We don’t focus on numbers as we simply try to do what is asked of us. For some missionaries that means seeing 60 people in the middle of nowhere where it takes most of the day to get there. For others it means seeing over 200 people while sitting still all day. However I’d be remiss not to mention that we saw 1203 patients on this trip. Yowsers!

The best part is many more will be seen as a result of the trip. After a few trips now working with me, Socheat (school nurse at AIM) really understands how to use the flippers, has a solid stock of eyeglasses and is getting better and better at triaging eye disease. General Jane, the exhibitionist, took to the eye care more quickly than anyone I’ve ever met. Her knowledge of eyes and optics far surpasses any general care practitioner I’ve ever met. We left her plenty of glasses and medications along with a set of flippers so she is off and running.

It’s always tough when we get back and folks immediately ask us, “how was your trip?” Well for the first few days it was something along the lines of, “we’ve taken turns being in the bathroom all day and taken turns losing 6-7 pounds.” Not exactly tweet worthy.

The other part is these trips make my brain feel like it’s been put in a clothes dryer and set to tumble. The first day on the ground we went to the Killing Fields


It’s not like we want or need some kind of emotional self flagellation but these kind of truths help us understand the enormity of the situation.

Each day is a crazy roller coaster of emotion. We spent one morning helping young ladies who have been rescued out of hell on earth. That night we enjoyed dinner with friends and celebrated a life altering eye surgery made possible in part by my local Lions club. Most days I’m just plain exhausted.


Someone snapped this at lunch one day

During clinic times I have zero idea what is going on around me. If you’ve never been the end of the line for over 200 people it’s quite flattering but mostly intimidating. What if I get sick? What if I get frustrated? How do I give patient #208 the same attention and care as patient #6? Those answers come from so many other lessons in life but mostly come back to living in the moment and having faith as a mustard seed.

No posts about travel woes? Everything went smooth? Sure. Relatively so 🙂 We checked in for our flights from Phnom Penh to Chiang Mai and the agent said I paid for baggage from Bangkok to Chiang Mai but not from Phnom Penh to Bangkok. How that is even possible I still have no idea. Mind you this was one ticket, not some kind of goofy mixed segment fancy ticketing. Long story short is $122 later my bag with all our glasses made it. Upon landing in Chiang Mai we convinced the customs agent that she did not need to charge us for bringing in hundreds and hundreds of pairs of glasses. I didn’t bother to tell her about the medications worth more than $10k. And I was flattered my seat mate wanted to touch me for the entire flight, but after 90 minutes of moving, shifting and trying everything to get away, I just sucked it up and decided to be thankful to return to the idea of personal space when we landed back in the States.


Just a random elephant helping out with road work in western Thailand. Wish I had a video of the dude on top riding bareback like a boss.


Can’t read “Green Life” on the brim


We’re all still laughing about these beds. I literally got a bruise on my knee from the springs simply from climbing into bed.


Just commuting in to work for clinic.

Our last day we went to an elephant camp. On the way there Allan said, “Hey this is pretty cool. We’re going to do something just for fun.”


That little fella sure loved Alison


You can watch elephants painting on YouTube but it is nothing short of magical to see it in person.


“Hey Jon wanna L sit on that escalator?” “Of course.”

This trip was an excellent reminder of how much I love my wife. She’s my best friend, my soul mate, the best gift I’ve ever received. Once again, we get home after two weeks of 23.5 hours per day together and as soon as I’m away from her for an hour I miss her like crazy. When she steps away from clinic for a few minutes, it immediately bogs down. She can read my mind most of the time and is already in the process of handing me something when I turn around to ask for it. When I’m hangry and turning in to Betty White, she knows just what to say. Below is a photo of me rubbing her feet in our hotel lobby while we sit and enjoy a live trio playing some jazz.


For those who make these trips possible I cannot thank you enough. Thanks so much Grammy and Papa for watching Lilly and Berto. Thanks to those who donate financially. Thanks to those prayer warriors who truly pray for us without ceasing. And big thanks to Matt and Tracy for running the office so well that we can leave for two weeks.

Where we go from here, I have no idea.


Finishin’ Up


The gang at night playing games, chatting and eating chocolate.


Some of the boxes of rice that Feed My Starving Children provides. I can’t share my photos of Karen refugees carrying these over the border into Burma. For those of you, like me, who wonder what in the world we are doing helping, or partnering with, something illegal, it’s difficult to put into words. After a great discussion in the van today I’ve reconciled this with Jesus healing on the Sabbath….and no I am not drawing a direct comparison between myself and Jesus. Is it better to follow the rules of the land and let children literally starve (we aren’t talking hungry; we are talking chronic malnutrition with evident physical characteristics) or better to help? 


Always fun to see what grows on the other side of the planet.




Stacy’s life motto


Not my favorite part of the day. See patients for 5 hours straight with one 3 minute potty break; jump in van for 7 hour carnival ride; make PB&J on the road. Need more stopping to smell the roses.


Iced “cooffee” makes it better.


“Everybody’s got a water buffalo”


It’s just impossible to capture the curviness of these roads.


Hours and hours of this. Honestly after only an hour we stopped and I got out of the van and walked crooked. Felt like I was playing that stupid game where you put your head on a baseball bat, spin around, then try and run.


Dinner of champions. We shared. Just couldn’t do the gas station reheated “food.”


This gentleman is a Karen refugee. He made an illegal border crossing today to come see an eye doctor for the first time in his life. He is simply trying to survive. Unfortunately he requires cataract surgery. Out of nearly 500 refugees that we saw in the past 4 days, only 8 require surgery. That’s a very small number and means a surgical short term missions team is not fiscally responsible here. It makes no sense to send 500 patients further into Thailand for basic care, and it makes no sense to spend tens of thousands of dollars to bring a surgical team. This patient can apply for a visa that will allow him a few days in country to receive the care he needs. What does make sense is spend less than $100 per patient (mostly travel and food) to coordinate transportation with local missionaries who can take these patients to get care here in Thailand. Want to help?


Into Burma

So we’ve been working along the Thai/Myanmar border for the last two days and today we ventured into Myanmar. Granted we didn’t get our passports stamped but I think we can officially say we’ve been. We waded halfway across the Moei river which is the border. I planned to cross to the other side to say I’ve stepped foot in Myanmar but we heard a vehicle start up on the other side about the time we made it halfway. We never saw anyone (granted it’s a total jungle around here) but I thought I’d throw a rock to the other bank and call it good. Sometimes I make good decisions. After playing in the water for a half hour we made it back to the Thai side….and heard that vehicle motor start up again and leave 🙂 That was a new one for us. Hi mom 🙂

At lunch I got to shake hands with one of generals in the Karen army. Turns out he is the number two guy. One of our hosts, Roslyn <not her real name>, who has over 20 children’s refugee homes is a champion for the Karen people so she knows everyone and everyone knows her. Sitting with her at dinner and listening to her story was unbelievable. That’s the wrong word: it is believable. I just wish it wasn’t. It is her story so it is not my place to share but I think the first minute of the trailer from Rambo 4 would be a pretty good place to start for those interested.

The general was hoping we could come over to their base and take care of their soldiers. Roslyn and Jane didn’t have time to work out getting permission from the Thai border police to make it happen. They have offered it as an option in the future if we want. We would travel with an armed escort. I told Stacy no…..I think I’d like it too much.

We had some time at lunch to sit around and chat. I was having a tough time figuring out this Thailand/Myanmar/Burma/Karen conflict. Well it’s been going on for 60 years so I’m not the only one. I think the closest similarity would be the US government wiping out Native Americans a few hundred years ago. Now it is the majority Burmese wiping out the minority Karen, Wa, Kachin, Shan, and other peoples.

On the positive front, God is moving mightily here. The Gospel has been with the Karen people for a few generations so Christians like Roslyn truly understand the idea of temporal suffering and eternal glory.

Kiddos at today’s refugee camp were in better shape than yesterday’s. Much less fungal skin infections, lice and obvious malnutrition. We saw somewhere around 145 patients across two camps. One little girl will be getting a new pair of glasses… a few months. She has a super unique prescription that can’t be made locally so we’ll make them back home, get them to David, he’ll fly them to Chiang Mai, transfer them to Jane at church, then Jane will get them to one of her coworkers who comes back here more often. Maybe we’ll send two pair as a replacement may be a bit troublesome 🙂


Classroom at the “nice” refugee camp.


Not my normal Tuesday commute


Start em young


Allan pondering how to climb that jungle mountain.


Have clinic will travel


Tetanus check! Stacy’s heel found a rusty safety pin. Dr. Jane cleaned her up and patched her up…with some duct tape of course.



After realizing we are being watched, I figured maybe throwing a rock into Burma was a better idea than stepping foot on shore.


Not a view many people have experienced.

No clue where to start

I love that these trips have been happening on Super Bowl Sunday. There’s just something about the dichotomy of the utmost in commercialization vs. true third world conditions  that really resonates with me. Internet in southeast Asia is amazing. David has had 4G nearly the entire time and is able to work on projects as we drive through the windiest of mountain roads. Today it meant he gave us the halftime score and final score. During game time we saw some of the most incredible views of fog filled valleys, drove through multiple police checkpoints and discussed things that can’t be forgotten. For a taste, take a minute to watch this.

Dr. Jane is far from fantastical and has zero flair for the dramatic. We love her. I may nickname her “General Jane” except she’s way more B.A. than Mad Dog Mattis. When she says, “I need you all to turn off any location services on any electronic device in this car” it took me a few minutes to do the mental gymnastics about what she was really getting at. I understand no tagging our location on Facebook but when it is “no photos as they often contain an embedded GPS tag and that can threaten these folk’s lives” my brain just has trouble processing that. I think I simply don’t want to process such things. Refugees, IDPs or “internally displaced peoples,” camps, and genocide are terms I much prefer to not think about. I should have told Stacy “no” when she asked, “want to hear the worst story I heard today?” You can ask either of us in person if you really want to hear.

Western Thailand and eastern Burma are unbelievably beautiful. I’m gonna keep calling it Burma (vs. Myanmar) as the Karen people we are helping prefer that term. The majority Burmese decided to change the name a few years ago as part of the process in wiping out minority peoples. The Karen have a few choices in life: stay in Burma and face severe persecution, flee to a Thailand U.N. camp and give up all individuality and ability to earn a living, or flee Burma and live illegally in Thailand supporting themselves. We are helping the latter. All those police checkpoints we keep driving through are set up to stop illegal trafficking.

There’s always talk of poverty and access to health care. It’s important to remember absolute poverty (refugee in Thailand struggling to eat today) vs. relative poverty (homeless in America but not starving to death). There’s real value in working to alleviate both. I’m a big fan of working in both realms. In Cambodia we have been consistently exposed to significant absolute poverty and huge barriers to access. However we have amazing missionaries like Kreg and Kevin who are willing to drive a patient needing cataract surgery the 8 hours to Phnom Penh, feed and house them while there, and then get them back home. Simply amazing servants. Today I asked Jane “hey what can be done if we uncover problems that I can’t fix?” “We’d have to smuggle the patient through all those checkpoints and drive them 7 hours into the city….then take them back.” I’ll complain a lot less the next time I have to drive 13 minutes to the dentist.

The eye care went great. Most of the kids were normal and healthy. One young girl in kindergarten was +8 in one eye and +1.5 in the other so we are going to try and patch the good eye to strengthen the other one. That’s tough back home, let alone in a refugee camp, but the missionary team is up for the challenge. Fortunately most of the folks looked relatively healthy. Many simply needed eyeglasses and no one required significant care that we couldn’t provide. Could some of them use cataract surgery? Sure. Absolutely necessary? Nope. I’ve found that’s typical with people who may spend lots of time outside but spend lots of time under a tree canopy which protects their eyes from the sun.

On the health front, we’re all doing well. This morning was another 3 or 4 hour drive on windy roads. For the Arizona folks, think road to Jerome. For North Carolina folks, think Mt. Mitchell. But continuous windy. Over and over. And over.

If you want to see more photos, or watch a few videos, come over to our home when we get back. We can show them, just not post them online.


Allan’s hiding behind us in the back seat 🙂


Educational blog this is





Our fearless driver Simon.


East meets west. You can’t make out the “Starbucks” writing on the canopies.


Sunrise over Mae Sariang. We saw/met a unicorn at our guesthouse this morning: a big boy from Alabama…who doesn’t care about SEC football!


I really hate confusing bathroom signs but I guess with so many guests from so many countries speaking so many languages a picture (or 3D diagram in this case) is worth a thousand words.


Did I mention the road was windy?


One of many police checkpoints.


I made it over a week without a southeast Asian rest stop photo. Looks like I’m spying on David but this is simply the view from the road.


Unbelievable views. All day.


Thailand here. Burma there. Crappy photo but this one’s from the road so we’re ok to post it.


What a whirlwind. Phew.

I haven’t been updating much here on the blog because we simply haven’t stopped long enough for me to think straight. Right now it’s after 9pm, we just checked into our hotel, and Stacy and I are skipping dinner.

I try not to focus on numbers on these trips but Stacy did ask me yesterday “how many patients do you think you’ve seen over the past 4 days?” I had no real clue. Turns out it was over 700. Now over 800. No wonder we’re tired and run down 🙂

Stacy’s stomach has been super upset for the past day. I believe “Thai tummy” is the proper diagnosis. I woke up and felt like I’d been hit by a bus. Those are always fun symptoms when the rest of the day’s schedule is: 5 hour curvy road van ride followed immediately by 4 hour clinic. Tomorrow? Repeat.

However, the van ride was a great time to catch up with David and let me noggin wander a bit. He mentioned about an hour from Mae Sariang that he just had déjà vu. I looked at him and said, “huh. me too.” Halfway through the clinic I had another déjà vu moment followed by another an hour later. That’s never happened to me before. Fascinating.

Clinic ran super smooth due in large part to our great translator Cruze. I noticed right away his left eye looks at his ear. When we were finishing up, he asked if I could look at his eyes. Of course. He mentioned his left eye doesn’t work well because of malaria at age 6 that almost killed him. Yet another issue I’m thankful my kids don’t have to worry about. Perspective is a beautiful thing.

After clinic tonight, our host Roslyn <not her real name> invited us to her home for customary fruit. No chatting about the weather or SuperBowl here. She started telling us about running into the woods to escape the Burma army as a young girl; having her home turned into ashes; seeing things done to women that “we not speak of.” I have no idea what I was thinking before when I thought about “Burmese Karen refugees” but just those 5 minutes of her story made time stand still. We are all looking forward to hearing more of her story over the next few days as we follow the Thai/Burma border and head into refugee camps.

I’ve been humbled many a time on these trips but to hear this was on another level of wow: “word is out that you are coming so we expect quite a few refugees to come over the border in the next few days to see you.”


“Yeah let’s go do a home visit for one of the students. The parents need to understand how important it is for him to wear his glasses.” “……it far away away, we hop on moto.” Uhh…YOLO?


I’m not really hungry. I swallowed a big june bug when we were driving.

I didn’t take photos at the students’ house because I wouldn’t want someone coming to my house to take photos and show everyone. Imagine my grandparents’ under home cellar but 60 degrees warmer and the roof a little lower.


Somehow this has turned in to a foodie roadshow. For an afternoon snack we had vietnamese iced coffee and fried bananas. Fried in cocaine based on the addictive properties; or maybe sweet milk and coconut batter. I dunno.


Lots of the students live by the river where their parents fish for a living.



Seriously? Indian food in Cambodia? I’m running out of superlatives to describe our gastro experiences.


Garlic naan, butter chicken, lamb samosas, curry heaven, some other stuff.



How sociable

No update last night as I fell asleep on the couch while everyone was chatting. Not because of boring conversation just a toll after travel, heat and heat and travel. We’ve done multiple laps around Phnom Penh traveling from location to location.


In the morning we went to the Agape Restoration Home (ARC). First stop for the girls after being rescued. Here’s a quick video of their grand opening a few months ago

This is the one place where things will be going well and then a shock of reality sets in. Yesterday it was two girls in particular. One was deaf and I was worried about Usher syndrome. She would just jump up and start singing “YEAH, YEAH…..YEAH YEAH.” Not really. Retinitis Pigmentosa (night blindness and tunnel vision) combined with hearing loss are the main issues with Usher syndrome so I wanted to give the staff a heads up if that was coming down the road. Fortunately I saw no signs of eye problems.

She perked right up when I introduced myself with my sign name. It’s amazing how just a few words in Khmer, or gestures in sign language, open folks right up. Why do we in the States look down upon someone who is trying oh so hard to work on their English?


“It’s bright!” Whateva. Stacy, Alison and Ellen (head cheese at ARH).

The other young girl literally hopped out of the room squealing with delight after we got her some mildly strong glasses. Of course she hopped in to the room before seeing me as she only has one leg. She got hit by a drunk driver while she was sitting outside the KTV (karaoke bar). Alison chatted with her about how best to use her one leg and possibilities of a prosthetic.



Whacked em with a machete myself. Actually that probably would have ended up in some kind of Silence of the Lambs reenactment. I’ll leave the machete-ing to the pros.

In the afternoon we saw all the AIM staff back at the school. Not only do we see familiar faces but we see familiar glasses. It’s also fun to now see more and more of their babies in the day care program. Time marches on year over year.

The evening was great as Allan and Alison headed up the creation of a taco bar and the Butlers came over. Little India is doing absolutely amazing after her surgery. Honestly we couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. Little brother Judah is doing well with his glasses and now he has a backup pair. We got him the same pair as Berto so now they can be twinsies. We were also able to confirm Judah’s twin sister has perfect eyes. After the kids wrestled me for a half hour, I guess I really was tired.


I’m thinking tonight’s update will be: saw a bajillion patients; too tired to type. 8 hours of community clinic here we come!