By Jessica Brodie
COLUMBIA—United Methodists in the Midlands are collecting old pairs of glasses so the people of Guatemala can see.
The mission effort, Glasses for Guatemala, is a project of the Columbia District Outreach Committee and is going on through Sept. 30. All people are encouraged to help, not only in the Columbia District but across the state and beyond
The mission project involves collecting used eyeglasses, both prescription and non-prescription (readers). Prescription sunglasses and cases are also welcome.
“If you wear glasses, chances are you have one or two spares lying around the house because your prescription changed,” said Linda DuRant, who along with the Rev. Scott Efird and Nancy Bradshaw are leading the mission effort.
The glasses will go to Healing Guatemala, a United Methodist medical mission and clinic led by South Carolina pastor Dr. Luke Rhyee that offers ophthalmology, dental care and basic medical needs, both at the clinic and in rural communities in the Chuisajcaba, Guatemala, region.
Rhyee said Guatemala has a tremendous need of glasses.
“Poor Guatemalans are not able to afford glasses,” Rhyee told the Advocate. “Glasses will not only reduce daily inconvenience but also change the lives of Guatemalan forever. Glasses will help the kids to study better, which is extremely important considering education in Guatemala is the only way to escape from generational poverty. For the adults, with glasses they can sew better, which is the major income source to many Guatemalan families.”
He also noted people will be able to read the Bible with their glasses, something many currently cannot do.
“It’s a need, and we have the resources,” said Efird, who pastors Ashland United Methodist Church, Columbia. “I know what it’s like not to see—it’s frustrating, and it affects so much of life.”
Lack of sight can also be life-threatening, DuRant noted.
“For us it’s just an inconvenience, but if you use a chainsaw for a living and you can’t see well, that’s a problem,” DuRant said.
It’s also a great chance to downsize and clean out old stuff in her house.
“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” DuRant added. “We have it, so why not?”
The mission project was the idea of Betty Void. Void said we often take things like eyesight for granted, but it’s important to note it is a blessing to see, and to have glasses when we cannot.
“One day, I was home looking for a pair of readers to read the minutes from the Columbia District Connectional Ministries meeting. I did not even think about all of the old glasses and readers I had in the drawer. Several months passed, and I asked God to help me to help others.”
One day, her District Connectional Ministries began discussing how to help Rhyee and his ministry in Guatemala.
“God asked me, ‘How can you serve this ministry?’ and I thought about all of the unused glasses in my drawer,” Void said. “So I presented it to the Outreach team.”
The district is collecting any kind of glasses possible—children’s, adult, reading glasses, regular distance glasses, sunglasses, cases, chains, etc. They prefer gently used, but as DuRant said, “Even beat-up ones are OK. If you’ve never been able to see, they’ll be a blessing.”
Donations to offset shipping costs are also being accepted.
“I’m proud of our District Connectional Ministries Outreach Committee for organizing this important mission project. Even in the midst of a pandemic, we can engage in serving ‘the least of these,’” said Dr. Cathy Jamieson, Columbia District superintendent. “Jesus gave sight to the blind and sent his disciples out to do acts of healing. We can’t perform a miracle, but we can share glasses to give better eyesight to those in need.”
Glasses can be dropped off in person Mondays to Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Ashland UMC, 2600 Ashland Road, Columbia, SC 29210, or mailed. If you need them to be picked up from you, call DuRant at 803-345-2671 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on Healing Guatemala, visit https://healingguatemala.org.