While Troy had planned for the trip for months, he was unprepared for the emotion inspired by such an opportunity to help. “It brought back a lot of the feelings I had while I served a mission for the Church,” he says.
The mission he’d served a decade ago in Antofagasta.
Because Give the Gift of Sight team members aren’t allowed to request specific countries in which they’d like to work, Troy never thought he’d be selected to serve in his mission area. Indeed, program administrators first thought the team would be sent to Guatemala. Then, last December, Troy received a letter. “I read it twice and couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I was going not only to Chile, but to my exact mission.”
Eight months later, so many Chileans lined up for the needed eye care that the army was dispatched to help with crowd control. Some came from villages up to three hours away.
Troy and twenty-four other volunteers worked twelve hours a day for two weeks to examine more than 30,000 people. “It was a sea of people,” Troy says. “We could have stayed open for twenty-four hours a day and not helped everyone who wanted exams and glasses.”
Many came to the giveaway site to get their first pair of glasses. One was a woman so nearsighted that she couldn’t see more than six inches in front of her face before Troy fitted her new glasses. “She turned her head back and forth, marveling at what she could see,” Troy says. “Then, she started to hug and kiss me.”
Despite the grueling work schedule, Troy’s team leader gave him a few hours off to visit a family he’d baptized years earlier. The couple had since been sealed in the temple and the husband had served as a bishop.During the visit, Troy discovered that the couple’s son-in-law had failed an eye exam while applying for a much needed job. During the eye appointment Troy arranged, a doctor discovered the man had cataracts. The local Lions Club volunteered to pay for the expensive surgery needed to restore the man’s sight.
“I felt like he was one of the main reasons I was down there” Troy says, “because there was no way he could have afforded the exam or the surgery.”
Troy was so touched by the spirit of service that he applied for another eye care mission even before he returned from Antofagasta. “It was hard to hold back my emotions there,” he says. “The experience was so great.” Those interested in giving the gift of sight can donate used eyeglasses to their local LensCrafters store or Lions Club location. The eyewear will be cleaned, repaired, then recycled for a Give the Gift of Sight international mission trip. Learn more at [givethegiftofsight.org].