What an amazing day today! On our team this year is an eye Dr – Chris Williams – he is Jim Hall’s ophthalmologist. This year because Chris wanted to go on this trip, we were led to do a vision clinic that took an absolute ton of preparation. The clinic would give us the ability to examine a person’s eyes and cross reference their prescription through a data base with approximately 1700 pair of glasses that we brought with us. We had spent about 50 hours cataloguing, labeling and packaging the glasses – it was a huge project. The glasses we don’t use will remain here in Kenya for other teams that might also come with the capability to run a clinic. You need this many pair of glasses to provide sight for approximately 200-300 patients.
This was our first ever attempt to bring this type of ministry to the people at Gituamba so we were filled with anticipation at how this was going to work. Immediately after we got set up the teachers began to send students to us. Dr Chris would measure their prescription and send it to the laptop where it got matched with possibilities in the data base. Sometimes there would be at least five possibilities and occasionally there might be only one. Several times we had no matches in which case we would try to come up with anything that might be an improvement.
In several cases, Dr Chris would see evidence of other eye issues and would then do a deeper examination of their eyes to come up with a diagnosis. These patients will be followed up with later. The majority of these issues were dry eyes which was no surprise in a climate like Kenya’s. The blessing was to see so many folks break into a large smile at their ability to see better than they had in years, or perhaps ever. They saw their whole world differently – as though for the first time. The gift of sight.
It was a long day and we saw 110 patients on our ‘trial run.” We will do two more days of exams at a nearby hospital Thursday and Friday. We will have a pretty smooth operation due to our efforts today.
We saw the fingerprints of God all over this project today and I couldn’t help but think about how God orchestrates events in our lives at times to give us a new picture of Himself - to remind us that He is present, with us, and He knows us and our needs.
For instance, on the way home, on the bumpy dirt roads leading out of the bush at Gituamba, the back door of our van jarred open and Dr Chris’s backpack fell out. We never heard it go. Further down the road, we heard the back-door thump and we pulled over to investigate. Our driver didn’t even know we had anything in the back so after backtracking on foot for some distance and finding nothing, he wasn’t sure the backpack had been there in the first place. Chris’s future step son, Owen, was positive he had placed it in our van but as the vans are all very similar, we questioned whether he had perhaps put it in a different van. We backtracked further and there were no signs of the backpack. Again, could Owen have been mistaken? But no, he was certain he said, that the backpack had been in the back of the van. We turned the van around and began driving back even farther. After backtracking about a half mile or more, we happened across a motorcycle driver so we stopped to ask if he had seen anything. Indeed, he claimed, he had been transporting an older woman back to her house and they came across the backpack off on the side of the road. The older woman insisted the driver stop and retrieve the bag. Although she had never seen it before, she ‘just knew’ it must belong to her friends at Start With One Kenya.
She took the bag back to her house and was trying to call any members of the SWOK team when we pulled into her driveway. She came out of her house with the backpack and she and Dr Chris became fast friends. Chris blessed her with a “reward” for the return of his backpack and while she seemed embarrassed at first, she teared up with gratitude – looking like someone who had just received exactly what she needed. The extra blessing was that Dr Chris had, earlier in the day, performed an examination on her son!
This is God at work through His winsome ways and through the power of community. Gituamba is the community we have now become a part of. People who love God and love each other. And that’s the goal – that the love God has shown to us provokes our love back to Him in return and ultimately overflows to those around us. I couldn’t help but imagine the conversation among the Council of the Trinity this morning as God formulated His plan to get some extra money to an elderly woman and at the same time reveal His goodness and blessing to 7 members of our team in that van. I could imagine the Trinity summoning the angels, “Hey, come and check this out! They just left the guy on the motorcycle - watch what happens when they get to the lady’s house!” Then all of heaven rejoiced in the moment!
God cares deeply about the little things in our life. As we used to sometimes tell our children, “if its important to you, its important.” That’s our God – there is enough of Him to run the universe and still care about the financial needs of a lady and her son living in the African bush, and about a lost backpack. He even weaves it into a story so His blessing comes to both of these in a shared moment of tears and the blessedness of community.
Knowing God doesn’t mean our every story will turn out this way – sometimes the backpack never gets recovered. Sometimes the finances get so tight we think we may choke. But knowing Him means we will never be alone in our situations. Knowing Him also means that no matter how things turn out, He is always trying to reveal Himself to us in new ways and that He is deeply committed to our transformation into the likeness of His Son. Those two things are always in operation in our lives. Our job is to not miss, or resist those moments. As we continually surrender more of ourselves to Him our awareness of His work in our lives becomes more and more obvious and we become more in tune with the deep change He is trying to work in us.
Tomorrow we move to a different location for the first water filter distribution of our trip. We are already anxious to see what He will do. One thing is for sure – we will go with eyes wide open looking with expectation for the great things He will do. For as they say in Kenya, “God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good – because that’s His nature.”
Be sure to also check out Jim's team blog here.