Some times people enter your life… and never leave.
His name was Matthias. He seemed to show up on every side of the island we were at. We met him our first day. Two of the girls from my team were on the island talking and praying with people as they stood in line waiting for their medical care. He had been in line at the eye clinic to get checked for cataracts. When they knelt down to pray for him they did not know that he would become one of the greatest stories from our outreach in Papua New Guinea.
I first met him on the aft deck of the medical ship. He was sitting in a plastic blue chair waiting patiently for the ophthalmologist to prepare him for cataract surgery. Matthias had double cataracts. His eyes had been completely clouded for nearly three years. I sat next to him and listened to his story. He told me about his village and his family. He has six children, all of whom are married, and most have children. His grandchildren are too many to count. Like many of the other islanders, he gardens, or what we would call farming. He enjoys it and he enjoys his simple life.
Unfortunately, Matthias did not make it that far.
One of my team member who is part of our media team was able to enter Matthias surgery and capture the gory procedure. When he came out he seemed all to giddy for a man that had the first layer of his eye cut. We gave him medicine and eye drops and sent him home for the night.
The next day he returned for the operation of his second eye. Unfortunately, Matthias did not make it that far. I am not sure what came over him. It could have been the movement of the big boat on the ocean’s waves, or the pain medicine, or maybe even a evil spirit messing with his head. Whatever it was it caused a severe head pain and stomach pain resulting in Matthias going home with vision in only one eye. This news would not have been so bad except for the fact that we would be sailing to another part of the island the upcoming day, making it impossible for us to work on Matthias again.
I did not lose my trust in God that day, or question His goodness. But I would be lying if I said I did not question his motives. The first day I met Matthias I knew that God intended for him to be able to see out of both eyes. But here he was still partially blind. God do you not want this man to be fully well? My heart ached for this man. I did not understand God’s ways but I knew all I could do was pray. And pray I did.
He was just getting started.
It would be less than a week before my prayers were answered. We had been to two different villages and had traveled to the opposite side of the island. It was Sunday and we would be putting on a service for the village. I remember walking on the sand, looking at the shining brown faces peering back at me. My mouth worked faster than my brain, I was shouting his name without fully comprehending what I was seeing. There, standing only a handful of steps in front of me was Matthias. What was he doing here? Did he not live on the other side of the island?
Matthias would have sight in both eyes by the end of that day. The first time we had met him, he had traveled for days to receive care from us. Chance had it that he actually lived very close to the village we were at. After church, he was taken on to the ship where he received his final surgery.
It would have been silly of us to believe that that would be the last time we saw Matthias. But naturally we did. We rejoiced in what God had done for this man, believing that His work was finished. It would only be two days later and completely by the work of God when He would reveal to us that he was not in fact finished with Matthias and our’s story.
Where we would end up would shock us all.
We were suppose to go, yet again, to another part of the island. We spent a day sailing there and then having to turn around because the waves were too rough for us to anchor. Back in our original spot we had to think of a new plan. It was decided that the medical team would go ahead and reach more parts of the island via banana boat. My team would go to the same shore that we were at before and pray that we found villages to visit. When our feet touched the ground the next day, we set out hiking the bush waiting for God to lead us in His desired direction. Where we would end up would shock us all.
After walking an hour in the wrong direction we ran into some of the locals who graciously lead us towards the villages. When we finally entered into a village there were a dozen gleaming eyes peering at us. Two of those eyes had just been cured of cataracts. We all cheered and enthusiastically greeted our old friend. Turns out this was his village and his entire family lived there with him. We were lead to the shade and there Matthias introduced us to his wife and his children and their children. We were given bananas, mandarins, and coconuts. Later on we all shared passages from the bible that God had laid on our hearts. As we spoke the small village we occupied grew in capacity. More and more people from other villages started turning up. We were able to lead dozens of these people to Christ and witnessed several miraculous healings.
To think we thought God was finished. He was just getting started. Our story began with us loving one man in front of us and ended with an entire family and community joining to hear of God’s love for them. It started with a man who was blind and ended with two fully functioning eyes. It started with one and ended with many. And I know for a fact that God is not finished with this story yet.