Giving Sight to the Blind in India
April 10, 2014
Six-year-old Lamikant couldn’t see to read because of cataracts. He received eye surgery and a pair of glasses at a mission hospital in India.
“To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.” (Isaiah 42:7, NKJV)
Easwarappa, 72, groped along the path, his long stick feeling the way through the seeming darkness, even in broad daylight. Would this be the day he would break free? That’s the way he felt. Trapped. Imprisoned. When the cataracts covered his eyes it was as if midnight settled in forever. Would the doors open and the light come in? Would this be the day of his dawn?
Nagaratna, a healthy 9-year-old girl born blind, never knew more than dim glimmers rolling over the deep shadows of her vision. In the morning she knew the sun had risen; she detected the hope of light, but never saw an image. Mostly deep darkness hovered, and though she felt enclosed, even engulfed, at times, this was all she knew. Would she ever see the face of her mother, whose warm hands smoothed across her cheeks with such love? Would she see her father’s eyes?
Chinnaswamy, 52, had no job. He felt useless. Abandoned by his family at a young age, he had no way to care for his own needs and seemingly no purpose. Would he ever escape his dark dungeon?
But light broke in for all three of these who were once blind, as well as thousands more, through two eye clinics in Karnataka.
Easwarappa, totally blind with mature cataracts, was among the first to receive eye surgery.
“He became like a new man, having a second life,” a ministry leader said. Out of the darkness he emerged and took hold of his life. He bought cows and sold milk, making enough to support his family. “You should see this 72-year-old man going from place to place on a bicycle!”
Nagaratna, rejected by many doctors, came to the clinic from a remote village after learning that all who had surgery at this missions hospital had received sight. And though her case was a challenge, the surgeon was willing to operate. Poverty had kept Nagaratna from eye care and hope of ever seeing.
“Wholly depending upon the Greatest Physician the world has ever seen, I encouraged the surgeon by promising to meet all the expenses,” the ministry leader said. The hospital agreed to let them use a room. “The surgery was risky and the lenses very expensive. But that does not matter. Nagaratna saw light and her parents for the first time in her life.”
She is going to school now, with “hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Chinnaswamy’s story is short and simple. With no relatives, the 52-year-old man had no one to care for him. But after surgery on both eyes, the Lord opened the door for him to work in a hotel to support himself. He can see so he can work.
Millions in the Dark
Around 10,000 patients are screened annually in about 50 eye camps, and about 2,000 receive cataract surgery.
In India, with a total population of 1.2 billion people, there are an estimated 15 million blind, with an additional 52 million visually impaired, according to CurableBlindness.org.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in India, while refraction error and glaucoma are the second and third leading causes of blindness, respectively. Cataracts account for 62 percent of blindness in India.
A cataract is formed when the natural lens of the eye, responsible for focusing light and producing sharp images, becomes cloudy and hardens, resulting in a loss of visual function.
For the surgery procedure, the surgeon removes the eye’s crystalline lens, which has lost its transparency, and replaces it with a clear artificial lens.
Medical ministry in India is combating both the physical and spiritual blindness in the poorest areas.
Opening Blind Eyes
In the northern part of Karnataka State a medical ministry team reaches out to the poorest people and helps them find a diagnosis for their health problems. They bring ostracized lepers into a community and give their children a home, food, clothing, medical treatment, and spiritual nurture.
While the hospital welcomes the poorest cases, this team also reaches out to the community through eye camps. Around 10,000 patients are screened annually in about 50 eye camps, and about 2,000 receive cataract surgery. The chaplain always presents the gospel, and a church planting team starts fellowships among new believers in their own communities.
The hospital chaplain presents the gospel message to eye patients. A church-planting team has started fellowships among new believers in their own communities.
Often it’s the kids struggling in school who finally realize they could read if they could see.
Lamikant, age 6, was suffering from developing cataracts and couldn’t see to read. When his parents brought him to the eye hospital he received eye surgery and a pair of glasses. He now wants to be an engineer.
A 15-year-old boy, Shiv, never did his school work. He couldn’t see the words. His vision grew dimmer with each passing day. He thought he would go blind. But one day he discovered the outreach eye camp and after a free checkup, he had surgery on both eyes. He now can see.
With a population of approximately 300,000 people in 600 villages in this area, this medical mission performs 20 to 40 surgeries a day, three days per week. Patients stay overnight, receive a meal, hear the gospel, and take home a Bible—which reveals the true Light as they regain their sight.
“People feel very happy after their vision is restored, and they grow to know more about the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” the director said. “They are thankful.”
Fifty percent of the patients, who come from Hindu, Muslim, and other religious backgrounds, come to faith in Christ.
Christian Aid Mission helped raise support for the Boyle’s apparatus, an anesthesia machine, which opened the door for professional surgeons to join the team. “We are very thankful,” the director said.
Leading the Blind along Unfamiliar Ways
Some villagers, desperate for medical care, walk as far as 50 miles to reach another free clinic in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Patients stand for hours waiting in line outside the building at this indigenous medical mission hospital. The director shares the gospel with them as they wait. He gives them literature and, after their eye surgery, they can read the words of the Lord Jesus.
Although raised in strong Muslim and Hindu cultures, many listen intently to the message of salvation; the eyes of their hearts are open to Christ.
Christian Aid Mission helped provide funds for the mission hospital to buy a new Boyles apparatus for the administering of anesthesia.
One year this hospital performed 317 eye surgeries, including 187 women and two young girls. The oldest was a 100-year-old woman. Everyone walked out seeing.
“We give individual care, so many patients come here even from other districts,” the director said. “Many people would not have received vision if they did not come to us, because they are too poor to go to private hospitals for quality treatment.”
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
Easwarappa, Nagaratna, and Chinnaswamy not only received sight, but even more, they believed on the Light of the World.
“We carry out this ministry of love,” a leader said. “We are giving sight and a bright future for these people.”