Eye Care? Oh yeah forgot about that

It’s so funny because the eye care we provide is obviously an integral part of our trip but I seem to focus on everything else. Last Sunday a guy at church asked if I had a PhD. “No sir I’m not that smart.” “Oh….I wasn’t sure what kind of clinic you were going to be doing.” Hmmm. Maybe a little loss of focus on my part when discussing our trip.

Well after a day of 200+ patients I have a grand total of one picture of me putting drops in one kiddos’ eye. Plenty of pictures of everything else.


A small smattering of the school supplies graciously donated by Cornerstone Church.


More smattering.


I’m gonna fly some of these kiddos back to the States to show American kids how it’s done. Barely a wince; let alone full meltdown requiring a straight jacket as is so typical back home.


AIM is now doing screen printing as one of their ministry jobs. Part of what we love about this organization is their self sufficiency.


Every building is a former brothel and AIM occasionally keeps some of the pieces as mementos. Here we brave a near vertical staircase that has doors at the top…..doors that lock from the bottom. Very useful when you need to keep people in an upstairs prison.


Funny enough the doors weren’t shocking because we’ve been here before and know what this is all about. However, this patient made me wince. We were taking care of the girls at AEC 1 “Agape Employment Center 1” where most of the workers are girls who have been rescued, restored, and are now being reintegrated back into society. A good job and job skills are an integral piece. Her shirt made me pause….thinking of the hell she has been through….and how different her life is now because she has been adopted into the family of Christ. 


I usually don’t have rats the size of an NFL football scampering about while I provide eye care.


That’s a terrible picture but we finished off the day with amazeballs Iraqi food. Holy smokes. One of the top 10 meals I’ve ever had. All for less than $8 per person.

Back to the eyeballs:

-my buddy Kemhang is still blind as ever and his glasses are falling apart. We brought him 3 more pair.

-in the past if a patient had a lot of astigmatism, I’d ask the local staff to get them to the local eye doctor. That is such an individualized prescription it is tough to line up used glasses with a new patient. Kind of like trying to fly a helicopter somewhere: you could get the distance exactly right (43.2 miles) but miss the direction (north north east vs. north east) and you’ll still be miles away from where you want to be. Turns out even the really good local doctors are not really good at prescribing. So this time around, I’ll make the glasses myself and then send back in a few months when missionaries are visiting Arizona and can pick up from me to hand deliver back here.

-it’s crazy to have a girl in her mid 20s walking around uncorrected, having never seen an eye doctor, when she is 5 diopters nearsighted. For those out there who know what their Rx is, hers is -5.00. I guess that’s why working in the employment center as a seamstress works for her. She can sort of see clearly up close.

-and it’s always funny at the end of the day to look at my translator (who is the head school nurse) and say “let’s check your eyes” only to come and find out they are in the top 5 blurriest of the day.

Allan asked me “What was your favorite part of the day?” Easy. Seeing all the familiar faces. I’m not a hugger but I gave out plenty to missionaries and school staff. It was also fun to exchange dozens of smiles with returning patients. The familiarity is simply amazing. I don’t need it to be a wild adventure; late January in Cambodia just feels right.


And now for the easy part

Of course I say that a bit tongue in cheek but after many many dozens of hours of planning and preparation, the trip itself often feels like the easiest part.



We told Allan and Alison we invited them along this year just so we could use their checked baggage allowance. 


Amazon loves us; USPS delivery guy hates us. This was just one day over many days of school supply deliveries.


After nearly half a decade, we’ve learned to ask others for help. Here our church community group helps sort glasses and medications.


Stacy is working us toward minimalism and our house is generally very clean and streamlined. For the past 4 Decembers and Januarys our back door has been far from clean and streamlined.


Terrible picture but thanks to Arizona Lions and Jeanette Russel for letting us borrow equipment for our eye clinics.


Lion Kit runs an amazing operation down in Mesa. Every Friday and Monday she and her team clean and sort donated eyeglasses. They were gracious to give us a couple hundred to fill in the gaps of what we were missing.


And these two boogers are always eager to pitch in and help.


I say easy part because our van wouldn’t start but one of those nifty small package jump starters took care of that in a jiffy. Our first flight was not very crowded and we got in early for a leisurely layover here in San Francisco.


Seems reasonable enough. How about our cohorts double A? Well they booked their tickets months after us and they are taking a bit of a different route.

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As we were waiting for our plane to take off in Phoenix, we got a text “Hey. We’ve landed but we’re still on our plane and they are boarding our next flight.” I guess we’re just contagious 🙂 I calmed them down by saying “You should journal about your current emotions.”

I figure if you’re not running through at least one airport then you’re not on a mission trip with me. They told us they made it just in time and are en route to Frankfurt.

Lord willing we’ll meet up in Phnom Penh in 24 hours. This is, after all, the easy part.

Sometimes I get to be the ring finger

….and other times I’m the belly button lint.

Most people reading this are familiar with 1 Corinthians 12 and the description of many parts of Christ’s body. This lesson from Paul has truly come alive for me over the years and especially over the past month.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Well if I were an eye doctor, I would….” and all my eye doctor buddies and I are saying, “I can’t do X,Y,Z.”

That story in 1 Corinthians 12 is so cute but it’s antiquated right? Of course we can’t all be an ear and we can’t all be a foot. Duh. Yet when it comes to putting it into practice we all struggle applying it to ourselves.

My buddy Allan is coming with us this year to Cambodia and Thailand. He has said in the past, “I’m really not that handy.” Whateva dude. When our missionary hosts emailed him to ask what he could do, I jumped in and said “Don’t be all false humble. Tell them what you can do.” I laughed at this quiet reserved dude listing all his handy skills over a few paragraphs. Holy smokes did I feel inferior. Me personally? I can plunge our toilets and change the oil in our cars but that’s about it. Obviously we have different skill sets.

Yet when it comes to what Paul was really getting at I can be super dense. And then God often has a trick up his sleeve (or white glistening robe as it may be).

That incredible story you read about on Facebook with the missionary kid who needed surgery? That tore me up for weeks into months. I was so excited when I heard that there was a missionary kid who needed eye care and we’d get to help her while in Cambodia. Yet when she showed up I quickly realized this was going to be a problem. I couldn’t help. At all. As in my buddy Allan could have done just as much eye care in this instance as me.

Yet God revealed that I could help. I just had to tap some keys on a keyboard which took way longer and lots more stress than simply eye doctoring. So a thousand bajillion emails between one pediatric surgeon, another surgeon 1500 miles away, surgery scheduler and parents 9000 miles away, little India had her procedure done.

I don’t share that to say look at me. I share that to say “What can you do?” I have a buddy Gary who brought a young homeless lady to me for eye care. She’s running around looking like a golf ball got implanted under the skin underneath her right eye.


Long story short is Gary has been amazingly faithful getting her the care she needs. It wasn’t just convincing her to come into the office. It was that; followed by many conversations about signing up for Medicaid; followed up by her not following up which was followed up by another follow up and on and on it has gone. At this point she needs specialized care that only about a dozen folks in Arizona can provide. My hat is off to Gary for his faithfulness. He’s not a doctor (and 99.9% of doctors wouldn’t be able to help here anyway) but he’s listening and being willing and open to helping.

I have another story in the pipeline where I was so sure I could help someone, yet God had other plans. And that story my friends is almost too amazing to believe.