I cried about 10 times each day of our clinic health outreach with HealthCare Ministries of the U.S. Assemblies of God and sponsoring missionaries Chris and Debbie Bowser. We were in Moquegua, Peru, where our friends and colleagues are planting a church, and wanted to do something to bless the people of Moquegua. Moquegua, like so many small towns in the countryside of Peru, has limited healthcare. Anything that requires a specialist means a 4-hour drive to Arequipa. I primarily worked the optical room, which was surprisingly dramatic. These are the reasons why:
1. Smiling Aymara. The mountain people of the Andes are stoic, to say the least. It is often very hard to get them to smile at all when there is a camera around. They have very hard lives, many just barely meeting the most basic of their needs. Many of the older Aymara people would come with an intense desire to see. There were maybe 10 older saints who came with a burning desire to read the Word of God. As they would try on the reader glasses, the smallest hint of a smile would begin to spread across their face as they read in Spanish John 3:16… “For God so loved the world (cue the start of a grin) that he gave his one and only Son (cue the tears—more ours than theirs, but sometimes together). Outstanding.
2. The blind see. One boy came in who was 19 years old. Right about Hannah’s age. He also had another thing in common with Hannah. He was practically blind without glasses. Once we began the exam, it was obvious that he needed a super-strong lens. He also told us he had never owned a pair of glasses (we were told over and over again by the people of Moquegua that most of them cannot afford to buy a pair). My daughter has had a pair of glasses perched on her nose or lenses in her eyes for 15 of her 18 years. All those years, this boy who needed it just as bad as she did went without, and somehow managed to learn to read and write. I asked him if it was the first time he had ever seen that clearly. He said “Yes.” No emotion. I had a complete breakdown and had to fight to pull myself together. Dear Jesus, what must it be like?
3. Just-in-time medical counsel. One lady came in with her 4 year-old son. He was a little charmer, but with a lazy eye. As our time together unfolded, she admitted that he had been to see an ophthalmologist, and that he had counseled her to have an operation done right away. She was worried that her son could lose her sight in the operation (before you judge, you should know that we saw a number of patients whose operations for cataracts and the like had been botched and left people blind), and wanted to wait until he was a teen. We were able to be strong in advising her that if she waited, it would be too late and he would become permanently blind, like several other patients we had seen that week. I told her that it was a God thing that she came to us, because it was clear that she was headed in the wrong direction. We don’t know what she will do, but she at least knows.
4. The chance to be the hands that bring desperately needed relief. One man offered as we were fitting him for glasses, “You know, I come from WAYYYYY far up in the farmland!” We asked him how he found out we were there. He said that his family, who lives in Moquegua, called him when they heard about our clinic on the radio, and he rode 8 hours to get to us. He had a family member standing in line (which by the second day started forming at 3 in the morning) to save a place for him. Can you imagine wanting a pair of glasses so bad that you would do that?
5. The Spirit of God was amazingly present, and He used us over and over again to share the gospel, call the backslidden back home, and sometimes just to speak a simple but powerful word of encouragement. I felt the power of the Holy Spirit many times throughout our week in Moquegua. I felt like a pump that had been seriously primed. The awesome thing about ministering hours on end is that your soul also prospers in the middle of it! Many moments there was a prophetic spirit that took over as we ministered. One lady came back the next day to tell our counselor who led her to the Lord that she felt a strange heat in her body, and that she had come back to life again! God is SO good.
6. We had unknowingly walked into one of the most desperate health concerns of the people of Moquegua. This mountain town is dry, sometimes windy, always dusty, and relentlessly bright with sunlight. It is ideal conditions for the development of cataracts and something called a pterygium, which is a fleshy growth over the surface of the eye that begins as the body’s self-defense against the sun and wind, but can end in blindness. We didn’t count, but Jenny (our nurse optical team leader) and I are fairly certain that at least half of the people we saw over thirty—probably more—had one or both of these conditions. By God’s amazing grace, we had a ton of eye drops to ease the dryness and sunglasses. What a wonderful thing to be the means of relief for someone in pain and discomfort (almost all our patients complained of a lot of burning and pain).
I came home exhausted, but full--cried out, but still so moved. There were tears of relief that we found anything at all that helped (only a few went away with no improved sight), tears of compassion when we listened to their sad stories, tears of joy when a soul found it’s way home to the Father. It was a great, sobby, sappy week. So glad I went!
Jenny our optical team leader in action.
I had to have a pic with this lady. She was a hoot along the lines of the woman with the unjust judge and begged us for help when we told her we didn't think we had the right lenses for her grandson. Praise God, we found something that worked!
The mayor of Chen Chen (burb of Moquegua) officially thanking us for coming at a Mother's Day event just outside of his office which we transformed into a clinic for five days. He also joined us for our end-of-clinic banquet.