Epiphanie: Blind and Deaf from Birth

Epiphanie: Blind and Deaf from Birth

Epiphanie was blind and deaf from birth. We knew he was blind from the second we saw him. We could see the blank stare on his face. But someone had to tell us that he was deaf. We would have never known otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were so surprised because he smiled all the time and responded to his dad’s voice. We could really tell a difference when he touched his arm though. His face lit up every time. He had the most beautiful smile. We all teared up the first time we saw him. He was precious.

We couldn’t wait to give this little guy his sight back.

 

 

As soon as we found out he was both blind and deaf, we all thought of Helen Keller. Everyone knows her story, but not many people meet someone in person who is blind and deaf.

It is mind blowing to come face to face with someone knowing that they can’t hear or see. I paused many times, thinking about what life would be like if I couldn’t hear or see. Surely, life would be so dark and sad. Yet when I looked at Epiphanie’s face, I didn’t see darkness or sadness. I saw joy, light, and peace.

I didn’t understand how he could have such a huge smile on his face all the time.

 

 

Epiphanie and his father showed up for surgery five days early, so we got to follow Epiphanie around all week. He was a joy to be around. He rarely had anything but a smile on his face. We saw him fuss maybe once or twice.

 

 

There was one other boy his age who was also waiting for surgery. His name was Foley. Throughout the week they became sweet friends. They often played games with each other. They were typical boys, even though they were blind. By the end of the week, they were inseparable. They sat next to each other every chance they got.

 

 

On the day of Epiphanie’s surgery, craziness happened in the operating room. The oxygen tank stopped working that operated the special scalpel for children’s surgery. We had scheduled all five children’s surgeries for that day and were only able to do two. Epiphanie was one of the two who actually had surgery that day.

I will never forget Epiphanie’s cute little body sitting cross legged on a table with his surgery cap on. That huge smile never left his face. 

 

 

As I watched him lay down on the operating table, my heart jumped. It was a mixture of excitement and nervousness.

 

 

Everything went well with his surgery. As his dad carried him out of the operating room, Epiphanie’s friend Foley ran as fast as he could to be with him. Foley hadn’t had his surgery yet, so he couldn’t see, but he just knew he needed to be with his friend during that time. And he knew that he would be next.

 

The next day, our optometrist took the patches off Epiphanie’s eyes. I don’t know if Epiphanie even knew what was happening. How could he? He was deaf so his dad couldn’t tell him what was happening. Can you imagine? He hadn’t seen for his entire eight years of life. He didn’t even know it was an option to be able to see. Then suddenly, he was being unpatched and he could see, for the first time in his life! He was experiencing it all in his head still because he couldn’t talk about it or be told about it. It just happened.

 

We knew he could see immediately. He looked all around him. He wasn’t scared to look like some of the other children. It is interesting to see how people experience their first sight in different ways. Some are scared. Some cry. Some laugh. Some dance. Some stare in silence. Some smile.

Epiphanie smiled, as usual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That same day, I posted Epiphanie’s sweet smile on social media.

His smile caught the attention of another very sweet boy across the world.

When twelve-year-old Price James saw a photo of Epiphanie and heard his story, he was overwhelmed. God did something in Price’s heart that day. He gave him compassion for a boy all the way across the world that he had never met.

Price put Epiphanie’s photo on the home screen of his phone and couldn’t stop looking at his face. He often wondered about him and his family. Price truly fell in love with Epiphanie’s joyful smile.

When Price saw a video of Epiphanie seeing for the first time, he showed it to his whole family. He told everyone that he wanted to go to Togo and meet Epiphanie.

 

 

The Holy Spirit truly got ahold of Price’s heart the day he saw Epiphanie’s face. He even wrote a letter to tell about his love for Epiphanie.

 

 

The Sight.org staff is humbled by the purity of Price’s love for someone he has never met. We pray that God will continue to do big things in both Price and Epiphanie’s lives. Who knows, maybe one day they will get to meet each other. We serve a very big God!

 

You can give sight to someone just like Epiphanie. For $12.50 a month, you can give sight and the gospel to one person a year.

Will you prayerfully consider giving today?

 

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.

 

Katawayna

Katawayna

Because of you, there is a little girl named Katawayna who can now go back to school.

Katawayna

Katawayna is ten years old and was blind in her right eye from a cataract. She had stopped going to school because she couldn’t see her work.

 

Katawayna’s father did everything possible to get help for his daughter. He went to every doctor he knew. He spent so much money trying to get medicine for her eye that he was broke.

 

Then he heard about Sight.org.

 

To his delight, the Sight.org medical team checked Katawayna’s eyes and scheduled her surgery.

 

Katawayna

 

A few weeks later, Katawayna’s and her father arrived at the Sight.org mobile eye clinic.

The day of her surgery, her father was so excited that he showed up early. He wanted to help in any way he could. He even offered to help translate for the team. He spent the whole day helping the Sight.org team.

 

Katawayna

 

He couldn’t hide his gratitude.

 

At 1:30 that afternoon, Katawayna stepped into the mobile eye clinic. Her father stopped what he was doing to help her into the vehicle.

 

Then he waited.

 

Katawayna

 

Katawayna

 

He stared at the back doors of the clinic, nervously, wondering.

Thirty minutes later, the doors opened, and out walked his daughter, with a patch over her right eye.

Twenty-four hours later, the patch was removed, and she could see everything perfectly!

She is now back in school!

 

Katawayna’s father wants to say thank you for giving his daughter her sight back.

 

 

 

This Christmas, will you give sight to someone like Katawayna?

We have a goal of raising $41,250 by December 31st. This will provide eye surgeries for the next six months. So far, we have raised $31,081 of the $41,250. Will you be a part of reaching this goal?

Region Where “No Charities Go” (Region of Witches)

Region Where “No Charities Go” (Region of Witches)

In Africa, challenges are not always what they seem.

 

As you may have read, this entire year, we are serving in the region of Elavagnon in Togo.

At the beginning of this year, you were asked to start praying for this region.

We knew from the beginning, that this region would be the biggest challenge Sight.org has ever faced.

The needs in this region are immense.

We have been serving this region for six months now. We now know the reason there are so many needs. It’s not the reason we originally thought.

Lewis Swann, founder of Sight.org is in Togo this month. He is seeing Elavagnon with his own eyes. He sent the following story to illustrate the reason for so many needs.

 

 

“When I arrived to Togo, Africa, I immediately traveled five hours north to join the medical team to perform fifty eye surgeries in a region called Elavagnon.

 

village

village

 

This region is known as the place where “no charities go.”

 

At least, that is what we were told by the Ministry of Health in Togo.

When the team arrived, they met 400+ people suffering from various eye diseases and blindness.

 

village

 

Based on the sheer numbers, it was obvious that eye care had not been there.

The team quickly selected the fifty patients for surgery, and many more were put on a waiting list for next month’s surgical outreach.

 

village

 

At face value, this region appeared very similar to others that we had served. However, we have met more challenges here than we usually face.

 

Our Togo Director, Meza, told me the Ministry of Health’s reason for why charities do not go to Elavagnon.

And that reason? Witches.

 

He expressed that no charity, not even secular charities, choose to work in Elavagnon. The area is known for witches and demonic practices.

The charities that try to serve here always fail in their mission.

The Ministry of Health was shocked to hear that our mission is going very well in Elavagnon.

 

But we do not go empty handed.

We come with a God much bigger than witchcraft, and our God is a God who loves witches…a lot!

 

Since we started working in Elavagnon, we have restored sight to hundreds of blind people and we have even started a church that is thriving with new believers, many of whom left witchcraft.

We don’t have to fear, and our best weapon is love.”

 

 

Please continue to pray for the region of Elavagnon.

You are making a difference in the lives of these people when you pray, not just physically, but also spiritually.

Pray against Satan’s attacks. Pray for the brand new house church that has been established there. The new believers face opposition from the enemy and from fellow villagers who do not know Jesus. 

They are also experiencing a lot of physical problems aside from the numerous eye diseases.

There are two nurses, Helen Clark and Naomi Swann, on the volunteer team this week. 

 

nurse

nurse

 

They are doing medical clinics alongside the eye surgery team. Hundreds of people are coming each day to get checked by the nurses.

There are hospitals and doctors in this region, but most people do not have the money to pay for medical help.

Normally, when people come to our team with non-eye related problems, there is nothing our eye surgery team can do for them.

Since there are nurses on our volunteer team this week, people can come and get free medical help.

Please pray for the volunteer team and the eye surgery team. It can be overwhelming to see so much need. 

 

village

 

God is doing a mighty work in this region and we are so excited that you get to be a big part of that. 

 

Lewis was able to do several Facebook Live videos this week in Togo. You don’t want to miss these!

Volunteer Team (Helen, Steve, and Naomi)

Medical Clinic

Interview with eye patient

New Believers

 

 

One Thing After Another

One Thing After Another

Last week, it was one thing after another.

 

Lack of funds for surgeries.
Bank transfer fail.
Being forced to get supplies in one day instead of the normal three days.
Electricity going off in the ambulance during surgeries.

 

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We were sitting in our comfortable office chairs here in Texas, but we could feel the stress in Togo, from 6,000 miles away. This was not our easiest round of surgeries.

Several times throughout the week, we thought about canceling this round of surgeries. It just seemed like everything was against them.

Every time we talked about canceling, we immediately said no.

These eye surgeries are a doorway to the gospel.

We love giving sight to the blind. It is amazing to experience people go from blind to sight in twenty-four hours. But more than that, we love that these eye surgeries open a door for the love and truth of Jesus to be shared.

Many people who come to us are from a Voodoo or Muslim background. They have no interest in hearing about Jesus, until the lives of fifty blind people in their region are completely changed over the span of three days.

After that, everyone in the village is willing to listen to the word of God.

That is when the real miracles happen.
That is when real life change happens.
And that is when the church continues to grow.

 

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Last weekend, in spite of so many challenges, we didn’t have to say no to this round of eye surgeries. Our dedicated supporters and prayer partners said yes to fifty life changing eye surgeries.

 

scrubs

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17-year-old Atakpa got her sight back this weekend. She has had a cataract since she was a child, but her family didn’t have money to go to the hospital. Last week Atakpa’s mother heard about Sight.org from a friend so they decided to come for help.

She said, “Please help me to get my sight back, I want to go back to school.”

 

atakpa-2

 

Atakpa wants to thank everyone who gave to Sight.org to make her surgery possible. She says, “May God bless you.”

 

atakpa

 

A grandma named Bluyema also got her sight back. She was a rice seller but she stopped selling because of her age. For the last 4 years, she has had a cataract. This cataract was preventing her from doing what she really loves, and that is taking care of her grandchildren.

 

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This is what she said before her surgery, “I love playing with my grandchildren, I love watching them playing around me. But since I got this cataract, I can’t take care of them. Please help me to get back my sight, so I can see and play with them again before I die”

And now, Bluyema can see her grandchildren again!

 

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After all the eye surgeries were performed, the team took the patches off the patients’ eyes. As they all realized that they could see, the newly sighted Africans broke out in song and worship. Jeanaway stood in the middle of the patients, leading them to praise Jesus for their sight. Just last year, this 17-year old got his sight back and is now serving on the Sight.org team as a ministry leader.

 

 

When you give to Sight.org, you are not just giving sight to the blind. You are also giving them the love and truth of Jesus. You open the door for the gospel.

This week, you are hearing stories of the big beautiful door of eye surgeries. Next week, you will get to walk through that door and enter the house. You will get to hear stories of what God is doing in baby Christians in the house church in the village of Landa.

 

 

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