Monday, March 22, 2010

Me and Contact Lenses ... it has been a long walk

About an hour ago I was taking my wife to the airport as she is flying to Kenya for a retreat with other missionary women. On the way my right contact lens popped out of my eye. It was gone! We looked in my eye, no trace. We looked on my sunshades, all over the seat, the floor of the car. Nothing!

Usually about once or twice a week one of my lenses will slip off my cornea and into my upper or lower eyelid. Not this time. Gone! Well it was time to get on to the airport. In the parking lot, I slowly got out of the car, examined the folds of my clothes, the folds of my paunch, shook out the floor mat, examined the area on the car floor around the seat. No contact. I kissed Nancy goodbye and headed home.

I started wearing contacts lenses forty-five years ago. Back then the only kind were hard lenses. They were uncomfortable in my eyes, but they were much better than nothing. They often popped out of my eye, fell on the floor or the ground. Most people don't believe these stories, but it was amazing the way I lost and found my lenses over the years. When I got to Africa the roads were bumpy and dusty or muddy. I used to ride my motorcycle to town or to teach in the school. Once on my motorcycle, the wind blew out one of my lenses. Now get this. I stopped quickly, got off my bike and walked back along the dirt road and found my lens lying there in the road. On another occasion I was riding a bicycle to school on a rainy muddy day. I dropped my lens on the muddy road, stopped my bike, got off and went back and found the lens right next to a mud puddle. Many times I have lost and found lenses in my bed, on the floor on the ground, in many strange places. Nancy is always patient and kind to help me devise ways of finding lost lenses. In 45 years, I have only totally lost 2 lenses.

On our first furlough, my eyesight was really getting bad. In 1971, I walked in the office of a young optometrist in Abilene, TX. He was shocked at what he saw when he examined my eyes. He said, "I have never seen eyes like yours, my machine will not even measure them. You are going to be blind in 6 months." It was my turn to be shocked. The doctor offered to refer me to an ophthalmologist who saw me later that day. He said, "Yes, you have a condition called Keratoconus and you will need corneal transplants in both of your eyes. There is a nine-month waiting list for corneas."

When I heard this news I was devastated. I had nowhere to turn except to the Lord and to prayer for answers. Fortunately I was at a meeting to form a mission team for Africa, so was among friends who prayed for me. I had a wife (Nancy) and three very young children. I had no job, I had borrowed money to come to this meeting and then was told that I would be blind in six months. I couldn't get an operation for at least nine months. Even if I could have, I would not have been able to afford the surgery. But God hears and answers prayers. A doctor friend arranged to have an eye surgeon perform the surgery. A friend from college wrote all of our classmates and raised the money for the surgery.

I had a cornea transplant on my right eye in 1971 and another on my left eye in 1981. The left one failed and had to be replaced in 1998. Because of the nature of the cornea grafts, I have never been able to wear the soft lenses of today. My lenses are hard plastic; they are very small so that they fit inside the scar of the graft. They often slide off the cornea or pop out of my eye. But what can I say? Thirty-nine years ago, I had only six months until I would be blind. Today I have almost 20-20 vision. I am truly blessed.

... Well, I prayed on the way home from the airport this morning, that God would guide me to find that lost lens. I carefully got out of the car, searched my clothes and the seat and floor of the car again. Nothing. Then I went to my bedroom to search in my eye with a mirror, because that is where I usually find my lens. Nothing. I carefully retraced my steps to the car with a flashlight. After some moments of careful examination, there...between the handbrake and the driver's seat... there it was!! Praise God! I feel like the woman in Jesus' story of the woman who lost a coin. She swept her house until she found it. Then she called her friends and said, Rejoice with me; what was lost is found!