2019 Visit to Ukraine
I've had a complaint/request or two about too many pictures and not enough stories so I'll change it up and be more descriptive this time!
|Dr. Luke and Dr. Dave|
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Ukraine with a group of short-term missionaries from Indiana. We went to setup an Eye Care Clinic there and serve the local population in a city called Korosten. The city itself has a population of around 60,000 people. It had a delightful small-town feel with well kept local parks and the city was rich in history. We arrived Saturday afternoon, offloaded our equipment and tried to adjust to the +9 hour time difference. Sunday morning, we attended church then went to the House of Culture (Civic Center) to set up clinic. We saw around 65 patients that day and worked out some of the kinks of the clinic. Monday through Friday were very busy days and the clinic ran from around 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. We averaged around 160 patients per day! On Wednesday, a few from the group went to a remote village and saw around 50 patients as well. All in all, we ended up seeing around 1,000 patients in 5.5 days!. The best part, to me, was that each patient was sent to get glasses, then the Gospel of salvation was presented to each and every one of these dear people! We worked closely with two different local churches that will be in contact will all who were seen. I love doing the work of 'seed planting' and knowing that there is a great team staying to 'water' the seeds and the Lord will make them grow (Matthew 28:19).
The church I went with is Village Evangelical Free Church and they support mission work in various locations. They support Mission Eurasia which was the group that so wonderfully hosted us. I've rarely seen such hospitality in my life! Nadia, Sergii, Valentina and the staff at the Seminary of Practical Theology made our stay so comfortable. I enjoyed the food, loved the culture, and the fact that you could find espresso machines everywhere! We also worked with a local ophthalmologist, Dr. Elena, who was so very nice, so helpful, and grateful that we were there. She helped Dr. Dave with translation and will be helping us with getting the glasses filled locally that we did not have from the Lion's club donations. I enjoyed getting to meet every patient they sent me, but I will share a few of the 'highlights' from the patients that stuck out.
The clinic was wonderfully organized by Lance Davids and Valentina. They had a structure in place and would only let in about 20 patients per hour. There was a woman that apparently didn't know the rules...or at least she knew that they didn't apply to her! She stormed into the clinic waving her cane around and demanding to be seen, but she wasn't on the list. The poor folks at the check-in station managed to calm her down enough to explain to her that she wasn't on the list, we might could possibly see her, but she may have to wait for a long time to get in. She seemed fine with that....for about 5 minutes then she was up and hassling the crew once more. Finally, Lance gave in to her request. He said she could get in, but would have no more than 5 minutes with the doctors...that still makes me smile. She reluctantly agreed and in she came. Lance came back to the doctors station and gave us the 'heads up' about this patient. By the time she came back to see me, she had her vision checked at distance and near, her medical history taken, her blood pressure and blood sugar taken, and had sat at a machine that gives me a 'guess' of what her glasses rx will be. She was elated! I could see her smile from ear to ear as she sat in front of me. I said a prayer and took a look into her eyes...Praise the Lord! Her blood sugar was 385, but her eyes looked wonderful. I had to let her know how bad her diabetes was, and how she should visit her primary care doc and get it under control, but I thanked the Lord that all she needed from my station was some reading glasses. Nadia and I sent her out of the clinic and on to get her reading glasses and then into the auditorium to hear the Good News. She was tearful and thankful that we could get her in and received the Gospel with all readiness of mind and heart (Acts 17:11)!
|Nadia, Dr. Luke and Sergii|
(My wonderful translators)
The second story I'd like to share is about a sweet young mother that I'm still praying for. Nataliya is a 33 year old mother with a 9 year old girl. She was born deaf, and came in with a deaf family member and an appointed nurse from the county. The nurse would translate spoken Ukrainian to sign language, then her family member would sign into Nataliya's palm of her hand so she could communicate. She had won my heart instantly and I began praying. I put on my ophthalmoscope to exam the inside of her eyes and, to my suprise I could not see past her lens. She had two of the thickest cataracts I've ever seen. I sat back and explained to her that I could not see her retina or behind the lens in her eye to tell if her eyes were healthy. I mentioned that we have a test we could do that would 'see' past the cataract and let us know something about the health of her retinas. She was beaming at the slightest glimmer of hope. I asked her if I could pray for her, she said yes. I asked her if she believed in Jesus, she said yes. I asked her if she believed her faith could heal her, she said yes. I held her small head in my hands, placed my thumbs over her eyelids and I prayed my heart out! I prayed to the Great Physician and the Healer of all healers. I believed, she believed and as the prayer ended, I sat back and looked at her. God did not choose at that moment to give her back her sight. He did not restore her vision to completeness as I had prayed, but He did move. He moved my heart, the hearts of all involved were affected. I looked at my translator and she was crying, the nurse, the family member and Nataliya were all as teary eyed as this weary doctor was, and we were moved. We could not speak the same language, we could not hear or see one another, but our hearts were full of compassion, mercy, and the gratefulness that God's grace could bring. I was a bit sad that God did not perform a physical miracle that day, but I did tell her that we could have the test on her eyes done soon. That evening, I spoke with Dr. Dave about the case, and he said, “What are we waiting for?! Let's get this done while we are here!”.
|Nataliya's B-Scan and the|
"Total Retinal Detachment"
He spoke with Dr. Elena and Nataliya was scheduled for the B-scan at 10:00 am the following morning. I'm still impressed! Nadia, my interpreter on this case, brought me the scan the next morning and stated that the doctor that did the scan was impressed that we would even take on her case. He stated that it would be amazing if anything could be done. I took a look at the scans...*gulp* I had the writing translated from Ukranian and read the line “total retinal detachments in both eyes”. With a retinal detachment, the surgeons will typically say that you have anywhere from 24-48 hours to get the retina reattached or the tissue begins to die. Nataliya's retinas had probably begun detaching 9 years ago. I prayed again then went in to speak with Dr. Elena. I told her that I had physically done all I am allowed to do, that I was turning the case over to her, and I would continue lifting Nataliya up in prayer. After sharing her story with Dr. Elena, she felt convicted to perform cataract surgery on Nataliya. I spoke with her friend today, and she stated that Dr. Elena is working on scheduling with a retinal surgeon to have them work together. I will continue to pray for Dr. Elena and Nataliya and I know that God can work all things and does work all things for good in those who love Him! (Romans 8:28)
|Magic Cataract Drops |
(either one "works" great)
The last story I'll share now is about a small older man in his early 70's. His name was Ivan, and he came to the clinic on Friday afternoon...we were almost done. Ivan had worked for the government of Ukraine in helping with clean up after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. He had such a positive attitude despite all his poor eyes had seen. He told me that he had been diagnosed with floaters in his eyes and a doctor gave him a prescription for iodine eye drops...yes...iodine eye drops. They burnt his eyes terribly and turned them yellow but he thought that maybe they were helping a little bit. I asked him if he still had the floaters and he said yes. I asked him if he had fewer floaters, and he said no. Goodness gracious. He was also using drops in both eyes to get rid of cataracts. Uggg. I do honestly wish there was a magical drop like this. It was almost humorous at this point as he was about the 500thpatient that was on the magic drops (someone is making money on these!). Call me unprofessional, but I guess Ivan could see the look on my face and he just started laughing. I started laughing with him and we both simply enjoyed a small stress relieving moment during an otherwise heavy day. After I had checked his floaters and his cataracts and explained to him what was going on he got very quiet. He leaned into the interpreter and I and whispered, “May I ask you a question? I mean, it may seem very strange, but I am serious.” At this point, I was pretty much ready for whatever Ivan could throw at me so I said, “sure...go ahead”. He spoke for about a minute to my interpreter then she turned to me and asked, “are you sure you're ready for this?!” “I am,” I said and kind of chuckled a bit. She told me that this sweet man had been told that you can grab a fresh worm from the ground...pinch it by the head and slide your fingers down its body squeezing out the juices. Then you take the juices and....(wait for it)...put them in your eye. He wanted to know if that would really help get rid of his cataracts. We sat in silence for about 30 seconds, and I am sorry to say, but I lost it again. I lay my head back and laughed. He joined me laughing and we both joked about all the silly superstitions that our countries believed in. I thanked him for his service to the country during the clean up and for the compassion that he showed to his people and smiled as I watched him waddle off to get some glasses and a bible.
There is still much work to do, and we left a stack of papers with the local doctors there in Ukraine to follow up with surgeries. The Village church raises the money to pay for the glasses and surgeries in this town as well as the town we will go to in Mexico at the end of this year. I look forward to serving the Lord and seeing Dr. Dave down there too.
“Thank you Lord for such a great trip.
Thank you for opening my eyes to your people and the work you are doing there.
Thank you for letting me be a small part of your plan.
May your kingdom come soon, Lord.
I love you.”
|The Village Eye Mission Team|