Dear Friends, Supporters and Co-laborers,
As we begin our 3rd week already here in South
Africa, our team has just split up to serve be able to handle screening
in one village and surgery in another city. There are 3 of us on
the surgical team and 5 (plus a baby!) on the screening tech team. For
now the surgical team is still in Port Elizabeth, the "Windy City".
Although quite modern here in South Africa, you know
you are in Africa when you are driving down the highway at 70 mph and
seeing cows in the fields (as normal) but suddenly realize there are
giraffe standing there! And where you would normally see deer....there
are zebras! We even flew past a large monkey calmly sitting along the
side of the road seemingly unaware that stepping out another foot would
turn him into roadkill! No, Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore! Oh,
typical 'roadkill' here is porcupines!
(wonder how that is on the tires!)
We came hoping to plant seeds that would improve
access for the blind to receive surgery in the government hospitals. A
HUGE task since we did not know how to get to the blind. Our start up
was very frustrating as the communication to the hospitals prior to our
coming was weak, They only knew a week in advance in one department and
were not prepared. And most had not been informed as to WHY we had
come! They assumed we were running an "Eye Camp" like most NGO's do.
Our insistence on training left them befuddled and having access to an
OR was slow in coming. My own first day was spent standing in a corner
of a very cold ward for over 2 hours, asking only a few personal
questions of the staff. Glenn found himself training a surgeon who was
not sure why he needed to know the technique. Training the nurses in
the OR was more like musical chairs with a different nurse showing up at
every case! Tech Team struggled through 170 patients with a team that
functioned only in "Eye Camp" mode, tediously examining everyone -
instead of just 'screening' patients for surgery.
Debriefing and prayer at the end of the 1st week (with only 16 surgeries accomplished) alerted our ears to hear what God
had planned. As we listened to each other relate what DID go well, we
heard how God had used us to inspire others to consider the needs of the
blind, not our needs. Up to now, this
system was stuck looking for cataracts -- not searching for the blind.
The blind, like the 82 year old lady who despite her active, spry life,
had begun to 'give up' on life after being turned away by the system for
3 years! Her sight had now failed. But, her friend talked her into
trying one more time. After coming for surgery,she exclaimed, "It's a
miracle! God has sent you! I can see Jesus shining through you with
vibrancy! I just want to shout for joy!"
We know now our mission here is to inspire.
After 2 weeks now, Glenn has had two exceptional trainees who are ready
to run with the new skills. The senior surgeons are ready to move
forward with plans for a local anesthesia center dedicated to eye
surgery. Nurses are now eager and learning. My ward nurses greet me
with hugs and envision being able to serve as many blind people as we
can find! The optometrists were eager for more training and saw to it
that others received more training. They now understand the mission and
are inspired to find a way to accomplish it. What huge changes in only
3 short weeks. As we move from this area to our next soon, please
pray we will be vessels God can use to effectively inspire them to use
their skills to serve the poor -- and the blind.
Glenn and Kim Strauss