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
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?

Stories Behind the Art at Sight Night 2017

Stories Behind the Art at Sight Night 2017

At Sight Night: The Joy of Sight, we featured local art in our silent auction. Each artist read through the Sight.org blog and then created art inspired by those stories. We are blown away at the talent of each one of these artists! They truly captured the heart and mission of Sight.org. Below, you can see each piece of art and the stories behind them. You can see more photos from the event here.

 

 

Cairo Reyes

“Being Free”

Resin / Acrylic

Inspired by the blog story, “Meheza Means “I Am Free”

 

 

Umeki Earl-Nelson

“Meheza: “I Am Free”

textiles/fabrics

Inspired by the blog story, “Meheza Means “I  Am Free”

This is a painting of Meheza, the Togo Director of SIght.org. Meheza has been in the United States for three weeks. She attended Sight Night and got to see this painting of her. From the second she saw the painting, she said numerous times, “I wish I could buy that painting for myself!” The person who bid on this painting felt led to give this painting to Meheza, not even knowing that she wanted it. When she presented the painting to Meheza at the end of the night, everyone had tears in their eyes.

 

 

 

Rosemary Nichols Swann

“Elizabeth”

Gouache and acrylic on archival board

Inspired by the blog story, “Elizabeth”

 

 

Monique Dorsey

“In My Father’s Arms”

Oil on Canvas

Inspired by the blog story, “Story of an African Father”

 

 

Carrie McFerron

“An Infinity of Trees”

Digital Collage

Inspired by the blog story, “Hungry for Jesus”

The artist was especially inspired by the house church meeting under a mango tree.  She said, “I kept thinking about how God put that mango tree in that spot so that people could learn about Jesus. The planting of a tree to enable the planting of a church seemed like such a perfect parallel. So I looked for a verse that conveyed the concept and came upon Psalm 96:12, ‘Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy,’ which made me thing of a forest of churches that could be planted as a result of the gathering under the village mango tree. Hence, I made an image with a wreath of trees, creating an infinite number of churches. When you read all of Psalm 96, you realize how missional this Psalm is, which is very rare for the Old Testament! Verse 3 says, ‘Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all the peoples.’ Verse 7 says, ‘Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.'”

 

 

Carrie McFerron

“Edem”

Paper Cutting

Inspired by the blog story, “Hungry for Jesus”

Edem is a popular name for Togolese boys. The name is derived from African-Ewe and means “God has saved me.” The little boy I have depicted in this paper cutting represents a future child who will be born to Christian parents, and who will also become a Christian, as a result of the Sight.org team planting a church in his village. Just as a tree is symbolic for Edem’s church, Edem represents one of the leaves on that tree. Each leaf behind Edem in the paper cutting is a reminder of the many new Christians in Edem’s village and in other villages across Togo because of Sight.org’s work.

 

 

 Amanda Slaughter

“Grace Chairs”

Two Chairs with Seat covers that are hand painted by artist

Inspired by the blog story, “Weary of Serving, Give What You Can”

The artist stated, “I have sang and played music my whole life. It is one of the things I love to do. In the car, at home, in the studio, the grocery store. I sing everywhere I go and so do the kiddos. Song is free and a gift from God. I am made these chairs for two reasons. 1. Because just like our sight, having chairs to sit in is a luxury we often do not think about and too often take for granted. 2. Sitting and singing/harmonizing with someone is one of the most joyous events we can share with another human being. These chairs are fully functioning with actual paintings covering the seats. The original painting has the word grace written on it in many different ways. My hope is that these chairs are incorporated into someone’s home or business where song and laughter can be shared, stories can be told and meals can be eaten all while sitting on Grace.”

 

Mary Evelyn Tucker 

Farming God’s Way”

Watercolor on Archival Paper

Inspired by the blog story, “Connection Between Farming and Eye Surgeries”

“This piece was inspired by the training Sight.org is doing in Togo. Leaders are being trained in modern farming methods which produce ten times more produce than traditional methods for the area. My dad was a landscaper for over 30 years and I’ve grown to appreciate any and all forms of planting. God is so good to provide us with a simple way to provide for ourselves.”

 

Lisa Rachel Horlander 

“Germination”

Oil on Canvas

Inspired by the blog story, “Connection Between Farming and Eye Surgeries”

 

 

Lisa Rachel Horlander

Plethora

Oil on Canvas

Inspired by the blog story, “Connection Between Farming and Eye Surgeries”

 

 

Becky Chelf

“Matthew: 18:20″

Oil on Canvas

Inspired by a story on the Sight.org Facebook page.  “A woman named Sofoura came to us to look at her eyes. Her sister-in-law was very hateful to her and hit her in the eye. She hit her so hard that she developed a traumatic cataract. We told her to come to the April eye surgeries to see if our Sight.org medical team could remove the cataract. As we talked to her, she told us that she had an infection in her fingers that caused them to swell. They were so painful that she could not sleep. We prayed over her hands and then took her to the hospital to pay for treatment on her hands.”

 

 

Nicole Root

“They Once Were Blind but Now They See”

Charcoal and Color Pencil

Inspired by the general work of giving sight to the blind in Togo, Africa. The artist stated, “God has created so many wonderful things, one of which are eyes. The eye can express so many different things, pain, joy, anger, etc. I was inspired to give this piece because the eye stands out, and I take for granted the face that I can see. I want others to experience the joy I see every day. I thank our heavenly Father for this opportunity to shine the light of Christ.”

 

 

Stephanie Nickel

“Neighbors”

Oil on Canvas

Inspired by the blog story, “The Faces of Adjon”  “They meet in the middle of their village, where everyone can hear them. Their praises cannot be ignored.”
In this abstract piece, shapes emerge giving an allusion of buildings-houses or perhaps a church. A grouping of muffled figures appear, gathered closely together. They are other worldly, seemingly floating in space. The title of the piece is “Neighbors.” Jesus tells us that we are to love our neighbors and have mercy on them, making it clear that we are all neighbors.

 

 

Ashlie Bailey 

“Now I See You”

Watercolor on Archival Paper

Inspired by the general work done by Sight.org.

The painting above is of a blind harbor seal I met a few years ago named Porter. Porter was rescued and now lives at Moody Gardens. I believe that everyone deserves healing, and everyone deserves the gift of sight. I was so touched and inspired by this seals perseverance that I started a series of watercolor portraits of what he might look like if his eyes were completely restored, healed, and he were no longer blind.

 

 

Cynthia Mullen Hitchcock

“I Once Was Blind But Now I See, John 9:25″

Acrylic on Canvas

Inspired by the heart of the administration of Sight.org and the passion and compassion they have as a team for those that can’t. It just takes one to have a heart to make a difference. Can we all join in with that heart? In this painting it just shows a few of the lives they have changed from surgeries, to church plantings, prayers and nutrition. In the center of the painting starts from the hearts that started this program and how it spreads from one heart to another.

 

 

Angie Tellman           

“Off Riding on the Road”

Watercolor on archival paper

Inspired by the early work of Sight.org. Before we had an ambulance, teams set out to remote areas on motor bikes in order to do eye surgeries. The lush foliage and red earth is abundant in Togo.

 

 

 Angie Tellman

“Portrait of a Boy”

Watercolor on archival paper

Inspired by the Sight.org mission statement: All people are redeemable through Christ’s finished work on the cross, and we believe He died so that we could carry His light to the ends of the earth. By His grace, we have been redeemed to bring light to the BLIND, the UNREACHED, and the MALNOURISHED in Togo, Africa.

This painting is of one of the many faces of Togo where malnutrition causes cataracts. Sight.org not only performs cataract surgery, but also educates best farming practices.

 

 

 

 

5 Things I Didn’t Know About West Africa

5 Things I Didn’t Know About West Africa

“The Africa I expected to see…was not nearly as amazing as the Africa I found when we got there.”

In July of this year, my wife Becky and I traveled to Togo, West Africa to serve the Sight.org team. I came home changed by what we saw in Africa, and I’m sure Africa has a lot more to teach me. Here are five things I didn’t know about West Africa before our trip:

1. West Africa is incredibly green (during the rainy season).

The rainy season in West Africa runs from about June to September. During this season, the land explodes with lush vegetation. Crops of corn, beans, yams, peppers, rice, as well as bananas, papaya and mangos and other varieties are farmed. In the rural villages we visited, the roads are lined with men and boys carrying machetes and hoes heading to or from the fields. The women and girls travel with washtubs of freshly harvested produce on their heads.

2. Many (very many) people live without electricity or running water.

I know, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to find that a large segment of the population in a developing country lives without some basic amenities. The truth is, I considered indoor plumbing and electric lights essential, if not for life, at least for happiness. But we actually found that we benefitted in many ways from living without these conveniences. Undistracted, unhurried conversations with our friends and teammates replaced “virtual” social media exchanges. The indescribably magnificent night sky which was unobstructed by buildings and streetlights was a nightly source of awe and amazement. Here’s another benefit that I still smile when I think about: the exhilaration (I’m not overstating it) of a breeze and a bit of shade on a hot sunny day. Pure pleasure. (No, I’m not giving up air conditioning.)

3. Virtues abound among the people.

Gratitude, hard work, service, hospitality, just to name a few. I was continually impressed by the way complete strangers in the most primitive villages welcomed us warmly. Just one example of gratitude I witnessed: Our van was slowly driving through a jam-packed market and a man shouted something to our driver, Raymond, who pulled over. In a few minutes, an elderly woman appeared from a side street wearing the telltale pair of sunglasses that indicated she was one of Sight.org’s cataract patients. She began shouting, raising her hands and dancing, expressing her joy and gratitude for her restored sight. Turns out her surgery was months before, but the gratitude was still strong enough for them to pull us over for an impromptu party on a crowded street.

“Turns out her surgery was months before, but the gratitude was still strong enough…for an impromptu party on a crowded street.”

4. Commitment to Christ costs.

I came to Togo wanting to see God in a bigger context. I’ve been a believer in Jesus Christ for more than 35 years and a pastor for 20 but I know my experience and understanding of almost every aspect of what it means to be a Christian is limited. What does faith look like in other tribes and nations? What does worship sound like in another (foreign to me) tongue? One big difference between my daily experience of faith and our Togolese brothers and sisters experience is that they often pay a heavy price to be identified as a Christian. Africa comprises a potent mix of religions, many of them hostile to Christianity. When a person becomes a follower of Jesus Christ they are often ostracized by their village or disowned by their family. The effect I saw in them, however wasn’t discouragement, but a deeper commitment to the study of the word, prayer and especially fellowship and worship.

5. Africans helping Africans.

This is the single most eye-opening fact that I witnessed in my brief time in West Africa. Africans are helping Africans and they are much better at it than I’ll ever be. I was humbled to be a part of a team of West African men and women, young and old alike, doctors, nurses, laborers and missionaries, whose passion for Christ and for their Togolese neighbors is resulting in healed bodies, mended hearts and transformed lives. They communicated with little or no need for an interpreter. They knew the culture, the needs and the circumstances of the people and they are highly motivated to serve them. This doesn’t mean that they don’t need our help, I still believe that the needs in Africa are great and that the resources in the West are also great, but our role, my role should be to equip the Africans who are serving Africans.

“Africans are helping Africans and they are much better at it than I’ll ever be.”

We’ve been back home for a while now and I’m still processing many of the things we saw there. The Africa I expected to see when we traveled there, the sights, the people and the work, was not nearly as amazing as the Africa I found when we got there.

Written by Joe Canal, Pastor of Tyler Christian Fellowship Church in Tyler, TX.

Read more about Joe and Becky’s trip here and here.

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

 

 

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