Thursday, July 22, 2010

And the Blind Shall See

Catherine Schwebel with Komlavi in his shop. Komilavi is sportin' his shades after his surgrey.

Inside Komlavi's Market shop---check out all the great stuff he sells/makes!

God watches over those of us who are believers. God was working overtime when it came to Lomé resident and market vendor, Komlavi Djikpo.

Catherine and Marty Schwebel, Chaplains aboard the Africa Mercy, were browsing through an artisan market with their sons when they met a very nice man who sold wooden sculptures. They liked him, and his crafts, so much that they referred all of their Mercy Ships friends to him for purchases! They took his card, and learned his name was Komlavi.

A few days later a few Mercy Ships crew members were out browsing the same artisan market when they began talking to one of the shop owners. He mentioned that he couldn’t see well out of his right eye. Alana Abernathy, a member of the eye team, took a look at Komlavi’s eye.

Alana recalls, “I took him over into the shade where I could see into his pupil better. Sure enough, I saw one of those dense, white cataracts. I was so happy!”

The Sculptor at work.

Seeing the cataract made Alana smile because she knew this was a problem that Mercy Ships could definitely solve. Alana wrote down the location of the eye care screening, and told Komlavi to come to the screening soon because criteria for cataract surgery were changing: he would only make the cut if he made it in the next couple of days.

A few days later Marty & Catherine were exercising in the port in front of the ship. They saw a man walking up to the ship and they recognized him.

“Marty, I think that is the man from the market!” Catherine said. They approached the man, and saw that it was Komlavi. They read the note written by Alana. They realized that he has encountered other Mercy Ship crew members, and it looked like we could help him. Marty and Catherine jumped in a Mercy Ships vehicle and drove Komlavi to the eye screening site and by the end of the day he was cleared for surgery.

Had it not been for 2 separate encounters with Komlavi, he may have never made it to screening. It was fate that put Marty & Catherine on the dock when Komlavi arrived.

“The Schwebels really connected the dots for this man,” said Marketing Director Mila Hightower. “They ensured that he was where he needed to be in order to get the proper screening. God definitely had a hand in this.”

Marty Schwebel comments, “We prayed for him and said, Lord, please make it be cataracts and let Dr. Strauss be able to do surgery on him.” And sure enough, Dr. Strauss was able to help Komlavi.

Now, after surgery, Komlavi is back in his market shop selling intricately carved wood sculptures and trinkets. Surgery is done but he must come back for one last procedure.

Six weeks after his cataract surgery, Komlavi returned to the Hospitality Center for a check-up and to receive his YAG laser procedure. This was a quick process and was performed by Mercy Ships Eye Specialist, Clyde Houston. The YAG laser was a painless shot of light sent into Komlavi’s eye. It is necessary to prevent blurriness or cloudy vision from returning after cataracts surgery.

Komlavi at the Hospitality Center getting his checkup.

Receiving the YAG procedure.

With Dr. Clyde Houston just after the YAG eye procedure.

“Komlavi was one of the best patients I did all day. He was extremely still. Many patients move or blink a lot. Komlavi did great,” said Clyde.

Jut after he received his YAG procedure it was time for the Celebration of Sight. The Celebration of Sight is a ceremony in which all of the cataract patients of Mercy Ships come together in one place, and celebrate their successful surgeries. Before, they all struggled to see clearly. Now, their sight was perfectly clear. Komlavi was no exception.

The ceremony began and there was singing and dancing. Komlavi sat quietly in the second row, assessing the situation. His eyes moved quickly observing the others who began clapping and dancing around him. Many patients felt the rhythm in their bodies, and got out of their seats to dance around. Komlavi was cautious at first. Then, he got up out of his seat, and joined the line of dancing men and women.

He was able to capture a few joyful moments with a small point and shoot camera. The smiles that surrounded him were contagious.

Then, a few patients stood up and to give their testimony. Komlavi, moved by the celebration and his wonderful experience with Mercy Ships, stood in front of the crowd, and told his story:

“My name is Komlavi Djikpo. I am a sculptor and a carpenter. A wood artist. I was having this eye problem for a long time, but I was unable to go to the hospital.
One day, I met some white people coming to my shop. They told me about mercy ships because I told them I was having an eye problem. They promised to help me. And they have helped me.
I came to the ship for the surgery and I have never gone into an operating room in my life. That day I was so scared. And I prayed that God would help me go through the process. I did not even know that they had done the surgery already. I did not feel anything. I just woke up and I found myself on the bed.
The next day when they took the patch off I was so happy because I could see clearly. And I’m very glad for what God has done for me and I’m praying that God helps anyone else who is willing to have such an opportunity. May God bless everybody.”

Komlavi’s testimony encouraged many people. The crowd raised their hands in praise, and clapped in amazement after he told his story.

Marty Schwebel was able to witness Komlavi’s testimony at the Celebration of Sight. It was like seeing this man’s story full-circle. At their initial meeting, Marty simply admired Komlavi’s fine craftsmanship. Now, Marty stood at the Celebration of Sight, witnessing Komlavi’s testimony. Komlavi can now see crystal clear out of both eyes, and Marty helped make that day happen.

“It was so nice seeing Komlavi sit amongst all those who were celebrating their restored vision. Komlavi is a very stoic, serious man but it was great to see him break into a smile as he thanked Mercy Ships and the Lord Jesus for healing him,” Marty said.

After riveting testimonies from three other cataracts patients, the Celebration of Sight came to a close. The patients in attendance thanked the Mercy Ships crew profusely for their patience, their attentiveness, and their caring.

Komlavi was so appreciative of Marty and Catherine, and Alana’s help to get him to Mercy Ships. Because of their patience, their attentiveness, and their caring, Komlavi now had crystal clear vision. His sculpting work for his shop will now greatly improve. He is excited about the opportunity ahead.

“Now that I am healed, and I can see out of my right eye, I think things will get better. Maybe, even, I can learn to make new things to sell in my shop. Thank you Mercy Ships.”

Interviewing Komlavi..."So, tell me how you felt when you came to the ship for surgery?"

He is the sweetest man on earth! I love him.

Catherine and Marty survey my interviewing skills.

Outside with Komlavi---and other eye patients in the background.

Celebration of Sight!

One of the Day Workers in charge of the Ceremony. Thanking the Lord for blessing all these wonderful people.

I gave Komlavi my camera to document the party.

Elaine and I enjoying ourselves :) Komlavi took more pictures of us than the crowd!

Komlavi giving his testamony.

Me telling Komlavi to take pics of other people!! (not me haha), he just took pics of Tom instead!

The back of the Eye Team's scrubs.

Photographs mainly by the lovely TOM BRADLEY.....
intwertwined with a few from Catherine Schwebel and Komlavi (via my camera).


  1. Thanks Claire--love the story and the pictures. Great to see another person gaining their sight because of Mercy Ships. Appreciate all that you and everybody there is doing to help people who otherwise have little hope! Amazing to see the street scenes in Lome. A different world from USA!

  2. Celebration of Sight sounds so cool! Great that you were able to attend and share pics!


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