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Published: 22.03.2024
Greg Wiens Multiply

This was truly the most successful of my trips to date. It started out with the most eclectic team I have ever travelled with. The team was: farmer and fellow Multiply colleague Dennis Hoeppner; engineer Andrew Redekopp (from my church, Westwood Community); epidemiologist and recently retired US diplomat Lance Putman; Dr. Patrick Maloney, who is a Professor of epidemiology at the University of Nebraska, and myself, Greg, just a pastor.   

For the first part of the trip, we met with Dr. Rainald Duerksen. In 1991 Dr. Duerksen, a fellow Mennonite Brethren, had a vision for Paraguay. Paraguay had the second-highest rate of blindness in South America. In 2020, Paraguay had the lowest rate of blindness! Dr. Duerksen, who was the chair of the IAPB’s eye health for South America, started five hospitals and two eye surgery colleges, and he did this all in the name of Jesus Christ.  

In the fall of 2022, he moved to Congo. Last year, when Andrew and I were in Lubumbashi starting our project with Safari and his team, I talked to Dr. Duerksen on the phone.  I knew at this time that this was the man to work with. During that first year, Dr. Duerksen found that Congo had almost 50% higher rates of blindness than Paraguay did in 1991, and even more astounding was that 99% of the population had no access to eyeglasses. Dr. Duerksen had a plan.  

Our partnership with Dr. Duerksen has begun, as we now will have a distribution centre for the eyeglasses in 2024. Amazing! We met his team, including the first class of doctors who are now being trained to do eye surgery, which is the first of its kind in Congo.  We also had some very promising meetings in regards to agriculture that we believe will lead to a great harvest in helping Congo feed itself in the future.  Dennis stayed behind in Kinshasa as the rest of the team flew down to Lubumbashi, the second largest city in Congo, with a population of 2.5 million people in a province of 5.5 million. There are currently no optometrists in Lubumbashi! There we met up with Safari and his team and we resupplied them and did further training.   

There was a blur of meetings. The highlights were meeting the faculty of the Nursing College of Lubumbashi, the Minister of Education for the province, the head of the Law Association of Haut Katanga (the province that Lubumbashi is in) and a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for DR Congo.  

As part of the training, we conducted two clinics for distribution; one in a Provincial Court room and the other in the Christian Education wing of one of the largest churches in Lubumbashi.   

During this time we educated the team by teaching them the best ways to get the best results. Andrew helped create a way to decrease wait times and increase overall productivity. Lance provided a way to increase cleanliness and reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Patrick figured out a way to collect data and run a clinic that will produce publishable data for other institutions to replicate.  And finally, I taught the team how to prescribe children’s glasses. 

Out of this trip came two big successes.  The first is the distribution centre that will enable teams all over Congo to resupply themselves in a sustainable way from Kinshasa.  The second is the team in Lubumbashi. They have been set up for long term sustainability and success in running their own projects, running an orphanage, and helping with church discipleship and planting.  Third is that we are many steps closer to getting a significant grant for children ages 10-14 in the city of Lubumbashi.  Pray for Dr. Maloney as he continues to put the final touches on the grant application

We left with the joy of knowing that the team in Lubumbashi is set up for long term success with 2550 glasses in stock and access to resupplying themselves.   

Pray for us as there is still lots of work to be done in the next few weeks and months for the grant application.  

Thank you for all your prayers and support! Without you, we could have never accomplished all these things in the name of Jesus.