I’m So Not Excited

I’m So Not Excited

If you had asked me two years ago where Togo is, I would have responded, “Isn’t that off the coast of Australia?”  

 

That’s what I said when Lewis approached me about getting involved with Sight.org. (I was confusing Togo, a small West African country, with Tonga, a tiny South Pacific island!)  Find Lome, Togo on your map app. That’s where Beth, Lewis and I will step off the plane into a ninety degree February morning. I may well be saying to myself “Togo – we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

 

I’m excited about seeing a place on the planet where daily life is radically different from how I live 24/7 in the buckle of the Bible belt in Tyler, Texas, USA. But that’s not what I’m most excited about seeing.

 

I’m excited to be in the operating room for four full days as one Togolese person after another gets their blinding cataracts cut out in less time than it takes to get my hair cut.  I’m excited to watch our skilled Sight.org medical team, (all of them native Africans who live there), working like a well-oiled machine to give vision back to 150 adults. I’m very excited to watch our patients’ faces light up and to hear their voices shout with delight.  I can’t wait to see their feet dancing in celebration as the darkness lifts when the eye patches come off. But that’s not what I’m most excited about seeing.

 

I’m excited to ride up into the rural hillsides in the Sight.org van, seated between Lewis and Beth as we pick up four children – little ones who’ve never seen their parents, family, or friends due to cataract-induced blindness since birth.  I look forward to watching them the day after surgery when they look into their parents’ eyes for very first time. But that’s not what I’m most excited about seeing.

 

It gives me chills to think about bringing these now-seeing children back to their families and communities.  The ten-year-old boy, who has had no friends, will now be chasing the soccer ball along with the rest of the guys.  The seven-year-old, who was born the same month as Sight.org in June 2012, will gaze at the African sky for very first time. As satisfying as these scenes are, they’re not what I’m most excited about seeing.

 

Raymond will drive us to three villages in the Elavagnon region where our medical team has brought vision to 2221 people since we first ventured into this Voodoo and witchcraft-dominated region in 2016. I’ll meet our Togolese brothers and sisters in Christ who heard the good news of Jesus and accepted his offer of forgiveness and eternal life when our medical team brought them the gospel. I’ll join their evening circle around the village mango tree as the African sun sets and the solar-powered audio device begins playing the New Testament in the Ewe dialect. I’ll probably clap, sing, and dance the praises of Jesus with the.  Those of you who know me know I mean that literally! But even these new Christ-followers are not what I’m most excited about seeing in Africa.

 

I find myself nervously and excitedly looking forward to seeing God work by the power of His Holy Spirit, drawing people out of the spiritual abyss and into the glorious light of His Son Jesus. I am awestruck at the thought of watching Him rescue his creations from the fear of death which has held them captive all their lives. As incredible as that will be, it’s not the number one thing I am looking forward to seeing while there on the equator.

 

 

What I am most excited about seeing is God in all His glory.  The best definition of “glory” I’ve ever heard is from my pastor Gary Brandenburg who said, “glory is when the invisible God is made visible.”  I’m looking forward to seeing His glory as relationships form between our team and our patients. As He surprises us with the things we need, right when and where we need them.  As He empowers us beyond our talents and training to do His works of healing that are clearly beyond our capability. As He opens blinded minds and hearts to the great love He has for each person.  As He restores hope to people when their vision is restored. As He becomes visible in people who place their faith in Jesus because they believed our message. As He calls more people to become a part of Sight.org as they watch the surgeries live on Facebook.

 

Lord, open their eyes.  

And open mine even wider.

 

Written by Todd Hinkie, Sight.org Director of Strategic Growth and Development

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Do you want to go with us to the operating room, the mango tree, the villages and the towns of southern Togo?  Lord willing and technology cooperating, we will be streaming live on our Facebook Page, so now’s the time to be sure you’re following! 

 

 

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?

We Thank God for this Little Miracle Baby

We Thank God for this Little Miracle Baby

Big, HUGE, Announcement from Lewis Swann, founder of Sight.org

 

“Naomi and I are EXCITED to announce that we have a little one on the way!

We want to give God all the glory for this little miracle baby that He has given us. It is always in His perfect timing that He gives us good gifts and cultivates something in us that we wouldn’t otherwise have, while we wait.”

 

Watch video below to see the gender reveal.

 

We are all very excited about this new little addition to the Sight.org team!

We would love for you to pray for a healthy pregnancy for Naomi and a happy, healthy baby!

 

 

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.

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