"One thing I know. I was blind but now I see." John 9:25
Estelline is 6 years old. Her sister, Alesia, is 9. They have never known what it is to be children.
Three years ago their mother died of yellow fever. Around the same time Estelline developed an eye infection. When we met the two in early November, Estelline's left eye bulged from the socket - a ghastly white ulcer protruding from her cornea. A white scar covered her right eye. She was blind.
The day Yvonne and I met them they had not eaten. We asked a Malagasy friend to accompany them into the market where they could purchase some food. Dirty and dressed in little more than rags, they went with our friend in search of fruit and bread. They were un-welcomed customers, spurned by vendors and patrons making unabashed cruel remarks.
Alesia asked our friend, "Why do people hate us? What have we done wrong?"
Estelline's and Alesia's father drives a pous pous (an oversized tricycle we would call a rickshaw). He is not terribly motivated - a man seemingly defeated by the unrelenting life of Madagascar. Slight of build, given to too much drink, he is easy prey for thieves.
When he does work he brings home 66 cents to $1.50 a day. Even by Malagasy standards, that is poorer than most. A diet consisting of two meals a day of rice and beans would account for every penny earned.
When his wife fell ill the family had no money to go to a doctor. Incredulously, most doctors here will not consider treating you unless you show the ability to pay. There is no national program for the indigent. So, Estelline and Alesia's mother died at home, without so much as an aspirin.
Two months ago, with the help of others in our Malagasy church, we started to make inquiries about what could be done about Estelline's eyes. The doctors' solution at the local hospital was to remove the left eye, but they did not have the proper equipment or knowledge to even consider the right eye.
A week after Estelline's left eye was removed, the family came to see our church family, Yvonne and me to say thank you for our help. Friends, I cannot tell you how amazing was the encounter.
This same child, who weeks before, walked in shame and humility, bounced around with the inexpressible joy of a daughter who had just opened a long-anticipated Christmas present. With an eye removed and still unable to see, the pain that she had lived with for three years was gone. There was no more deformity for people to gawk at and ridicule. This 6-year-old girl was in ecstasy. She was truly a different person. Needless to say, Yvonne and I were amazed.
On Sunday, her older sister stood in church and enthusiastically worshiped the Lord. From our seats we could see Alesia, arms raised, eyes looking upward, giving thanks. You could see that this 9-year-old child was not mimicking anyone. She was alone with God in her appreciation and worship, not concerned what others might think. The sight brought Yvonne and me to tears.
Again, with the help of our church, we scoured the whole of Madagascar for a solution to Estelline's right eye. Another of our Malagasy friends found a clinic sponsored by the Lutheran Church a days trip away. It is frequented by western medical professionals who bring equipment and experience otherwise unavailable in Madagascar.
Last Monday was Estelline's first appointment. The attending doctor did not give much hope for full sight to be returned, but he did say he could remove the white scar that covered Estelline's pupil. He asked them to return on Wednesday. Our church prayed.
When Estelline returned on Wednesday a visiting Norwegian ophthalmologist looked at her eye. He thought he might be able to restore some sight, but wasn't sure. Our church prayed.
Let us interrupt this narrative to say that those who put all their faith in man and say there is no God, we have proof that He Is. To those who say that God does not talk to men, and if a person says they have heard from Him they are delusional, then count Yvonne and me as one who have lost their minds.
In my prayers for Estelline that morning, I felt or heard (whichever you wish) a voice say to me "Give thanks." "Thanks," as in "It is done." So, I prayed thanksgiving for Estelline's sight and that night I proclaimed before 50 of our church members that Estelline's sight was imminent. I did not make such a proclamation in hope or wishful thinking, but with confidence in a Father who never breaks a promise.
On Friday we received word. The operation was complete. Estelline could see.
God is the consummate gentleman. He does not force himself on us. You can look around the world and see all sorts of tragedy and perversion. So far as I can see, men have no answers.
In the face of such dismay and discouragement, Yvonne and I choose to take a different path. We choose to believe. The ramifications of that have proven more rewarding than anything that we have ever owned or accomplished.
We will close by saying this, "Thank you God. Thank you that your promises are reliable and true. Thank you for all of the spiritual and financial support that you have poured out on us from our friends and family back home. We don't just want to serve you, but we are compelled to serve you. There is no other place that we would rather be. We love you. Amen"
Please pray for this family, especially the father. These girls still need an education, daily nutrition, clothing and shelter. There are thousands, probably millions, more just like them. They need our help.
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