I am posting this as a separate blog because it’s a rather lengthy explanation of what we are doing here and it was taking up too much space in my journal for the week. But, for those interested in a more specific explanation of our mission, read on.
Before I left home I only had a vague idea of what we’d be doing here. I knew that we’d be doing vision exams and I knew that we’d be sharing the gospel at the same time. I just wasn’t sure how that would all work. Now that I’ve caught on, I’ll be the first to tell you that we’d never get away with what we’re doing if we were in the United States. But, this is Africa and the rules are different here. Basically, in most schools, any group is able to come into the schools and present whatever they want if they are helping in any way. At least that’s my understanding at this point.
Blessman Medical Ministries has partnered with an organization called Book of Hope. Book of Hope has prepared a booklet, in many languages, containing both a synopsis of the four gospels, the creation story, part of the Book of Acts, and life lessons. It’s amazing what can fit into a little booklet.
So, what we do is first try to develop a bit of a relationship with the child. This is far easier if they speak English. Then, we tell them that we would like to do a couple of things and we ask their permission to help them with their eyes and tell them about Jesus. Once we receive their permission, we check their eyes. By the way, children in Africa aren’t much different than children in the US. Some of them just REALLY want glasses and they’ll lie to get them. We’re using an eye chart that has “E’s” pointing in all directions and one day I had a child who consistently told me that the E’s were facing the complete opposite of the direction they were pointing. Even when I took her hand and walked her to within 5” of the chart, she still told me the top E on the chart (which is huge) was going the other way. I suspected she wasn’t being honest and I finally ended up sending her to John. She didn’t need glasses at all. On the other hand, John was sent other students who were acting similarly at least one of them was nearly legally blind. But, I digress.
After we finish the eye exam, and before we send them off for their glasses we first talk to them about sex and HIV/AIDS. This discussion usually leads to the point that HIV/AIDS is generally transmitted sexually and that’s part of the reason that God’s plan is for abstinence before marriage. We are then able to talk to them about their relationship with Jesus. Many of the kids already know Him, but some have never heard, or have heard half truths. If the opportunity arrives we can ask them if they’d like to receive Christ as their Savior. The whole process generally takes less than 20 minutes, unless of course, we need to do more explaining of the Gospel and how to have a relationship with Christ. And, we generally end with giving them a Book of Hope. If the child refuses the book, or isn’t interested, we just get them the glasses that they need and move on to the next child. Our desire is to share the gospel, not shove it down their throats.