We have been out of internet range for an entire week. So, if you’ve emailed me and I haven’t responded, that’s why. There were actually internet café’s near us but one, I heard, was terribly slow, and the other, we never got a chance to visit. So, here is a week’s worth of our activities. If you are interested in catching up, sit back, grab a cup of coffee. A LOT went on this week.
First Day of Vision Clinics
Monday, March 10
Today was a bit overwhelming. Yesterday, we had a brief training on how to do a “vision exam” and today we put it into action. First of all, you have to know that these vision exams are very primitive. Basically, we have them read off an eye chart, hold some different lenses in front of their eyes and figure out from their response which ones help the patient see the best. The more challenging cases we send to John. I sent a lot to John! I was totally challenged by almost all of them. Not really, but it felt that way at first. The language barrier is challenging for a couple of reasons. Almost none of the younger kids speak any English at all, and the older ones, even though they speak English are still hard to understand and, regardless of their age, they all speak very softly. This is where John’s instrument thingy came in handy because with it, he can tell a person’s basic prescription without them saying a word. I wonder if he could teach me how to use it? At the end of the day, Dr. Blessman pointed out to us that we didn’t kill anyone, even if we significantly messed up.
The cool part of the day for me was being able to minister to some of the female translators and teachers. God put a passion in my heart 8 years ago to minister to women. These kinds of trips are hard for me because they generally aren’t necessarily ministering to women, but usually more to children. On the other hand, it’s an excellent opportunity for John to use his gifts and passions and I want to support him in that. So, on the way to the school at which we’d be working, I prayed that God would give me the opportunity to minister to some of the women there. And, the cool part was that I had quite a few women come to my exam station and was able to pray with them for the needs that were pressing on their hearts. One woman, when I asked if I could pray for her said, “Yes! Pray, pray, pray!” I asked her what she’d like me to pray for and she said her family. First of all, her husband who isn’t helpful around the house. I refrained from telling her that isn’t an uncommon problem for many African women, and even some American women. Then she asked me to pray for her sons who were making poor decisions. My mom heart just broke as she told me some of the things they were doing as I know how much it was hurting her. It was such a pleasure to be able to pray with her.
The day ended with a wonderful dinner at a local restaurant called Hippo Hollow. It’s located on a river and sometimes at night hippos come out of the water and onto the shore where you can see them. At dusk, we were told that we couldn’t walk down on the grassy area because that’s the time the hippos come out. Apparently, they are not nice and can run very fast. I wondered what kept them from coming up into the restaurant area and they told me the hippos couldn’t climb the steps. Thank God!
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Today I felt like I figured the process out a little better. The weather was a little cooler, so maybe that helped my brain. My first patient was a 28 year old woman, still in high school. Her parents were both dead and she lived with her sister, who abused her. When I asked her if she had Jesus in her heart she said, “Yes, but just 10%. Now, I want 100%” She cracked me up! But, she did pray to receive Christ and then she gave me a big hug and told me how much she’d miss me. It was so sweet.
Later in the day I was talking to another boy and I asked him if he had Jesus in his heart. He told me yes and his teacher, who was sitting next to him to interpret, said, with a rather shocked tone, “Are you telling the truth?” I thought that was so funny. Apparently, his behavior is less than stellar at school.
All in all, I prayed with four kids today to receive Christ. I’m fairly certain that at least two of them knew for sure what they were doing. The other two, I’m not sure totally understood it, but at least I planted the seed.
After our time at the school we came back to our guest house, had a quick lunch and then headed out to a local AIDS orphanage. In American terms, it’s not an orphanage, but more of a care center where kids come to be fed every day. They all live in the local area and either one, or both, of their parents have died. Some live in single parent homes, others in child led homes. By comparison to some of the kids we saw last year, these kids were in pretty good health. We did, however, see one little girl who had AIDS, and seemed to be in pretty tough shape. We saw a few others who seemed to have some severe cases of worms. Children with worms have big, bloated bellies on what otherwise appears to be a fairly healthy body. The little girl with AIDS, and one of the little girls with worms seemed to be attracted to me and would just come and hang out by me, waiting for a hug. You can’t help but have a hurting heart for these suffering children.
Hitting the Wall
Wednesday, March 13, 2008
Tuesday night around 9:00 I hit the wall. Our schedule has been pretty brutal and I was so tired I could hardly wait to get to bed. I woke up this morning feeling just as bad as when I went to bed. So, even though I felt like I was shortchanging the team, I had to take the day off. The team left for the day at 7:15 and I was back in bed a few minutes later. I slept for nearly 3 hours and then got up, read a little and went back to bed for another hour. I was much better by the time the team returned.
John went to the clinic today and had some very tough cases. He saw at least two children that were nearly totally blind due to cataracts, and another child with a growth on his eye called a pterigium, who needs surgery to correct it. It just breaks his heart because there is nothing he can do. He tries to refer them to the local doctors but that doesn’t always happen because they can’t afford it.
Just after we finished supper and our team meeting Wednesday night, we had a bad rain storm which knocked out the power. The first thing we had to do was find our flashlight. We weren’t quite sure which bag it was in. That was quite the process as we totally emptied John’s suitcase only to find it was in another suitcase all together. At least we got John’s suitcase tidied up a bit. Living out of a suitcase for a week tends to create a mess. I haven’t gotten ready for bed by flashlight since I was in Girl Scouts! It was quite the adventure.
In the Dark
Thursday, March 14, 2008
We woke up early this morning to find that our electricity was still off. Let’s just say, none of us looked good today. And, I found out that the trick of shining the light up at your face to see what you are doing is a trick best saved for the young. Let’s just say, it highlights everything middle-aged women generally try to hide. Gratefully, the electricity was coming on right before we left for the day.
At the fourth school of the week we did almost 150 eye exams. John had a huge number of students today with significant problems. He saw at least five Albino people and you can pretty much expect, from what John says, to see eye problems in Albinos. Most of them needed very strong prescriptions. Some a +10.00 diopters and others a –12.00 diopters. To put it in perspective, instead of seeing 20/20, these children see something like 20/1000 without correction. Sadly, in the glasses we have with us, the prescriptions only go to – 8.00 diopters. We also had one little boy who needed glasses with a – 12.00 who wasn’t Albino. I actually was there when he got his glasses and even though they improved his vision significantly, he took them off as soon as he went out the door. Apparently, the world is just too harsh for him.
The highlight of the day was being able to use toilets that flushed instead of outhouses like we have used the other days. Granted, these didn’t really flush as the water wasn’t working, but still, pouring a bucket of water down a toilet is a far cry better than a smelly outhouse. Amazing how your priorities can change in a week.
Last Day of Vision Clinics
Friday, March 15, 2008
As the week has progressed, we’ve all gotten quite a bit better at doing eye exams. Today I was even able to figure out that a little girl was desperately wanting glasses (or spectacles as they call them in South Africa) and was willing to lie to get them. She was at least smart enough to be inconsistent in telling me which way the “E’s” were pointing. So, I pulled out a few lenses and had her keep telling me which was better. Eventually, I got to a pair of lenses with no prescription in them and she read the letters perfectly. Poor thing was so upset when I told her she didn’t need glasses. I must admit, there was an air of excitement when we cleaned up today. I have a new appreciation for making your passion your work. Personally, it would drive me nuts to do eye exams all day long, month after month, year after year. John, on the other hand has a passion for it so it doesn’t seem like work to him. In fact, I think he’d go nuts if he couldn’t check eyes.
I had an interesting talk with a woman who is the third grade teacher in the school we were at today. She has 45 children in her classroom. I thought that was horrible until I heard about some other teachers here who have 120 kids in their classroom! Teaching is another profession I’m so glad I didn’t get called to do.
We stopped for a little shopping on our way back to our headquarters. Fortunately, we didn’t have much Rand (African money) with us or John would be bringing home all kinds of things we don’t need.
Shortly after we arrived back at the guest house, six of the orphan children we met on Tuesday, were brought over for eye exams. At least four of them needed glasses. One was the little girl with HIV/AIDS that I met on Tuesday. She was so excited to be able to see with her new glasses.
Oh, nice flushing toilet today - with water!
Tomorrow, a day off at Kruger National Park!
Kruger National Park
Saturday, March 16, 2008
To be honest, I didn’t have high expectations of Kruger National Park. We drove ourselves through the park instead of hiring a guide and Kruger is roughly the same size as nation of Israel. Seriously, how many animals could we possibly see in such a large expanse. Oh, me of little faith! J The only animal that I was intent on seeing was a lion. But, there was so much more! We saw impalas, wildebeest, elephants, zebras, a turtle, warthogs, something that looked like an anteater, kudu, one rhino, baboons, crocodiles, hippos, monkeys, and giraffes. We also saw some sort of a wild turkey that is going extinct. That’s probably because they only lay their eggs once every nine years.
An unexpected sighting was of a group of hyenas. We were on our way out of the park and they were right by the side of the road. Somehow, I was reminded of the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland. The hyenas always kind of freaked me out during that ride. They always seemed to have an evil kind of laugh. Fortunately, they were very well behaved in the park. At Kruger though, they just seemed to be playing nicely, and not laughing at me in a scoffing kind of way.
And yes, we did see a lion and a lioness. They were beautiful. Giraffes are still my favorite but I’m not going to mention that to the lions.
After we left the park around 6:00 p.m., we drove past a herd of Cape buffalo. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize what they were until we had already zipped passed them so we didn’t get any pictures.
Apparently, the thing to shoot for (not literally) at Kruger is to see the Big Five. People kept talking about the Big Five and I didn’t really know what they were talking about. So, I learned today that the Big Five are elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and Cape buffalo. They are called the Big Five because of their danger and difficulty to hunt. While we didn’t see all five, we saw four of them. We also stopped on top of a bridge under which someone had seen a leopard disappear. We even saw his footprint. No one seemed willing to get out of the van to be leopard bait so we had to move on without seeing him.
All in all, it was a great day and you can’t help but be reminded of God’s incredible creativity, and if you see the warthogs, His sense of humor.