of the Bible belt in Tyler, Texas, USA. But that’s not what I’m most excited about seeing.

 

I’m excited to be in the operating room for four full days as one Togolese person after another gets their blinding cataracts cut out in less time than it takes to get my hair cut.  I’m excited to watch our skilled Sight.org medical team, (all of them native Africans who live there), working like a well-oiled machine to give vision back to 150 adults. I’m very excited to watch our patients’ faces light up and to hear their voices shout with delight.  I can’t wait to see their feet dancing in celebration as the darkness lifts when the eye patches come off. But that’s not what I’m most excited about seeing.

 

I’m excited to ride up into the rural hillsides in the Sight.org van, seated between Lewis and Beth as we pick up four children – little ones who’ve never seen their parents, family, or friends due to cataract-induced blindness since birth.  I look forward to watching them the day after surgery when they look into their parents’ eyes for very first time. But that’s not what I’m most excited about seeing.

 

It gives me chills to think about bringing these now-seeing children back to their families and communities.  The ten-year-old boy, who has had no friends, will now be chasing the soccer ball along with the rest of the guys.  The seven-year-old, who was born the same month as Sight.org in June 2012, will gaze at the African sky for very first time. As satisfying as these scenes are, they’re not what I’m most excited about seeing.

 

Raymond will drive us to three villages in the Elavagnon region where our medical team has brought vision to 2221 people since we first ventured into this Voodoo and witchcraft-dominated region in 2016. I’ll meet our Togolese brothers and sisters in Christ who heard the good news of Jesus and accepted his offer of forgiveness and eternal life when our medical team brought them the gospel. I’ll join their evening circle around the village mango tree as the African sun sets and the solar-powered audio device begins playing the New Testament in the Ewe dialect. I’ll probably clap, sing, and dance the praises of Jesus with the.  Those of you who know me know I mean that literally! But even these new Christ-followers are not what I’m most excited about seeing in Africa.

 

I find myself nervously and excitedly looking forward to seeing God work by the power of His Holy Spirit, drawing people out of the spiritual abyss and into the glorious light of His Son Jesus. I am awestruck at the thought of watching Him rescue his creations from the fear of death which has held them captive all their lives. As incredible as that will be, it’s not the number one thing I am looking forward to seeing while there on the equator.

 

 

What I am most excited about seeing is God in all His glory.  The best definition of “glory” I’ve ever heard is from my pastor Gary Brandenburg who said, “glory is when the invisible God is made visible.”  I’m looking forward to seeing His glory as relationships form between our team and our patients. As He surprises us with the things we need, right when and where we need them.  As He empowers us beyond our talents and training to do His works of healing that are clearly beyond our capability. As He opens blinded minds and hearts to the great love He has for each person.  As He restores hope to people when their vision is restored. As He becomes visible in people who place their faith in Jesus because they believed our message. As He calls more people to become a part of Sight.org as they watch the surgeries live on Facebook.

 

Lord, open their eyes.  

And open mine even wider.

 

Written by Todd Hinkie, Sight.org Director of Strategic Growth and Development

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Do you want to go with us to the operating room, the mango tree, the villages and the towns of southern Togo?  Lord willing and technology cooperating, we will be streaming live on our Facebook Page, so now’s the time to be sure you’re following! 

 

 

Are You Exhausted?

Are You Exhausted?

Have you ever felt so exhausted you didn’t want to get out of bed?

 

 I felt that way a few weeks ago. Then, my friend texted me Isaiah 40:28-31 (AMP). I am extremely familiar with these verses. I even have a large painting of them hanging in my home. However, when I read them in the Amplified Version, I read them with fresh eyes.
exhausted
“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become tired or grow weary;
There is no searching of His understanding.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who has no might He increases power.
Even youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
But those who wait for the Lord
[who expect, look for, and hope in Him]
Will gain new strength and renew their power;
They will lift up their wings
[and rise up close to God]
like eagles
[rising toward the sun];
They will run and not become weary,
They will walk and not grow tired.”

 

I realized that our strength comes from expecting, looking for, and hoping in God to do big things. Then I got excited about starting my day. I was no longer exhausted. My strength was renewed, knowing that God was going to do something big.

 

God is always doing big things around us. We just forget to look for him!

 

When I got to the office, Lewis told me that our medical team was about to do their two thousandth eye surgery!

 

exhausted

 

I was blown away.

I knew God was going to do something big that day, just like he has been doing every day for the last five years at Sight.org! God is opening the eyes of the blind in Togo both physically and spiritually. God is working in Togo!
 

You are a huge part of the work God is doing in Togo! You expect him to do big things when you donate, and look at that, he is!

 

I hope your strength is renewed today knowing that two thousand people have received their sight! I hope you feel like you can fly on wings like eagles knowing that God is opening doors for the gospel through these eye surgeries.
 
We know that the work is far from over. This is only the beginning. We are waiting expectantly for God to continue to do big things in Togo.
 

Will you join us in expecting, looking for, and hoping in God to do big things in Togo? Will you continue to pray for the people of Togo? Will you consider becoming a monthly donor to keep the work going?

Pharmacist Gives Sight to a Pharmacist

Pharmacist Gives Sight to a Pharmacist

 

As soon as I saw his description, I knew who I was going to match him with.

 

Each of our Visionaries gets matched with a patient. They get a photo and description of the patient to whom they gave sight. These descriptions include age, job, and sometimes family information.

 

I am always looking for matches that will connect to the heart of the donor.

 

A few months ago, Meheza sent me photos and a story about a man who had just received sight.

 

 

His description read:

His name is Adoli Mawukplom. He is 73 and he was a pharmacist in his village. He has eleven children and three of them have passed away. He has twelve grandchildren. He has been blind for five years now. He stopped his job when he went blind. Last month he heard about Sight.org and he told his daughter to bring him to us. He said, “I know I will get my sight back in Jesus name, if not God would not let me hear about Sight.org.”

 

As soon as I saw his description, I knew which of our Visionaries I was going to match him with.

 

Ashtin Taylor was one of our very first Visionaries. She has been donating monthly to give sight for almost two years. 

 

 

Ashtin is a pharmacist, so when I saw that Adoli was a pharmacist, I just knew I had to match them together.

 

We don’t see many patients who are pharmacists. In fact, I’m not sure we have ever seen one. Most of our patients are farmers, produce sellers, teachers, or pastors.

 

When I texted Ashtin with the photo of Adoli and his description, she was so thankful.

 

Ashtin and Adoli may never meet in person, but will always be connected in a very special way.

 

When asked why she gives monthly to Sight.org, this was Ashtin’s response:

“It is very easy for all of us to take for granted our health and access to healthcare here in the United States. People can come up to me any day of the week and ask for help with their healthcare and have easy access to the medications or treatments they need to remedy their problem. Not everyone in the world has this luxury and it’s easy to forget that. It takes very little time, effort and resources from me to make a very large impact on those who receive care from the Sight.org team. Also, I believe that it is very important that those of us who may not be able or called to go and do, support those who can. So it is important to be to be able to use the resources God has given me to help support those that are doing what He has called them to do out in the field.”

 

We are beyond thankful for each one of our Visionaries.

Their monthly support keeps eye surgeries going.

They open a door for the gospel to be shared with each patient. 

 

Will you open a door too?

Join Visionaries today!

 

Watch the video below to find out more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating African Partnerships

Creating African Partnerships

Creating African Partnerships

African patients contributing so that future patients can see.

It has always been our desire to build up the African community. We never want to be just an American ministry working in Africa. We want to build a partnership with them.

 

Partership

 

 

That is why 80% of our full time staff are Africans who live in Togo year round. All of our pastors, medical staff, and agricultural staff are Africans.

 

We do what we can to build up the economy of Togo. Even when we take supplies to Togo, we check first to see if those supplies can be purchased in Togo instead of the United States.

 

 

Partnership

Partnership

Partnership

Partnership

Partnership

Partnership

Partnership

Partnership

Partnership

 

We have been around the world and have seen countries and cultures that are so accustomed to American charity, that they are no longer able to function on their own. Togo is not yet accustomed to American charity because there are very few western non-profits in Togo.

 

We do not want to be the ones who create this American dependence.

 

Therefore, we are constantly setting standards for our ministry to keep this from happening.

***Books such as Toxic Charity, Mountains Beyond Mountains, and When Helping Hurts have influenced the standards we have set. We have also been heavily influenced by the documentary, Poverty, Inc. We highly encourage you to check these resources out if you have any questions about the direction we are moving as a ministry.

 

In 2018, we have decided to start requesting our patients make some sort of contribution. They can bring a few thousand CFA (equivalant to a few American dollars) or simply bring a handful of produce from their farms. These contributions will never be enough to pay for their surgeries.

 

The purpose is not to have these contributions pay for their surgeries.

 

The purpose is for the people of Togo to feel that they are a part of this ministry.

 

The purpose is to bring them into a partnership with Sight.org.

 

When they bring a contribution, we tell them they are giving so that future patients can also receive sight restoring surgeries. It is a sort of “pay it forward” mentality.

 

The people of Togo are not helpless.

 

They are hardworking, responsible people.

 

They want to pay for their surgeries.

 

Many have tried to pay for their surgeries, but that would be the equivalent to several months wages.

 

Last week, we told the first group of patients that we would like for them to contribute something small on the day of their surgery. One patient brought 4000 CFA ($7.44 in American dollars). This isn’t much but it showed his desire to be part of our ministry.

 

As we explained the contribution request, patients wanted to go back to their villages and explain it to future patients. We explained to them that they were getting a free eye surgery that normally costs 80,000 CFA ($150 in American dollars). When they heard that, they were even more excited to be able to contribute something towards future surgeries.

 

We feel that the direction we are moving is a very positive direction for Sight.org and for the country of Togo.

 

We are excited that the people of Togo have a desire to partner with Sight.org in this way. The people of Togo are a beautiful people. We love their culture, and we want to do very little to change their hardworking, responsible mentality.

 

 

 

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