Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sight to the Blind

In June 2010, ABC News reported an amazing medical breakthrough that would help people who have been blinded in tragic accidents. The procedure involves harvesting stem cells unaffected by the accident from the patient’s eyes and then using them to re-grow the cornea in a laboratory setting. The new cornea is then placed back into the patient’s eye and in a matter of months the person’s sight is restored. Researchers were finding enormous success in this new procedure. One patient, who had been blinded for over 50 years before the procedure, had his sight restored to 20/20 quality.

Can you imagine being blind for most of your life and then being given the ability to see colors, faces, and nature? I can’t imagine too many things being more exciting. But, what I found interesting about this report was that the story did not interview anyone who had received the procedure. Instead they interviewed doctors and professors who had been involved in this breakthrough. Their excitement was off the charts as well. “If you’ve seen one of those patients (regain their sight), then you have reason to wake up in the morning to start running to do your job. Just one patient is worth it. You have purpose in your life,” said Professor Graziella Pellegrini from Italy.

It’s no coincidence that Jesus paid attention to the blind. Jesus was the Master Healer whose deep compassion led him to use his divine power to heal the sick and afflicted. On several occasions, people whose sight had been lost were helped by Jesus. But, it seems that Jesus had more in mind when he touched the physically blind. Jesus was even more concerned for their spiritual blindness. His compassion was even greater for those that were wandering blindly in a dark world with no spiritual sight. Healing the physically blind was a massive object lesson for his greater mission—giving sight to the spiritually blind.

Last week, I returned from a mission trip to Haiti. That weeklong experience continues to captivate my thoughts. Our purpose in Haiti was to assist with a construction project on a school connected to a local church. We arrived on a Tuesday and for the first five days we did our work while experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of Haiti. Frankly, I saw Haiti as a very sad place. Poverty is stacked on top of poverty. As we traveled back and forth from the work site, there was no relief from the visual displays of the poor and destitute. Other than the natural beauty of the ocean, mountains and jungle, there was nothing “nice” about Haiti. Our host, Marcel, a Haitian pastor, told us of how the people of Haiti had lived for 200 years under a corrupt, inept and selfish government which compounded the extreme poverty over time. The struggle seemed so large. The problems ran so deep. At times, it felt hopeless.

Then Sunday came. That morning, we loaded into Marcel’s truck and began to wind through the dusty streets of St. Marc. Every few minutes, someone wanting to go to church would jump into the back of the truck with us. As we got closer to church, I asked one of our team members who was standing on a bench in back of the truck to get a head count. A minute later, he reported that we had 41 people in the open vehicle including six in the cab.

When we arrived at the church, which was next to the school we had been working on, I noticed something very new and different. There was genuine joy in this place. It was in stark comparison to the images we experienced on the streets of St. Marc. These people had spiritual sight. They saw their world through eyes of joy, love and hope. There was light in their eyes and smiles on their faces as they greeted each other. As I entered church, I noticed a large banner that read, “Hope for Haiti.” As I watched this group of people “do church” together, I became convinced that these wonderful people would change their world. They may never make a dent in the massive poverty or bring political reform to their government but I’m confident they will bring sight to the spiritually blind around them. God had given them a 20/20 vision for their world and they were poised to make a difference one spiritually blind person at a time.

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