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MEDICAL MISSION TRIPS
I conducted a day and a half seminar training 14 Chinese Christian health care workers and 13 foreigners to conduct an eye clinic. The seminar took somewhat longer because everything had to be translated into Mandarin. After the seminar we did a one-day eye clinic for practice and to prove that the eye clinic techniques really worked. We had 6 eye lanes going at the same time and examined 645 patients. Each of the Chinese and several foreigners examined several dozen patients. I was confident that the students did grasp the important concepts so that they will be able to train others to conduct eye clinics. I left them with 12 refraction kits and enough material to make about a dozen more. The most exciting part of the clinic was that 4 patients became believers and many of the patients indicated that they would be willing for someone to visit them in their home. I am praying that the training will be passed on to many more Chinese Christians and that more than 100,000 Chinese will receive eye care with many becoming believers.
I was reminded “up close and personal” how important central heat is to my quality of life. The Yangtze River divides China into a northern and southern half. The government has drawn a line approximately along the Yangtze River. All apartments north of the line must have central heat and no apartment south of the line needs central heat. The heat is turned on a certain day in the fall and off on a certain day in the spring. If it is cold before the turn on date or after the turn off date, the people just have to deal with it. In the south most apartments have a small electric space heater that partially heats one room. Even that is a challenge, because there is no wall insulation. I wore 5 layers of clothing the entire trip. I grew up in a home whose only heat source was a wood stove in the living room. My first extended experience with a heated bedroom was a dorm room at the Univ. of North Carolina Chapel Hill. I had forgotten how important central heat was. I flew into Hong Kong and wondered why Britain was so willing to give it back to China. It turns out that Hong Kong gets more that 90% of its water from China. If the British had resisted, China could have cut the water supply and Hong Kong would have been without water in a few weeks.
Smoking is still very popular in China with an estimated 90% of Chinese men smoking. I was offered a cigarette by 3 Chinese men at the clinic.
I have a new appreciation for the Chinese-made products we buy at Wal-Mart. Most of the factory workers come from small Chinese towns throughout China. They work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. They live in factory-owned dorms and eat at factory cafeterias. They earn about $200 per month and are charged about $100 per month for rent and food. They get a 10-day break for the Chinese new-year (Feb. 3) to visit their children living with their grandparents. I visited a Chinese Super Wal-mart. It was definitely geared to the Chinese market. In the food section there was cow stomach, duck feet, hog snouts, hog ears and live fish for sale.
The number of Chinese is mind-boggling. There are 160 Chinese cities with a population more than one million and 5 with a population greater than 10 million. The government just announced plans to combine 4 cities into one connected by high-speed rail service achieving a population of 42 million. The report said you will be able to travel to any part of the new mega-city in less than one hour on the high-speed railroad.
The Chinese diet consists mainly of rice and noodles made from rice. I ate many bowls of noodles. If you order beef with noodles you get about 5 paper-thin slices of beef about 1inch by 1.5 inches. There is enough beef in one steak to supply many bowls of noodles. The key is a pot of very tasty soup that you pour over the noodles to make a delicious meal for about $.55.
Please pray with me that more than 100,000 Chinese will receive eye care from the Chinese Christian health care workers and that many will become believers. Thank you for your prayer and support.
I have been to India many times. This trip I returned to Bobbilli, India. I had already served here on my first six trips. It was great to renew old friendships with the Indian Christians – V. J., Vasantha, and Prasaid.
I was on a team led by Josh Powell. Josh was finishing up his PhD in church history. He was planning to move to Bobbilli with his family the next year to start a seminary for the village pastors; many of whom have no formal seminary training.
We ministered in nine new villages with no churches. We did the clinics in the village schools. I trained Vasantha and Prasaid to do the refraction. I examined 932 patients and Prasaid examined 220 for a total of 1,153 patients examined. He was actually faster than I was because he didn’t have to work through an interpreter. A total of 387 of the patients became believers in the clinic counseling. We gave the local pastors the exam forms to follow up with the new believers.
I was very impressed to see how many patients had cataract surgery. The Indian government is making a major push to give the villagers better health care. In past years about 5% of the cataract patients already had cataract surgery. That year about 25% already had cataract surgery. The year before, I referred 81 patients for cataract surgery. During this year I referred 9 patients, a 90% drop.
I have been introduced to a way to make a pair of glasses out of a welding rod and one uncut spectacle lens. It is an amazing process. I introduced this system in India. We made 30 pairs of glasses and dispensed 15 pairs to patients. I left them with enough material to make 900 pairs of glasses. They will need to charge about 30 Rupees ($.70) for the examination and glasses for the program to be financially self-sustaining. The Christian leaders at Bobbilli are excited about the evangelism potential of the “welding rod glasses.” I hope they make 100,000 pairs of glasses.
Many of the Tom Cox compounds around the world keep children who are either orphans or whose parents can’t take care of them. Most of the children who come to the compound become Christians and in turn influence their families to become Christians. Often that family is the only Christian family in a Hindu village. This provides an opportunity for a pastor to come in and introduce the whole village to Christianity. The children are taught to tithe. The only thing that they have to tithe is their food. Thus they fast every tenth meal and donate the rice to the leper colony.
The trip was very successful both medically and spiritually.
I visited Pallisa, Uganda with Tom Cox World Ministry on my 42nd medical mission trip. The team worked with Pastor Ignatius with whom I have worked several times before. We held joint medical/eye clinics with a pediatric nurse running the medical clinic.
The nurse, Michelle Dozier, has had recurrent breast cancer. She has had 12 surgeries, radiation, and chemo twice. Her attitude is that every new day is a gift from God. That would be a great attitude for each of us.
The most dramatic difference that I saw on this trip was the tremendous number of children everywhere. I asked several people about family size expectations. There was general agreement that in Uganda four or fewer children was considered a small family, 5 to 8 was average, and 9 or more was a big family. The country is setting itself up for mass starvation. Most Ugandans are subsistence farmers. That means that the father grows enough food on his small farm to feed his family. The idea is for the father to divide his farm among his sons so that they can grow enough food to feed their family. The problem is that the “farms” are now so small that there is barely enough land to feed this generation. How is a father going to divide his small farm among 5 sons and each one feed a large family?
The team of 9 members was extremely busy. We had 16 crusades, spoke in 7 schools, and conducted 7 joint medical/eye clinics. I trained Pastor Abraham the year before to do the eye examinations. In the villages where his language was spoken, both of us examined patients. I examined 810 patients and he examined 304 for a total of 1,114 patients. A total of 2,200 plus patients were seen in the clinics. Many patients went to both clinics. A mother would come in with several children with a complaint for herself. After she got in, she wanted each child treated for various problems. There were 503 new believers in the clinics and a total of 1,610 new believers from the 16 crusades, 7 schools, and 7 clinics. We enjoyed the trip but worked very hard.
My fifth medical mission trip was to Uganda, having ministered with Gateway International missions. About half the team was from North Carolina and half from Florida. This trip marked the first time that I had “Eyedocinabox” students with me. The three of us examined 1,447 patients.
We ministered in nine prisons and one school. There were preaching services in all ten locations and joint medical /eye clinics in seven prisons. We had two medical lanes (one run by a Ugandan physician and one by an American nurse) and three eye lanes. The clinics went extremely well.
Being in the Ginja Main Prison was intimidating. The main prison building was a three story structure completely surrounding a dirt courtyard (about 90 feet by 250 feet). We held two services. The first service was for the death row inmates. The first floor of the building had a concrete porch overlooking the dirt courtyard where we sat. The prisoners sat on a blue tarp and what appeared to be a used billboard cover advertising beer. About 250 murderers, rapists, and others given the death penalty sat about ten feet from us. Two guards lounged against a wall about twenty yards away. After the service not one prisoner raised his hand indicating that they had prayed to receive Christ. The 250 condemned men were locked in their cells, and the 500 prisoners in the general population were released from their cell blocks. After the second service I saw one prisoner raise his hand indicating that he had received Christ.
The preaching and health clinics went really well. The following is a summery of the preaching services and clinics:
Estimated total preached to 4,456
Estimated total praying to receive Christ 1,413
Actual total seen in eye clinic 1,447
Actual total seen in medical clinic 1.574
Actual number praying to receive Christ in clinic counseling 684
It is protocol to talk to the “Officer in Charge” of each prison when first arriving. One of the “OC’s” explained how frustrating his job was. His prison was built for 120 inmates and that day he had 606. He had one nursing assistant to treat their health problems and no medicine, soap, or blankets for the inmates. Many were sleeping on bare concrete. Gateway International supplies soap and blankets to as many inmates as it can afford. You can buy a blanket that will last for a year for $3.00 and a year’s supply of soap for an inmate for about $3.25. The dollar is strong compared to the Ugandan shilling right now and you get a lot for your money.
I had an interesting conversation with Pastor Fred Nato about Ugandan marriage customs. He explained that a dowry is still required in Uganda. The boy pays the girls parents. In the old days he was buying his bride. Now it is considered a sign of respect to the girl’s parents and reimburses them for the girl’s education. He said that four cows was a normal dowry or the money equivalent. He looked over at Andrea Sinclair (a PhD prison psychologist from North Carolina) and said, “you know, Andrea, with a PhD here in Uganda, you would be worth more than 20 cows” I guess they really appreciate education in Uganda.
I will be returning to Uganda with Tom Cox Ministry to work out in the villages.
I went to Trujillo, Peru with a Tom Cox ministry team. We held joint medical-eye clinics and backyard Bible clubs each day. Each evening the team split into small groups and held crusades in several locations - a total of 19 in all.
We held clinics the first 3 days in an area where a new church is being planted. The local people did not believe the announcement that we were having free health clinics, and so the attendance was low the first day. I examined 41 patients the first day, 79 the second day, and 149 the third day. The medical clinic saw about the same number. There were 181 new believers in the clinic counseling these 3 days, and I believe we created a lot of goodwill in the community for the new church.
I trained Victoria Stephens, a pre-med student from Georgia to do the eye examination. She examined 181 patients and was introduced to the idea of going to optometry school. Four years prior to that, I trained another pre-med student, who then transferred to the Univ. of Alabama School of Optometry. I hope that she goes on many medical mission trips during her career. Thus I am expanding my ministry in two ways: my seminar training layman to do eye clinics on medical mission trips and getting college students interested in health care to consider going to optometry school.
The weather was really chilly the whole trip with temperatures ranging from the low 50’s to the high 60’s and having no heat in any building. I took a light zip up hooded jacket and wore it about 23 ¾ hours per day.
The eye clinics went really well. I examined 797 patients. Victoria examined 181 patients, and a team from North Augusta Baptist Church examined 508 in another city for a total of 1,486 patients. I left glasses and material with Eliazar, a young physician, to continue to do the eye clinics after we left. There were a total of 668 new believers in the medical clinics and more than 2,200 overall.
INDIA - HOLY WINGS
My 11th medical mission trip was to India. I was assigned to Holy Wings for the second year in a row. It was great to see the Indian Christians that I worked with the year before. Chuck Hazzard, a friend from my church, was with me and had a great experience. Due to the worldwide recession, I was able to use the same interpreter as last year. Sharuth has graduated with an information technology degree and accepted a job. However, his start date keeps getting pushed back and so he was available.
I trained Benjamin and his wife Hepsy, the leaders at Holy Wings, to conduct eye clinics and left them about 1,000 pairs of glasses so they can continue to do eye clinics.
This trip marked a turning point in my ministry. I need to focus more on training other Christians to conduct eye clinics. I had previously trained members of three other teams in conducting eye clinics. The four teams (my team and the 3 teams I trained) provided eye care and spiritual counseling to 2,670 patients. Two of my students, who were the eye clinic leaders, told me that conducting the eye clinic was the greatest experience of their life. Another team from Arizona was in another part of India at the same time we were and reported examining 2,250 patients. Thus we as a group provided eye care and spiritual counseling to 4,920 patients in India. Our goal that year was for me and our team of “eye doc in a box students” to provide eye care to 25,000 patients.
The preaching, medical, and eye clinics went very well. I treated 828 patients and referred 80 for cataract surgery. We went to small tribal villages up in the mountains for two clinics. More than 700 of the patients had cataracts to some degree. I could get all but 80 of them counting fingers at 10 feet. This is my criterion for referral and so I referred these 80 patients for cataract surgery. Both teams at Holy Wings conducted joint medical and eye clinics. Most patients went to both clinics before counseling. My team examines a total of 1,206 patients. A total of 577 patients that came to our clinic prayed to receive Christ. Benjamin has an exam form on each one to allow follow-up by the village pastor.
I am scheduled to be working in the prisons in Uganda. Please pray that all will go well and the prisoners will be responsive to the gospel
OPERATION MOBILIZATION - LIBERIA
A team on the Operation Mobilization mercy ship “Logas Hope” conducted an eye clinic off the coast of Liberia.
Pastor Jessie Lyles of Prescott, Arizona reported that a team of Christians in India, that his church trained and equipped, had examined more than 1,700 patients.
MEXICO AND NICARAGUA
First Church of the Nazarene held an eye clinic one year in Masaya, Nicaragua. The following year they held a clinic in Chiapas, Mexico. This was a very small team with only one trained with Eye Doc in A Box. They were able to see well over 800 people. Each trip, they had to extend the eye clinic to see more people. Since that time, they have had 11 members of their congregation complete the training.