Friday, May 23, 2014

Yes You Can -- Help Give People New Vision!

As a fourth grader, Mary Shay discovered she needed glasses when she couldn't read the road signs for the Alphabet Game. The first time she stepped outside in her glasses, she was amazed. "I could see the leaves on the trees!" she told me. It was much the same for me with my first pair of glasses.

Now, as co-founder and board member of Global Eyeglass Ministry, Mary is finding that people the world over react the same way when they first get glasses.

In preparation for a mission trip to Haiti in February of 2011, Mary and her husband Tim learned of an opportunity to provide vision clinics for people in areas of need. They contacted Kendall Optometry Ministry in Kentucky who for years have provided vision clinics around the world. "Do you know anything about optometry?" he asked them. "No, we're just interested," they told him. "Great! You're just the kind of people I'm looking for!"

They didn't do a vision clinic on that first trip to Haiti but they did on their next trip nine months later. They were hooked. They felt the Lord calling them to do vision clinics as a ministry. But they were both working; it would have to wait till retirement.

And then a friend from church was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within four weeks. They realized that they may never reach retirement. Now was the time to begin. But how would this even come to pass?

Through circumstances only God could orchestrate they got the training they needed, filed for a 501c3, purchased equipment, and organized a board of directors. They expected the first year to be a time of waiting for their non-profit status and fundraising, but just two-and-a-half months after their first board meeting they were sending a fully funded vision clinic team to Guatemala!

Eyeglasses washed, prescriptions read and coded, and in the suitcase ready to go overseas

Global Eyeglass Ministry is an add-on to church mission trips. Say you are putting together a team to go to a Mexican orphanage to hold a VBS and do construction projects. You can prepare your team to hold a vision clinic while they are there, too. No previous experience is required. GEM will train your team and provide all the equipment you need so that you can set up a vision clinic and match people with glasses that will change their lives!

GEM wants people to be able to see clearly. They want to give folks a chance to see the world around them, the faces of their loved one, the words on a page. But even more than that, Global Eyeglass Ministry wants people to be able to see Jesus. So they work with local churches when doing clinics, and they share the gospel while people are waiting their turn to be tested. Whether showing the Jesus video in the local language or presenting a VBS program for the children, they take advantage of the time to share Christ's love with the group gathered.

Mary told me how the clinic works, how in triage they do the E Chart with everyone to identify those who would benefit from glasses, how the autorefractor reads the prescription of the client and how they can find just the right glasses that will work best for that person from the many pairs in the seven suitcases they bring along. It's a high-tech yet highly personal process.

Waiting area (top of photo), Triage (center), and using the auto refractor (bottom)

Even a child can be trained to test people with the E Chart

A volunteer trained for the Vision Clinic uses the auto refractor to determine the client's prescription

She told of people virtually "receiving their sight" through this ministry. A little boy who couldn't see to pick up his toys that he dropped on the floor could now find the things thrown down for him and spent about 15 minutes playing a game of find-the-coin-on-the-ground. Pastors who had retired because they could no longer read their Bibles are able to preach once again. An old woman whose spirit seemed broken could not stop smiling once she could finally see clearly.

The happy client is with team members, including Tim and Mary Shay (right)

The Lord is already doing great things through Global Eyeglass Ministry, and they are only a year old. So far in their three clinics they have give out 321 pairs of prescription glasses and 359 pairs of readers.

Every month I tell you about something someone has done in response to a need that they see, and each month I say, Yes! You can! Well, this month I'm giving some very tangible ways in which you can be a part of this amazing ministry. You can donate money. You can donate glasses (prescription glasses, readers, sunglasses, eyeglass cases). You can place donation boxes around your community and collect the glasses and get them to GEM. If you are local you can wash the donated glasses in the dishwasher. You can cut the plastic for setting up the suitcases.You can pray. You can get training and do a vision clinic on your next mission trip.You can spread the word by sharing this post and the website of GEM.

I left the Shay home last week after my interview with Mary so excited about what they are doing that I couldn't help talking about it when I stopped at a garage sale later in the day.While I spoke, the woman went over to a box in her garage and pulled out a pair of glasses. "Do they take children's glasses? she asked. "These were my daughter's." They are the first pair in my GEM collection box. Can't wait to see all the other glasses that join them there!

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