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.
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.
What is the connection between the two?
We get this question a lot at Sight.org.
I got to see the connection first hand when I was in Togo a few weeks ago.
Two members of our Sight.org team, Ishaka and Florent, are currently going through agricultural training at the YWAM base in Togo. I visited them at the training facility and was truly impressed.
They are being trained in modern farming methods that produces ten times the amount of traditional West African farming methods.
I chatted with Ishaka, our eye surgery sterilizer, who is going through the agricultural training.
He said, “My favorite part about this training is that it is all based on Biblical farming. Every single day in class, I learn something about farming that connects to a passage in the Bible. We have studied farming in every book from Genesis to Revelation. I am excited about taking this information back to our Sight.org farm.”
This curriculum is called “Farming God’s Way.” This is how their website describes the program:
Farming God’s Way is simply a tool of equipping to empower the poor to help themselves. Farming God’s Way was originated before man was on the face of the earth, when God first put His ways in place to govern His creation and their interrelations with one another. God is the master farmer who has been farming this way since the beginning and by simply following His Ways, amazing solutions to the food security and poverty crisis can be revealed.
Ishaka is getting classroom and hands-on education at this facility. He grows his own crops in the outdoor classroom and takes care of the pigs.
When they finish the six months of training, they will come back to our Sight.org farm and pass that training onto other farmers in surrounding villages.
Our Sight.org farm already has corn, mangos, moringa, beans, chickens, ginea fowl and a set of classrooms. We are all excited to see what our farm will look like when Ishaka and Florent bring their training back to our farm.
We started providing this agricultural training on the Sight.org farm to surrounding villages three years ago, but have had to pause the program for various reasons. We are all excited to start the program again and see what our farm will look like when Ishaka and Florent bring their training back to our farm.
So I know you are still asking, “What does all of this have to do with giving sight to the blind?”
Two thirds of the population of Togo are farmers.
Yet 2.5 million people in Togo are malnourished.
Malnutrition is one of the main causes of blindness in Togo.
When Ishaka and Florent use their training to train other farmers, those farmers go home and train other farmers.
All of those farmers will then produce bigger and better crops that provide better nutrition for their families. It causes a domino effect. In the long run, this program can affect the rate of malnourishment in Togo, therefore affecting the rate of blindness.
This training also has a discipleship aspect built in. As Ishaka and Florent train farmers, they will also be teaching them the Word of God. This opens the door for further ministry among the farmers.
As Lewis Swann, founder of Sight.org often says, “Our agricultural facility has the potential of making a bigger dent in blindness in Togo than our eye surgeries do. If we can reach many local farmers with this training, we can prevent people from getting cataracts due to malnutrition. Our eye surgeries fix the problem of blindness, but our agricultural training prevents blindness.”
When you give to Sight.org, you are not just giving eye surgeries. You are giving the Word of God and agricultural training. At first glance, the three seem unrelated, but in Togo, they all go hand in hand.
You can impact the blind, the malnourished, and the unreached for $12.50 a month when you become one of our Visionaries!
My name is Kornye.
I am a farmer.
I am a dad.
I have a nine-year-old daughter named Angelé.
One day, I noticed that one of Angelé’s eyes was turning inwards. Her friends started teasing her because she was cross-eyed. She started having difficulty reading or focusing. Then I started seeing little white clouds in both of her eyes. They seemed to get bigger every time I looked at her. Eventually, Angelé was not able to go to school because she couldn’t even see her own hand in front of her face. She couldn’t even walk by herself anymore.
My heart broke for my daughter but I had no one to help her. I asked the doctor in my village for help but he couldn’t do anything for her. My friends told me that there was an eye doctor in the capital, but I didn’t have enough money to get there. I have never left my village.
Last month, a strange looking vehicle drove into our village. Some people got out of that vehicle and started examining the eyes of everyone in our village. They called themselves Sight.org.
Suddenly, my heart jumped. Could these people help my Angele? I ran and grabbed my daughter. As we waited in line, I had hope for the first time in years. A man from Sight.org looked at her eyes and declared that they could help her.
The day of her surgery, Angelé was frightened. She didn’t want to go in that strange looking vehicle. She cried, but she was brave, for me. I was nervous too, but I kept a brave face for my daughter. I watched her step into the vehicle and I wondered what they would do to her.
When she came out, she had bandages on both eyes and had to be led to a chair. It was hard to see my daughter this way. The next day, they took off the bandages. The people asked her to open her eyes, but she refused. She was too scared. She didn’t open her eyes for many hours.
My heart sunk. Was she in pain? Did the surgery work?
She finally opened her eyes, but she couldn’t see anything.
The Sight.org people came back a week later to check her eyes again. She opened her eyes for them this time, but they did not see any change. She still couldn’t see the doctor’s hands in front of her face. I looked at the doctor’s face. When I saw his face, I lost hope. He didn’t think she would be able to see again. I wondered if my daughter would ever see again.
Then, a miracle happened. One day, she could see her hands. Then she could see her feet. Each day, she could see a little more.
A month later, when Sight.org came back to check her eyes again, she was walking all by herself with a big smile on her face. She could count all of their fingers. Everyone started jumping and cheering for her. They all started praising Jesus. I will never forget that day.
Angelé is now back in school. She can play with her friends again. She can run into my arms again. I am so thankful for the gift that Sight.org has brought to my Angelé.
Our lives have been changed because someone cared enough to bring that strange looking vehicle to our village.
When we first started taking our ambulance into the village of Amlame, we EXPECTED to only spend three months there doing surgeries.
But there was more NEED there than we expected.
Now we have been there for nine months and the people are still coming! Every month we show up, there is a crowd of people in need. The crowd is always just as big as the last month. It is always beyond our expectations.
People come from far villages, some by feet, others by motos (motorcycles). When they are qualified for surgeries, they spend a week sleeping in our tents or in the hospital hall.
This month, we went to Amlame to do screenings and surgeries from June 29th to July 4th. We had two days of screening and we saw 230 patients. We performed surgery on 55 eyes this month and booked 40 patients for surgery for next month. The other patients either had glaucoma (which we treat with eyedrops instead of surgery) or they just needed eye care education.
The day after each surgery, our team did a post operation check up and then will do a one week post op on the 11th and then a one month post op after that. At the one day post op, all patients were able to see!
The donations from our supporters made these surgeries possible! Our patients have been blessed beyond their expectations because of you!
Has God ever exceeded your expectations? He certainly has for us!
We are constantly amazed at God’s work. We never expected to have an ambulance driving into the most rural part of Togo, but God did. We expected to get a huge truck donated to us, but God had different plans. We expected to be in Amlame for only three months and now we have been there for nine months and will keep going until the patients stop coming. Because of your generous donations, we are able to continually do these surgeries!
God continues to remind us that He is ultimately in control.
We expect that He will continue to exceed our expectations.