“The moment we put the first pair of lenses in front of her eyes, the elderly lady jumped up from her seat and exclaimed, ‘Yipee! I can see! I can see!’ The doctor and I looked at each other and smiled and together clapped in celebration with her. Then as she sat down, she started to weep. All she’d needed was a five-minute examination and a simple pair of glasses and suddenly for the first time in her life, she could see…”
Accompanying a team of eye doctors on their first medical mission in southern Ecuador, SIM UK workers Mark and Helen Azzopardi say the woman was one of many who shed tears of joy when putting on new glasses for the first time and finding she could read.
The couple say they have amazing memories from their time accompanying a group of ophthalmologists, from a church in Texas and US-based ministry ‘God’s Eyes’, providing medical care to five different rural areas in the Loja province.
Altogether, nearly 1,000 people got the chance to see an eye doctor and receive free prescription glasses.
“There’s something really special about being able to help people in a really practical way, caring for their physical needs and getting to see some instant results,” recall Mark and Helen, who translated between doctor and patient.
“But it’s amazing to remember that for all the worth there was in seeing all those people jump in joy for the new physical sight they received, God used this opportunity to open them up to seeing the deeper, spiritual need they have to know Jesus.”
The couple joined the SIM team in Loja in 2020 to work with local Christians planting and strengthening rural churches in south Ecuador. They also teach in the missionary kids’ school and work with the El Sendero (The Way) youth ministry to reach 15- and 25-year-olds with the gospel in creative ways.
The couple, sent by Carrubbers Christian Centre, Edinburgh, were able to close the missionary kids’ school for the week in March and take the teenagers with them to get involved in the ‘God’s Eyes’ ministry, which provides free glasses to the world’s poorest people in developing countries
“The teenagers did a super job working as translators or constructing prescription glasses,” they add.
And as well as giving people the gift of sight, every visitor to the eye clinic was offered the opportunity to pray with members of the team.
“To our delight, almost everyone accepted and during this time of prayer, we were able to share the good news of Jesus with them,” add Mark and Helen.
“It’s hard to communicate how amazing this is, as these areas of rural Loja have historically been very cold to the gospel,” they explain.
“There are a few established churches in Catamayo, the largest of these towns, and the others only have a couple of believers. Each area was specifically chosen where there are SIM church-planting teams, or where SIM is supporting local church planters.
“During the week, we saw the Holy Spirit working in people’s hearts in new and amazing ways! Between 60-80 contacts in each area said they wanted a mission worker to visit and continue reading the Bible with them because they’re eager to learn more about Jesus.
“The challenging part is, that for each of these areas, there’s only one missionary family and 60-80 contacts is an extremely heavy load.
“So, while we celebrate the fruit of this short-term mission, we’re praying God will mobilise more workers to the harvest as we become convinced at long last, he has prepared fertile ground here for the seed to grow and flourish in the years ahead.”
By Kerry Allan
- For those who were able to receive tangible demonstrations of God’s love through the eye clinics.
- For many eyes to be open for the glory of God.
- For more workers to go and help the gospel grow in these five rural areas in southern Ecuador.