Get ready to fall in love with a group of people you have never met before!
During the month of July, there will be several volunteers traveling from Texas to Togo with Sight.org. We want to introduce them to you so that you can pray for them and follow along with their trip.
Steve and Helen Clark
The Clarks got connected to Sight.org last year when Wayne and Elaine Riley became missionaries in Togo. The Clarks and the Rileys have gone to church together for about thirteen years. The Clarks have been married for 34 years, and they are so cute together! They have four children and three grandchildren.
Steve started volunteering in the Sight.org office last year, and he has become our most beloved volunteer. He is a hard worker with a servant’s heart. He is a former fighter pilot, civil engineer, and public school counselor and administrator.
Helen is originally from England and was a British Registered Nurse. She now works in Tyler as a physical therapy assistant.
Helen will be assisting with medical clinics while Steve encourages our medical team and helps with the house churches.
This is what Steve says about their trip to Togo.
I want to go to Togo to serve but I also want to learn. I want to learn more about the people and the team so that I can serve them better here in Tyler. Since I am volunteering in the Sight.org office every week, I want to learn as much as I can about the ministry so that I can serve them better. Helen has a medical background, so she feels that she can easily walk alongside the medical team while they are there.
Joe and Becky Canal
The Canals also got connected with Sight.org through Wayne and Elaine Riley. The Riley’s go to church where Joe pastors. Joe has been the pastor of Tyler Christian Fellowship (TCF) for twenty-eight years. TCF is a tight nit community, so when the Riley’s became missionaries with Sight.org, the entire church became Sight.org supporters in one way or another.
This is what Joe has to say about their trip to Togo.
In April of this year Lewis Swann, Sight.org’s founder and president, invited me to become a member of their board of directors. Lewis felt that I would be a strength to the organization, based on my years of experience as a senior pastor. He saw great opportunity for me to encourage and disciple members of the Sight.org team as well as minister to the many individuals whose lives are being transformed through the work that they are doing in Togo. That’s why Becky and I are planning a short-term mission trip this summer to Togo, West Africa.
The main purpose of our trip is to minister to the spiritual needs of the leaders and full time workers on the ground. As the work is expanding the need for encouragement and discipleship is increasing for the team as well as those that they are reaching every month. We’re excited to help train and equip these dedicated people who are doing such amazing work among the poor.
Rachel is a Registered Nurse who went to Togo last year. She will be doing more medical clinics like she did last year. You can read more about Rachel and her last trip here.
Rachel has a huge heart for missions. She uses the gifts God has given her to serve everyone around her. She blew us away last year with her loving spirit when she went to Togo. We are beyond excited that she is joining our team again. The Togolese medical team can’t wait to see her again!
Lewis and Naomi Swann
The Swanns are the founders of Sight.org. They will be there alongside the rest of the team. You can read their story here.
Over the next month, we will be relaying stories from each member of this team as they serve alongside our Togolese team members. We are all excited about what God will be doing in and through them.
We ask for your prayers over each team member. We have developed a prayer calendar with helpful suggestions on how to pray.
Lewis arrived in Togo a few days ago, and he and the Togolese team are already facing spiritual warfare. The enemy does not like what God is doing through Sight.org and he is trying to stop it any way that he can. Please pray that everyone involved will have their spiritual armor on daily so that they can move forward in what God wants them to do.
Last week, it was one thing after another.
Lack of funds for surgeries.
Bank transfer fail.
Being forced to get supplies in one day instead of the normal three days.
Electricity going off in the ambulance during surgeries.
We were sitting in our comfortable office chairs here in Texas, but we could feel the stress in Togo, from 6,000 miles away. This was not our easiest round of surgeries.
Several times throughout the week, we thought about canceling this round of surgeries. It just seemed like everything was against them.
Every time we talked about canceling, we immediately said no.
These eye surgeries are a doorway to the gospel.
We love giving sight to the blind. It is amazing to experience people go from blind to sight in twenty-four hours. But more than that, we love that these eye surgeries open a door for the love and truth of Jesus to be shared.
Many people who come to us are from a Voodoo or Muslim background. They have no interest in hearing about Jesus, until the lives of fifty blind people in their region are completely changed over the span of three days.
After that, everyone in the village is willing to listen to the word of God.
That is when the real miracles happen.
That is when real life change happens.
And that is when the church continues to grow.
Last weekend, in spite of so many challenges, we didn’t have to say no to this round of eye surgeries. Our dedicated supporters and prayer partners said yes to fifty life changing eye surgeries.
17-year-old Atakpa got her sight back this weekend. She has had a cataract since she was a child, but her family didn’t have money to go to the hospital. Last week Atakpa’s mother heard about Sight.org from a friend so they decided to come for help.
She said, “Please help me to get my sight back, I want to go back to school.”
Atakpa wants to thank everyone who gave to Sight.org to make her surgery possible. She says, “May God bless you.”
A grandma named Bluyema also got her sight back. She was a rice seller but she stopped selling because of her age. For the last 4 years, she has had a cataract. This cataract was preventing her from doing what she really loves, and that is taking care of her grandchildren.
This is what she said before her surgery, “I love playing with my grandchildren, I love watching them playing around me. But since I got this cataract, I can’t take care of them. Please help me to get back my sight, so I can see and play with them again before I die”
And now, Bluyema can see her grandchildren again!
After all the eye surgeries were performed, the team took the patches off the patients’ eyes. As they all realized that they could see, the newly sighted Africans broke out in song and worship. Jeanaway stood in the middle of the patients, leading them to praise Jesus for their sight. Just last year, this 17-year old got his sight back and is now serving on the Sight.org team as a ministry leader.
When you give to Sight.org, you are not just giving sight to the blind. You are also giving them the love and truth of Jesus. You open the door for the gospel.
This week, you are hearing stories of the big beautiful door of eye surgeries. Next week, you will get to walk through that door and enter the house. You will get to hear stories of what God is doing in baby Christians in the house church in the village of Landa.
As I sat in the plane, I burst into tears.
I was traveling alone, so the strangers around me probably thought I was crazy. I couldn’t stop crying. Even the nun next to me refused to make eye contact.
I was on my way to Togo.
My book of choice for the trip was Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen. I read these words, “I feel like people love me for what I do and not who I am.” I stopped and stared. I couldn’t move past these words. And then the flood works started.
I realized that I had been striving so much to be and do everything for everyone around me that I had lost a part of myself.
I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. I was stretched thin. And I was on my way to serve people in Africa.
God knew he had to break me before I even got off the plane. I was worthless to his kingdom at that point.
Through my tears, I realized that being a people pleaser was a sin. I repented, and God started over with me.
I was trying to be enough for everyone around me. But I will never be enough. I am human. I am incapable of being everything that everyone wants me to be. I will never do it all on my own.
But, Jesus is enough.
I can rest in the fact that he has all the resources. He has all the time. He has all the energy. I don’t. But I do have Him in me. I have him working through me.
A weight was lifted when I realized that I wasn’t enough. I realized that I could walk free, letting Jesus do His thing through me.
It’s a good thing, because I was about to enter into ten days of non-stop ministry, prayer, and spiritual warfare. Not to mention, many nights of sleeping on a cot in a tent.
I walked off that plane feeling a freedom that I haven’t felt in a long time.
I knew it wasn’t about me, it was about God’s kingdom and His glory. Jesus was in control, not me. Even though I knew God had a specific reason for me being there, it still wasn’t about me. I didn’t have to worry about living up to everyone’s expectations. I just had to draw from the living water every day and let God work.
Every day of that trip, I had two phrases ringing in my head:
“Jesus is enough.”
“It’s not about me, it’s about God’s kingdom and His glory.”
I wrote them on my hand. I drew pictures about it in my journal. I didn’t want to forget. I didn’t want to fall back under the weight I had been under.
One day, a woman came to us with a painful infection in her hands. Normally, I would pray for her from a distance. This time, I knew God wanted me to draw close to her. He wanted me to touch her hands and pray for her. I was scared of getting the infection at first.
But God said, “It’s not about you, it’s about my kingdom and my glory.” I sat and prayed with her, holding her hands.
Another day, I had to give some difficult news to our team members. I hated that I was the one who had to tell them. I wondered what they would think of me. I worried that I would say the wrong thing.
But God said, “It’s not about you, it’s about my kingdom and my glory.”
I prayed, and told them the news. I felt like I wasn’t the one speaking. I didn’t even recognize the words coming out of my mouth. The response of the team was complete understanding and peace.
One night, I had two minutes’ notice that I would be speaking to the house church in the village of Adjon. I had no idea what I would say, but I had peace that Jesus was enough. He knew what needed to be said. It wasn’t about me.
It wasn’t about what I would say. It wasn’t about how well I could preach. It wasn’t about the fact that I was a woman.
It was just about Jesus.
I had so much joy that night as I spoke, because I wasn’t striving. I wasn’t trying to please the crowd. I was just letting Jesus be enough through me.
Then, something happened that none of us were prepared for. A family came across our path with an eight month old baby named Natalie, and she was dying.
For several minutes, there was no doctor to help. There was only our team. Our team has ophthalmic training, but no training that could help this baby. This baby was gasping for breath and we were watching the life drain from her eyes. The only thing we could do was pray. We prayed our hearts out. We cried out to God.
Jesus was enough. He had to be enough. There was nothing else we could do.
Finally, a doctor showed up. We took her to the hospital, where she was cared for. We continued to pray for her and love on her parents. We dropped everything for this baby.
Then a week later, she died.
Because of lack of resources in rural Togo, there was nothing more the hospital could do for her. We all wondered what was the purpose of all this.
Normally, I would have immediately spiraled because of fear.
I have so many fears.
When death happens around me, it hits me hard. But this time, I had peace.
I may never know the purpose, but I know that Jesus is enough for all of this. He is enough for the parents who just lost their baby. He is enough for the hospital workers who had to give up. He is enough for our team who walked through it all, prayed through it all. He is enough for all the people in the US who had been praying for Natalie that whole week and were crushed by the news.
And now I am back home.
And I am still preaching these words to myself every day.
Jesus is enough.
It’s not about me, it’s about God’s kingdom and His glory.
I am carrying these truths with me into my daily life at home and at work. I am no longer striving to be everything to everyone. That weight has been lifted.
When my son struggles in school, I don’t have to strive to make it all better. I pray and point my son to the One who can handle it.
When my husband is in the middle of a crazy work season and none of us can find enough time to be together as a family, I don’t have to strive to make it happen. I pray for strength. Because Jesus is enough to get us through this season.
When I come to work and we suddenly don’t have the funds for the next round of eye surgeries, I don’t freak out.
I trust that Jesus is enough to cover those funds. I don’t strive to make it happen. I let God move through me and tell me where those donations are going to come from.
(P.S. This really does happen. We would love for you to pray about giving to Sight.org to keep our eye surgeries going!)
It is so simple.
Jesus is enough.
It’s not about me, it’s about God’s kingdom and His glory.
I get to go to Togo once a year. Last year, I went during surgery week. It was overwhelming to see people’s lives being changed in a fifteen-minute surgery. I had so many stories and photos when I came back because our eye surgeries make such a huge impact.
This year, I wouldn’t be seeing any surgeries. I was going for ministry week instead.
I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive because I wasn’t sure if I would be getting many stories or photos. I’ve been working for Sight.org for two years, so I know that our ministry weeks make an impact, but it is not as in your face as our surgery weeks. I’m a preacher’s kid, so I’ve been around ministry my whole life. Ministry week didn’t feel like it would be as much of an adventure as surgery week was.
Boy, was I wrong.
Our eye surgeries are a doorway to ministry. These villages would not allow us to even enter without first doing eye surgeries. Through them, we build relationships and trust with the people.
After we spend several weeks in a village, they welcome us with open arms.
The first village I was in was called Landa. It is in the region of Elevagnon. Our ministry team has been in Landa since January. They have read the word with them, prayed with them, worshipped with them, and shown them the Jesus Film.
The first night I was in Landa, we watched a film called Mary Magdalene. Over fifty men, women, and children came to watch. As I sat with them and watched I had so many thoughts going through my preacher’s kid, Seminary trained brain.
“Ok, so this film is in their language, but other than that, how are they possibly relating to anything going on?”
“Everyone in this film is white, and I’m surrounded by Africans.”
“Shouldn’t we just be loving on these people instead of staring at a screen?”
“These children are staying up past their bedtime and it’s a school night!”
Obviously, I was overthinking everything.
I prayed through the whole movie and I tried not to let my skeptical thoughts ruin my first night in the village.
What happened next shattered all my skepticism.
When the film was over, our ministry team encouraged the people with the word, prayed, and then offered to give Bibles to anyone who wanted them.
A young man stood up and said, “We have heard you tell us about Jesus and we all believe. We have watched the Jesus Film and now this film, and we love everything that Jesus has done for us. Yes, we want Bibles, but we really want a place to meet! Will you please give us a place to read the Bible together and pray together?”
I have never heard anyone so hungry for the Word of God before. They were starving for more of Jesus.
I was completely humbled. Jesus was so much bigger than my skeptical thoughts.
We told them that we would be there again the next night and would set up a place for them all to meet and bring them Bibles.
The next night, we met under a large mango tree. We sat down, started playing drums and singing.
At first, no one was there. But suddenly, one by one, they all came back. They truly wanted more of Jesus. We sang and prayed for an hour and then encouraged them with the word. It was so refreshing to be around a bunch of baby Christians who just wanted Jesus. They sang and danced for Jesus with all their hearts.
It started storming just was we opened the boxes of Bibles to give away. They all stayed, in the rain. They even stayed as we prayed over them.
They didn’t care about the rain because they wanted more of Jesus.
This is the beginning of a brand-new house church in the village of Landa.
Matthew 5:6 says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”
I know that Jesus is filling the people in the village of Landa, because they are hungry for Jesus.
Our ministry team has a long road ahead of them as they walk alongside this new house church. If you would like to see the steps that our team takes in establishing a house church, go to our ministry page. We would love for you to pray for this village.
Happy New Year! We can’t believe it’s already here! New Years is a BIG celebration here in TOGO. People fill the churches the night before (even though they may not go to church all year) and ring in the new year with fasting, prayers and praise!
We are on our way back to the United States thanks to many who gave toward our trip. We couldn’t have done it without you, May God doubly bless you! We will be back in Tyler, TX today! We are excited to be starting our new year coming home to see our kids, grandkids, church family, and friends. It’s been a year and we truly need your face-to-face connection!
We have our schedule for the year and expect GOD to do more through us and our medical/ministry team; afterall He is a BIG GOD!
There will be 450 surgeries scheduled and 41 weeks of ministry for 2017! A lot can happen and we are expecting God to move and change lives. We are asking you to pray along with us that God will do MORE miracles, answer MORE prayers, give MORE dreams, heal MORE of the sick/blind, start MORE small churches in each of these villages and do whatever God wants to do in the area of Elavagnon.
We have enjoyed working with our Sight.org medical and ministry teams. Our Directors have been awesome and we couldn’t ask for a better team. We are looking forward to what God wants to do through each of these individuals!!