Thursday, March 2, 2017

Celebration of Sight

Did you know that Mercy Ships also has an eye program?
In January, "Mercy Vision" kicked off in Benin with a goal to provide several hundred free eye surgeries! Removing cataracts is the main focus of this team and they will perform these surgeries on both children and adults over the next few months until the end of the field service. They also do other eye screenings and distribute reading glasses. Part of the program is held at the local hospital in Cotonou, called CNHU, where Mercy Ships volunteers train local nurses and surgeons so that these surgeries can continue after the ship leaves.

Many of these patients were born with cataracts; others developed them over time and have been blind for many years. A cataract is basically a clouding of the lens of the eye that blocks vision. I can't even imagine what it is like to live without sight - to be completely dependent on others to get around and not be able to work or care for your family!

Maurice waits hopefully at eye screening to find out if the Mercy Ships' surgeons will be able to fix his cataracts.
A simple outpatient surgery to clear the clouded lens is performed in a few minutes and these patients go home the same day. It's incredible that this small procedure can change the course of a person's life - especially when that person has no hope to find a surgeon or pay the exorbitant fee to get cataract surgery in this country.

Last week, I was privileged to get to witness the first Celebration of Sight in Benin this year! A few weeks after their surgeries, the patients return for a follow up appointment and then they all join together for a time of praise and thanksgiving to God for giving them back their sight. Other Mercy Ships crew members are invited to come and join in this celebration of 44 people whose vision has been restored. There was music, singing and lots of dancing- as well as several testimonies from a few of the patients! Young and old patients alike shared stories of waiting years for someone who could fix their eyes or trying to save huge amounts of money only to be told their case was too difficult for the local surgeons. One after another they came to the front, praising God for bringing Mercy Ships to their country and healing their sight, until the chaplains finally had to limit the number for lack of time!
I want to declare this day, the 17th of February, ‘The Day for the Celebration of Sight’!” Says Rita, who dances in her pink patterned dress, able to see for the first time in years. “Every year on this day, you must praise God with your family,” she shouts. “ Praise God that we have sight!!!

I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to attend this celebration. It was an honor to witness these transformations and hear some incredible stories of HOPE restored. The eye program did not run while I was on the ship last year so this is the first experience I've had with it. Vision truly is so important in life and I'm very glad the program is back again this year in Benin to change more lives one eye at a time! Just another way Mercy Ships is following the model of Jesus to heal the sick, give sight the blind and bring good news to all people.

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