Faith in action: 2018 Eye Brigade mission to La Esperanza, Honduras

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by Bob Foote, O.D.

This mission was one of our best. A big thank you to the members of Grace Church that helped and prayed for us.  I want to especially thank Bill Pierce, Connie Riopelle, Penny Campo-Pierce and Sandy Foote.

Trip planning for this trip began at the end of the 2017 trip. Tentative dates are set and plans begin.  I was hoping to turn the trip leadership role over to another person in 2018 however this was not possible.  Summer passed and I attended the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity-Michigan (VOSH-MI) in September. This is a planning meeting for the various mission trips for 2018 that the third year optometry students would be able to participate in. Until this meeting I was not sure there would be a trip to La Esperanza for 2018.  For the past twelve years there had been missions to Coya Peru, San Carlos Mexico, Dominica and Honduras.  For a variety of reasons Honduras was going to be the only mission in 2018.  I was told that there were ten optometry students counting on going to Honduras.  They work for three years to earn an opportunity to participate on one of the mission trips.  I put my trip leader hat back on and began making travel arrangements for a team of 20.  Plans began to fall into place until the presidential election in Honduras.  There was apparent voter fraud resulting in many demonstrations in the larger Honduran cities.  I was being told that everything was fine in La Esperanza but I knew we had to travel through San Pedro Sula where some of the demonstrations had been violent. January 5, 2018 I put the trip on hold cancelling our flight reservations.  Through January I enlisted the help of Bill Pierce, Penny Campo-Pierce, Sandy Foote, Kevin VanRiper and Dick Gross to process our used glasses inventory with the hope the mission would be back on if the conditions improved in Honduras.  As Lent began Rev. Kathryn had a sermon about Grace Parishioners doing something scary or at least out of our comfort zone as a Lenten activity or commitment. This was about the time that I asked my trusted friend Mario del Cid about the conditions in San Pedro Sula. He was always prompt to reply but I did not hear from him for a couple of days.  He had traveled the roads we would be taking for our three hour bus ride to La Esperanza from the airport in San Pedro Sula to determine if it would be safe for us to make this trip.  He said it would be safe for the Group. So with the help of people here, in Honduras and the Holy Spirit I was able to get our travel plans back in place. The mission was back on track and we had our Lenten assignment.

April 5th eighteen of our group and thirty six suitcases met in Grand Rapids for an early morning departure to Honduras. We had an optometrist from Virginia meet us in Houston and all nineteen arrived in San Pedro Sula on time with all our suitcases of glasses, medications and equipment. The bus ride to La Esperanza was easy and we arrived before dark.  The following morning the clinic set up was ahead of schedule, with us beginning to see patients about 9:30 AM, a new record for the first day.  The clinic ran very well although we missed having Sandy and Penny on this trip. We were able to care for 920 people, dispensing approximately 1,700 pair of glasses.  Part of the glasses dispensed were 152 of custom made pairs by Dick and his team. 89 people had medical conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, pterygiums and crossed eye that will receive care at the Lions Fraternidad Clinic in San Pedro Sula. The La Esperanza Lions transport about 10 people each month to the San Pedro Sula clinic so that over the next year they will all have the surgical or medical care they need.

We saw two brothers, Jose and Broyan, that were albino. They had never had any eye care and were not attending school. Albinism is a genetically inherited condition that results in the lack of pigment in the skin, hair, iris and retina. They are very light sensitive and usually have glasses prescriptions with high amounts of astigmatism.  The two boys received glasses made on site as well as a pair of Transition Extra-Active made here in Traverse City by Dick Gross at Twin City Optical. The Transition lenses will provide protection from the sun making it possible for them to function normally under bright sunny conditions and hopefully begin to go to school.

Thank you to all the members from Grace Church that were praying for our group. You and the Holy Spirit helped make our Mission a huge success.

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