BY ANGY PLATA
Oon Jai Foundation has worked in a closed Southeast Asian country for several years to alleviate poverty and empower local people through health, education, and farming. This past March, an exciting opportunity opened up for Oon Jai, ASAP Ministries, and ADRA Thailand to partner in providing much needed vision care and distributing free glasses.
The trip began in Bangkok, which is home to thousands of Pakistani refugees and refugees from other countries who are fleeing persecution and violence, while yet living in fear of immigration raids. We served close to 400 refugees, listened to their heart-wrenching stories, cried with them, and prayed with them.
From Thailand, we traveled to a neighboring closed country where we offered services to over 1,200 people! There we provided vision care at several sites, including the only recognized Seventh-day Adventist church in the country. We were prayerfully cautious about conducting the vision clinic in the church. Although we had permission from the local authorities, we knew that serving in a communist country meant we could be shut down for no reason. During the clinic, a high-ranking police officer entered the church. Nervously, one of the pastors went to greet him and asked if everything was okay.
“No, it’s not. I heard about free vision care and people told me it was at the Saturday church, but I had no idea where that was. I drove up and down the road until I finally found your church. You need to make your cross bigger so everyone can find you!” the officer said.
After receiving a pair of glasses, he left happily. The next day, he brought the rest of his police officers so that they, too, could receive free vision care!
The pastor could not believe the number of people who had come and the opportunities it had created to connect with the community. Later that day, as we strolled through the night market we heard a woman’s voice calling after us. “Hi! Don’t you recognize me? You helped me today. I have not been able to see for many years, making it difficult for me to work, but today you helped me see!”
She invited us over to her stall where we talked and made plans to keep in touch. We visited her home the next Sabbath, and she began to share her story. Her husband had a serious motorbike accident months ago and has been unresponsive ever since. Tears flowed down her cheeks as she shared that the burden was almost too much to handle, but that being a Christian (of another denomination), she knew that God could help. With gratitude, she held our hands and thanked us for visiting and praying, explaining that we were the first people to show her such love. “When my husband gets better,” she told us, “we will go to your church and become Sabbath keepers, too.”
It is our prayer that we can host additional vision clinics next year and continue to not only provide people with glasses, but also open their eyes to the True Light.