Each morning patients who had surgery the day before lined up in the hallway and had their patches removed. The spontaneous singing and dancing was so moving. These are some captured moments.
This mama saw her newborn baby for the first time after her surgery. She didn't believe that this boy to the left was her son, he had changed so much since she saw his face!!
In the midst of the dancing and singing, this mama gave thanks to God in her own way.
Asunta (above right) hadn't seen her daughter's face, Elizabeth, in over a year.
"Today, God gave me a new eye. In heaven, I'll get my new teeth!"
"What is the first thing you're going to do when you get home?"
"I'm going to cook my boy some food. From now on, I will be the one taking care of my household. He has been feeding me, but now I will be feeding him. He has been grinding the seeds and cooking. Now I will do it for him. My son will never cook again."
Now that I've gotten my feet back under me, I wanted to share a few more stories from the trip to South Sudan. My role was to document with pictures all that was happening. I sat with patients waiting for surgery, talked with those who weren't able to have surgery for one reason or another, and tried to capture those whose sight had been restored.
The more people I talked to the more I realized that each person's story was hard in more ways than it was easy. A missionary who lives in South Sudan said if I really wanted to hear some things, there were four topics to ask about: the war, the famine, their children, and lastly, if they had ever seen a lion. Here is a sampling of the responses...
Deng'ng'ong' said his eyes started getting bad 3 years ago. He believed it was because his son was killed and no one had answered for it even up till now.
The next morning, when Deng'ng'ong' had his eye patch removed, he was absolutely beaming.
"The toughest lion to kill was one that came into the camp to kill a person, not a cow." Kiir went with 9 other men, tracked it down and killed it with spears.
"I've seen a lot of hard things in the war, but the worst thing above all of that is this blindness."
The following day her patch was removed and her eyesight was restored.
Patients are led cautiously and carefully to the clinic.
It was our goal that each person coming to the hospital would hear about the steadfast and saving love of Jesus Christ. Many had heard the gospel before, even if they didn't believe it. Many had not. Amuor (the woman in the center) said this was the first time she had heard the gospel. She knew children in her village that went to church, but thought it was a school just for children. After hearing about God's unconditional love she said, "The success of the surgery is because of the power of God alone. As soon as I go home, I will be going to church with the children."
Led in by the hand, but walking out on her own. For this we praise God!!
I am SO happy to be back home at Tenwek after our trip!! Thank you to all who prayed us through. It was hard, but so, so rewarding. Before I share a little about it, I have to stop and give HUGE credit to Mike for staying home and homeschooling and doing life at home so I could go and do this!!! He was so encouraging and supportive!! Love you, Mike!!
This trip to South Sudan has been an answered prayer for me. When Mike and I were at Tenwek from 2006-2008, we tried to go to Sudan but it was just not stable enough to travel then. I’ve wanted to see this country, and these people, since then. So, when the Roberts asked me to go on this cataract surgery trip and as the photographer, I was SO EXCITED (read excited in a white knuckle, butterflies in my stomach kind of way).
There are so many things I could say about the trip: the missionaries who live here full time with their children, the most strikingly beautiful faces, the hundreds of patients, the shrieking and dancing when eye patches were removed and sight was restored, the HEAT, oh the heat, the testimonies from patients, the incredible loss written on faces from 20 years of war, and famine, the redemption and hope people claimed because of God….all of it. There are pages to be written. (And hundreds of photos taken). You know when someone comes back from a trip and they want to show you HOURS of photos that you really weren’t that interested to see…..I don’t want to be THAT person. So, I’ll share one story here.
A woman named Rose came into the clinic for cataract surgery. I asked her if she could tell me her story. She readily agreed. She had had leprosy, but couldn’t get to treatment right away because it was too dangerous to travel during the war at that time. So she stayed home without anything. She eventually snuck out of her village to go to the Catholic Mission and was treated and recovered. Her missing fingers and toes were a powerful narrative.
She bore 14 children before her husband was killed. Of the fourteen children, only two were still living. Four had been kidnapped and another two had been shot in front of her. Then she showed me her own scars from the same incident. Her face was solemn as she recounted so many painful memories from the years of conflict.
Her foot had been amputated and healed over. I wondered if it was from the leprosy. She pointed to her left leg and said that cattle rustlers came a few years ago and stole her cows that were providing her with milk. And when she chased them, they shot her. In the foot. That’s why it’s not there anymore. And as if all that wasn’t enough for one person to carry, she was almost completely blind from cataracts.
Then, the most shocking part of the story, is when she started talking about her faith in God. I told her that so many people in Kenya and the US were praying for her and that her surgery would be a success. And she responded.
“We are all God’s children and He is the one responsible for each of our lives. I am really so sure that God is faithful. If it wasn’t for God, I never would have survived any of these things in my life. I surely would have died.” Sometimes I get to share the gospel. Other times I get to hear the gospel.
When I had gone in to talk to Rose, she had just had her surgery but she still wasn’t sure if she would be able to see. She willingly shared her story with me and we talked for a long time. Then the next morning it was time to take off all the patient’s eyepatches to see if their surgeries were a success. There were about 90 waiting the following morning. It was a bit chaotic to say the least. When a lot of patients realized they could see again, they would throw down their walking sticks and jump up singing and dancing. The BEST thing. The very best thing.
In all the chaos I kept looking for Rose to see if she could see again. But I couldn’t find her. I got a little panicky. Where was she? She was missing this. I took a bunch of pictures of patients but still couldn’t see her. After people started filing out and going home, a woman I hadn’t seen before came up and started talking to me. I didn’t know what she wanted, so I looked for an interpreter to find out. IT WAS ROSE!!!!! She could see again!! She was so completely transformed that after talking to her for such a long time the day before, I still didn’t know it was her. God’s mercy and grace. We treat, Jesus heals.
One of the coolest parts of clinic is watching patients being led in by family members but walking out on their own. Dignity restored.
Mike (pediatric surgeon) and Julie (nurse/mother to two) living in Kenya, East Africa