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?

 

4 Easy Ways to Declutter Your Home

4 Easy Ways to Declutter Your Home

4 Easy Ways to Declutter Your Home

We all want to declutter our home, but sometimes it is overwhelming to know where to start. To help get you started, we have put together four easy ways to get it all done.

1. 52 Pickup

Set a timer and challenge every person in your house to pick up 52 items to give away before the timer is up. You will be amazed how quickly you can find 52 things to give away!

2. Less Stuff = More QT

Remember that less stuff to keep up with equals more quality time with the people you love. When you keep that in mind, you will be more willing to get rid of stuff you don’t need.

3. Clutter Keeps You from Hearing the Voice of God

In the book Intimacy with the Almighty by Charles Swindoll, he states that simplifying your life will enable you to hear the voice of Jesus more easily.

Less stuff = less noise = more room for Jesus.

When you remember that, you will be more motivated to declutter your home.

4. Have a Plan!

How often have you gathered items to give away and then left them in your garage for months? That’s because you didn’t have the end in mind. When you have a plan, you are more likely to follow through with it.

Your Plan:

1. Gather your stuff
2. Sign up to donate
3. Drop off your stuff at set location and times (See details below)
4. Turn your STUFF into SIGHT! Every $150 worth of stuff sold gives sight to one person in Togo, Africa.

TO DONATE YOUR STUFF:

Drive thru and drop it off at:
Cumberland Storage, 8225 S. Broadway
* Mon – Thurs / April 15 – 18 / 2 – 6 pm
* Mon – Thurs / April 22 – 25 / 2 – 6 pm
* Sat / April 20 / 9 am – 12 n

SIGN UP to Donate Items

TO VOLUNTEER YOUR HELP:

We need people to…
* Help unload as stuff arrives (April 15-25)
* Bring truck/trailer (Fri., April 26)
* Set up the Sale (Fri., April 26)
* Work at the Sale (Sat., April 27)

SIGN UP to Volunteer

Stuff Sale 

April 27
7 am- 3 pm
at Tyler Christian Fellowship
3421 Old Jacksonville Rd

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Out of Darkness, Into Light

Out of Darkness, Into Light

Jesus healed the blind man in John 9.

He led him out of darkness and into light. 

 

 

A few weeks ago, I was reading through a Bible study about Jesus healing the blind man in John 9. This Bible study described the common life of a blind man in Biblical times. It struck me that in Togo, the needs and circumstances of blind people are not so different from blind people in Biblical times.

 

“To be born blind was a debilitating handicap. Jewish men of this time were expected to take care of themselves and help provide for the family, and being blind forced one to depend solely on the charity of others.” 

 

Not everyone we see in Togo is blind from birth, like this man was. But being blind at any point in life is debilitating.

In the United States, it is not easy to be blind, but there are many resources for someone with visual impairment.

 

 

In Togo, there are very few resources for the visually impaired.

 

Like the blind man in the Bible, blind people in Togo depend on their family to take care of them.

 

 

Often, we see young children taking care of a blind parent, sibling, or grandparent. These young children end up quitting school because they spend so much time taking care of their family member.

 

darkness

 

 

 

“He would have also been viewed as a second-class citizen—not able to perform his duties, a drain on his family and society, and possibly a sinner from in the womb.”

 

 

Like the blind man in the Bible, blind people in Togo are considered lower class.

 

 

Their outer appearance often matches the lower-class perception. Since they cannot dress, feed or clean themselves, they rely on others for everything. They often wear the same clothes every day and have poor hygiene.

 

 

Some people even fear for their lives because they worry that their caretakers will poison their food so they will no longer be a burden.

 

 

The blind man in the Bible was considered a sinner from birth because of his handicap.

 

 

Most blind people in Togo are considered cursed.

 

 

If a woman sells produce in the market and then becomes blind, her normal customers will stop buying from her because they think she is cursed. If a young boy becomes blind, other children will stop playing with him because they will think he is cursed.

 

darkness

 

 

 

“This man…did not look forward to a favorable future. And like us, there was nothing he could do in his own power to bring light to his darkness.”

 

 

Blind people in Togo do not have a favorable future.

 

 

The only eye doctors in Togo are in the city, often hundreds of miles away from the rural population. The majority of blind people live in rural villages. If someone is blind, they are resigned to blindness for the rest of their lives.

However, when the Sight.org mobile eye clinic arrives in a village, the blind have hope again.

 

 

Jesus is using Sight.org to restore hope to the blind in Togo.

 

 

This year alone, over 500 blind people have had their sight restored. We have seen these people rejoicing because they are no longer debilitated by their blindness.

They can take care of themselves again. They can take care of their families again. They are no longer considered cursed and outcast.

 

 

When we see them days after their surgery, they look like completely different people.

 

They have clean clothes.

 

They have beautiful hair and shining faces.

 

They are brand new and full of hope and joy.

 

They are no longer living in darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Jesus sought him out a second time, and when He identified Himself as the Son of Man, the blind man underwent his second transformation: he believed Jesus’ claim, and worshipped. He worshipped! Worship is the outward expression of the inward change. The man bore witness of the external change by telling questioners of the man of power, and then bearing witness to the internal faith transformation by speaking his belief and worshipping Jesus—even in front of onlookers who were hostile to Christ (John 9:40). What beautiful worship this must have been!”

People in Togo often want to know why we are doing these free eye surgeries. They want to know why we help them when we don’t even know them.

 

 

These eye surgeries fling a door wide open for the gospel.

 

We have seen hundreds of people instantly praise God when we tell them that we are there because Jesus wants us there.

 

 

Worship seems a natural expression of the joy they are feeling. They have been transformed physically and then spiritual transformation follows.

Many newly sighted people have become Christians because they know that God sent Sight.org to them.

 

 

Seeing newly sighted people worship God with all their hearts is a beautiful sight.

 

Before surgery, they weep because of their debilitating handicap.

 

After surgery, they weep for joy because of their restored sight.

 

And we weep with them every time it happens.

 

 

darkness

 

John 8:12

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”

 

 

darkness

darkness

darkness

 

Isaiah 42:7

“To open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”

 

 

darkness

darkness

darkness

 

Isaiah 9:2

The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

a light has dawned.

 

darkness

darkness

 

 

Do you believe in a world without darkness?

 

A world where people’s physical and spiritual eyes are opened?

 

Will you be a part of leading people in Togo out of darkness and into the light?

 

 

*All quotes taken from IF:Equip Emmanuel Bible Study

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