Ama’s Mother’s Day was 3 Months Ago

Ama’s Mother’s Day was 3 Months Ago

Ama traveled over 700 miles from the country of Mali to the country of Togo to see her family. She was a twenty three-year-old mother with a beautiful eight-month-old baby girl named Blessing.

This first-time mom had never seen her baby girl because she went blind in both eyes during pregnancy.

 

 

(In a culture where witchcraft is prevalent, pregnant women are often told not to drink water. Dehydration during pregnancy can either leave the mother or baby blind. We see this all too often in Togo.)

Ama thought that she went blind because someone put a curse on her. Curses are common, so this is the first thing that came to her mind. She didn’t know that she could have prevented her blindness by drinking water during her pregnancy.

Ama thought she was traveling to Togo just to see family. But God brought her to Togo for something bigger.

Her mother-in-law had just heard about Sight.org, so she drove three hours to bring Ama to us. Our doctor knew immediately that he could help her.

Ama became the first eye surgery patient of 2019.

 

 

Our staff was so excited for the first surgery that we all crowded around the operating room to watch. As Ama was lying on the table getting prepped, I noticed that every muscle in her body was shaking. I’m not talking about a little shake in her hands. Her legs shook, her arms shook, her stomach shook, even the muscles in her neck were shaking. She was scared to death.

 

 

I couldn’t just stand there watching. My heart broke for her and I had to do something. I asked the doctor if I could hold her hand and pray for her during surgery and he said, “Yes, anything you can do to keep her calm will be helpful!”

 

Our eye surgeries only last fifteen minutes, so I thought it would be pretty easy to sit with her for just that short time. I forgot that she had to be fully prepped before and cleaned after. I sat on a rolling stool as my arms and legs fell asleep. But it was all worth it. I prayed over Ama and held her hand. I could see the muscles in her body slowly calm down.

 

 

Soon, it was all over and the doctor proclaimed that her surgery went very well and she would be able to see the next day.

 

As Ama rested and recovered, I got to play with her beautiful daughter. I imagined what it would be like to not see my own children, to miss out on seeing their precious eyes and cute dimples.

 

 

Ama missed out on the first eight months of her daughter’s life.

She didn’t see Blessing’s tiny fingers and toes get bigger every day. This young mother didn’t get to watch her baby grow over the first several months. She never experienced looking into the eyes of her baby and completely melting with love.

 

 

I hurt for Ama.

I grieved that she missed out on so much with her baby. She missed out on so much joy that comes with being a mother.

But then, I rejoiced for her.

When our optometrist took the patches off her eyes, we all gathered around once more. We couldn’t wait for this sweet mother to see her beautiful baby for the first time.

 

 

To be honest, it wasn’t what we all expected. We wanted it to be like the movies. We wanted her to open her eyes and see her baby. We wanted her to cry with joy.

None of that happened.

When Ama opened her eyes, she was almost frozen. They handed her baby to her and she just sat there.

Maybe she was overwhelmed.

Maybe she was still groggy from the medicine.

Maybe she was in pain.

We don’t know.

 

 

Finally, after what seemed like forever, Ama picked up her baby’s foot and examined it. Her baby cried so she fed her. As she fed her, she looked into her eyes.

 

 

It wasn’t as dramatic as we expected.

It was real life.

She had just recovered from major surgery but she was still a mother with responsibilities. She just kept going as usual, taking care of her baby. She just did what she needed to do.

A few days later, we caught a few glimpses of her smiling and playing with her baby. Sweet little Blessing was all smiles, all the time. Could she tell a difference in her mom? Did she know that her mom was seeing her for the first time? Did she feel more connected to her mom?

 

 

One week earlier, Ama had no idea that her life was about to change. She didn’t know that she would be getting her sight back. She also didn’t know that a bunch of strangers would pray over her and tell her all about the One who brought her there. That is the whole reason Sight.org is in Togo, to point people to Jesus. To open the eyes of the blind both physically and spiritually.

We don’t know how Ama responded when she heard the good news of Jesus, but our team did not miss a chance to tell her about Him and pray over her. God brought her there for a reason and we all knew it.

This Mother’s Day, will you pray for Ama?

Pray for her heart.

Pray that she responds to God’s loving voice.

Pray that she will not ignore the fact that God chased after her.

Pray that she bonds even more with her baby now.

Pray that God transforms Ama in every way.

 

 

Watch video of Ama as she gets her patches off!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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?

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.

Weary of Serving, Give What You Can

Weary of Serving, Give What You Can

Have you ever been weary of serving? What do you do in those times?

 

The volunteer team that is in Togo right now is weary. They have had long days and nights of serving. Even more so, our medical and ministry team that lives in Togo year round, is extremely weary.

Each month is full of eye surgeries, farming, and ministry. The life of service can be draining and discouraging.

weary

 

Several members of our volunteer team are in Togo just to encourage the medical and ministry team.

weary

Becky Canal shared this story of how God used her gifts to encourage Daniel, our ministry team leader.

“I spent time tonight teaching Daniel how to sing harmony because he heard me singing harmony during our times of worship and he has wanted to learn how to sing harmony for quiet a while now.

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He has a true passion for music and I am very moved by what God is doing in his heart with music and how he wants to share it with and help others.

He has been given several songs from the Lord that are just so unique and beautiful. I have never heard anything like it.

weary
 

He has an acute ear for picking up harmony and learns very quickly. I love the sound of his African voice blending with my American voice.

I am praying that the Lord will send someone to keep instructing him in his singing and playing the guitar and piano.

I never would have thought that this would be one of my reasons for coming to Africa.

I never thought that something I have been doing most of my life that the Lord would use me in this way.

Harmony comes so easy for me but I have never tried to teach someone and WOW Daniel is just a natural, so it is not difficult at all to sit around singing with him. It is so much fun!

His passion is truly inspiring and he has challenged me to go deeper in the Lord!

Last Sunday at the farm we had a church service with the team. Joe shared the word to encourage the medical and ministry team.

He said, ‘often we feel like we have nothing to give when we are weary of serving.’ So give what you have.

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weary
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This gift that God gave me that I have never used in this way, God chose to use it 6000 miles away and I feel humbled and blessed by Him.”

There are also several nurses on our volunteer team this month. They are truly using their gifts to serve the people of Togo.

Rachel Baber shared these stories with us.

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weary

“When we arrived, Chris (a boy who comes to the farm daily and is cared for by the Sight.org team) had a serious infection from a machete cut on his knee.

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Helen and Naomi had been cleaning the wound, but by the time I got here it was much worse.

Chris was limping and could barely bend his knee.

Since Chris has Sickle Cell Disease, he especially was at an extreme risk of complication from the wound.

We were able to find medicine to put on his wound. 

 

Within a few days Chris felt much better!

His wound was clean and healthy, and Chris could move his knee again and was not limping. He could even be found sitting on the porch singing to music now that he felt better.

This past week we visited a village outside of Amlamé.

I had been to this village exactly a year ago.

Upon arrival, the children recognized me and ran to greet me with hugs. They would not let go of my hand and crowded around me the rest of the way to the village.

 

weary
 

During the mornings Helen and I would treat the children and adults for worms, a common problem in Togo since clean drinking water is not readily available.

We provided the children with vitamins as well. Three pregnant women received pre-natal vitamins to take for the rest of their pregnancy.

Helen treated a few wounds since her expertise was in wound care when she worked as a nurse.

One girl had an infected machete cut on her foot that was so serious that we took her to a nearby hospital to get antibiotics and a tetanus shot.

One baby was brought to me. The father told me that the baby was nearly three years old and that the baby’s mother had died after he was born.

 

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It was hard to believe that the baby was nearly three because he was so tiny.

We treated him for worms and gave him an extended supply of vitamins to aid him in his nutrition as he continues to grow.

In the evenings Joe preached at the house church that Sight.org established last year.

The members of this house church would sing praise songs and dance. How they love to sing and dance!

 

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They were also very curious about the Bible and hungry to gain knowledge.

They would ask Steve, Helen, Joe, and Becky questions like: ”Jesus says to turn our cheek when someone slaps us. What does this mean? Is it a parable?’

One woman asked: ‘How often should we pray and fast?’

In the late evenings we would show the Jesus film and other films that explained the gospel. We even showed the film Planet Earth so that they could see animals and landscapes they had never seen before.

 

The children climbed in my lap and squealed with delight at seeing an ocean’s waves and it’s creatures, and watched with big eyes and open mouths as a crocodile’s jaws slammed shut.

weary

Upon leaving for the last time, the children held my hand as we walked down the dark trail towards the van. Some of the children softly sang ‘This Little Light of Mine’ and ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ that I had taught them during the previous days.”

The people in these villages are very special to the Sight.org, and now they have a special part in the hearts of our volunteer team.

God is moving in these villages because the medical, ministry, and volunteer teams are giving what they have.

God has given them all special gifts, and he is using those gifts for his kingdom.

They may be weary, but they give anyway.

Are you weary of serving? Just give whatever you can today. God will use it for more than you could ever imagine.

 

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