Nothing is Random
During my first trip with Amazon Outreach, I had a profound spiritual experience that left me confused and seeking confirmation that the change I was experiencing was genuine, and not an expression of some semi-conscious self improvement. My purpose for the second trip was still selfish, but as I’ve come to appreciate, God has a plan even when our goals and His are seemingly misaligned.
Shortly before noon at our first village, a farmer approached the medical table and handed me a prescription for eyeglasses—which was incredible given that we were more than 100 miles from the nearest town with an optical clinic.
The farmer explained how he saw our boat pass by his village the day before and he had rowed most of the night and all morning to find us, hoping we could help him. We didn’t have anyone specialized in this area and I knew we couldn’t help him. Gradually, his smile of hope faded. He simply nodded, placed the prescription on the table, thanked us, and left the clinic.
I was furious. I knew we had thousands of pairs of eyeglasses on the boat, but no one with the skill to find the right pair for this man. As I walked back to the boat, I read the prescription and realized the man had poorer vision than I did—and I couldn’t walk across the room safely without my glasses. How did this man navigate a river filled with dangerous fish and alligators?
When I got to the boat I found the mission leader and explained the odd situation. I asked him if I could go down into the hold of the boat and try to find a pair of glasses that could work for the farmer.
Moments later I was squatting in front of more than a dozen large boxes each containing dozens of smaller boxes. Inside each of the smaller boxes were 20 pairs of neatly packed and graded eyeglasses. I calculated there were more than 5,000 pairs of glasses on the shelves in front of me. I wiped the sweat from my forehead in frustration and decided to say a quick prayer. I closed my eyes and said out loud, “God, please help me find something that will help this man. He came all this way and I can’t send him home without something.”
I took the box in front of me down from the shelf, opened the top, reached in and took out one of the smaller boxes. I plunged my hand into the middle of the row of plastic bags and pulled out a pair of glasses. To my amazement the numbers not only matched the distance value (-4.50 & -4.25), but the axis and prism values that correct astigmatism matched perfectly too. Out of more than 5,000 eyeglasses, I had picked the right pair on the first try. My hands trembled as I removed the glasses from the plastic pouch and I laughed out loud in the steaming hold of the riverboat. Not only were the glasses a perfect match; I held in my hand a sturdy and an attractive pair of men’s glasses.
I climbed up the ladder and raced up the hill to the village. After searching for a few moments, panicked that the man had already departed for the long journey home, I found the farmer sitting on a stool in the shade of a tree.
As I approached he turned and saw me, that gentle smile once again on his lips. He remained seated and I removed his straw hat, pulled the glasses out of my pocket and placed them on his face. The farmer looked up at me with wide eyes, and then turned his head slowly scanning the row of huts on the waterfront. His shoulders began to heave as he repeated over and over, “Glória a Deus! Obrigado meu senhor!”, “Glory to God! Thank you my Lord!”
The man turned back to me, threw his arms around my waist and sobbed. We both remained there holding each other and crying until one of our interpreters came and asked what was wrong. I explained and she knelt down and took the man’s hand. Through his tears, he said, “I had forgotten how beautiful the world is.”
Seeing the World Clearly
More than a decade has passed since that day, but I count it as the most profound and important day of my life. It was the day God used my hands to provide for the needs of a man halfway across the world. When I consider all the events that happened to bring the boat, the glasses, the farmer, and me together at one moment, in one place—I cannot call it anything but a miracle.
The real miracle was not the farmer who received the exact pair of glasses to help him see more clearly. No, the real miracle was the man who had measured success by his title and paycheck, and took credit for everything that was good in his life—that blind man…well, he was given the gift of sight.
The Best Version of Me
I reflected on this particular scene from my life and I realized I am the best version of myself when I’m serving God on the river. I pray to be that same man at home and in my professional life.
I realized I clung too tightly to money, possessions, and comforts. My career is important, but not the most important. Recognition, money, prestige, and power are all fleeting and have no lasting value. None of it compares with a simple act of love in service to another human being.
The journey continues, and God shows me new aspects of His grace and mercy every day. He continues to refine me in ways I never thought possible and I thank him daily for sending a simple Brazilian farmer into my life to help this blind man see.
Submitted by Monty Fowler, a missionary disguised as a computer nerd and author, who has been on thirteen Amazon Outreach trips.