Missionaries in Nicaragua–Providing Sight!

A group of missionaries from our church recently visited Nicaragua.

My husband and I participated in the same eyeglass ministry in the Rio San Juan region six years ago.

(You can read the seventeen posts I wrote about the 2011 experience starting here).

Missionaries Nicaragua, church, eyeglass mission, Sabalos, Rio San Juan, Rotary, ptergiums, cataracts, St. Mark Lutheran Church, Santa RosaThe latest mission marked the eleventh year of providing a rudimentary eye examinations, glasses, sunglasses, Bibles and toys for the local children who visit.

Our church community loves this ministry.

How it works

The journey begins with a sometimes harrowing trip to Sabalos.

(This year the group experienced a wind shear incident while landing at Managua International Airport.)

They catch a plane to Nicaragua, a plane to San Carlos at the mouth (boca) of the San Juan River (Rio San Juan)–where it meets Lake Managua in the southeast.

After a stop off in “civilization” (i.e. bank) in San Carlos, the crew travels two hours down the river to Sabalos.

The trip includes a stay in Sabalos Lodge‘s individual thatched roof huts on stilts.

(With comfortable beds, electric lights and bathrooms–including cold showers).

Off to work

In the morning, the 2017 crew caught the same boat up river for about an hour, whence they boarded an ancient school bus to the town of Los Chiles.

Upon arrival, they met more than 100 people standing in line waiting for them.

There is no eyecare in that part of Nicaragua except what our church and our local Rotary club, bring.

Our crews have seen 21,000 people in the last eleven years.

This time, over three days, they saw nearly 1300, and gave away more than 1500 pair of glasses.

They also handed out 750 Spanish New Testaments, blow-up balls, small soft bears made by a woman at our church, and children’s story books.

The weather often is appalling; this year it featured monsoon rains and thick mud.

It’s hot, humid and everyone sweats–a lot.

But, the task at hand is so fulfilling–seeing the joy when others can actually see–no one really cares.

Here’s what it was like on one of the days:



A young researcher traveled with the missionaries to learn about the prevalence of ptergiums among the patients.

(Ptergiums are a benign growth that can cover the iris thus blinding folks. It caused by an irritant– such as dust or smoke– and prolonged exposure to UV rays.)

She worked the autorefractor (“It’s a lot like playing a video game!”) which, along with the expertise of the team leaders, enabled them to assess a patient’s visual need for glasses.

The patient then visited the volunteer missionaries who tried out a variety of basic prescription glasses to best meet their needs.

(They purchase a wide variety of standard prescriptions glasses in Nicaragua, and give them away for free.)

An experienced Managua opthamologist accompanies the missionaries and sees patients with complicated vision issues.

She puts the names of the difficult cases on a list and when a volunteer group of ophthalmologists visits the area to perform cataract and ptergium surgery.

Such a group usually travels once a year to Nicaragua.


For the people of the Rio San Juan, a chance to have their eyes examined for free and glasses.

For a child found nearsighted–the ability to do well in school.

The researcher learned what she needed for a paper.

The missionaries, who paid their own way, savored the joy of serving others.

And God? His Word gets shared for people thirsty for it–few people own Bibles.

Our church members love attending and supporting the eyeglass clinic missionaries to Nicaragua.


Videos of an eyeglass mission to Nicaragua Click to Tweet

What’s it like to to volunteer in Nicaragua? Click to Tweet

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1 Comment

  1. Shelley Vaags

     /  November 3, 2017

    I want to send a parcel of musical instruments to a community called central, I have a friend whom we visited there who can give the instruments out if the parcel ever reaches them. Do you have any suggestions for making sure the parcel can get to them from Canada?


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