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Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Future of Angola

We only have one more month left in Angola. Our time here is coming to an emotional end, with exciting adventures to come. We will miss the beautiful relationships that we've made, and the amazing tropical climate with it's luxuriously underpopulated beaches. We will miss being used by God in such a tangible way. 

  We are excited about our new adventure ahead in Portland, Oregon. If you are wondering how missionaries just decide to go back to America and enter the rush of the working world with all of it's taxes and insurances, luncheons and golfing. We are wondering the same thing. What will it be like? I know this will sound arrogant, but here, we are important people that get things done when no one else can. We have means of changing lives, that others do not. We have the education that people here only hear about. (all of this by the Grace of God, not by our own powers)  In the U.S., we will blend in, and be regular Janes and Joes. Being a "light" to the world will be a little more challenging in some ways. I do fear settling back into the norms of life, with all of it's commercialism and keeping up with the Jones. You, my readers, know exactly what I'm talking about.
But one important thing that I've learned here is that being a missionary is not defined by having churches support you financially , or by being in another country in the name of Jesus. Being a missionary is depending on God for all your needs, for emotional stability, for the love and means to reach out to other people and love them like God Himself. Being a missionary means waking up in the morning and dedicating that day to the Lord, every encounter, every moment with our family, every frustrating endeavor. We will remain "missionaries" in Portland and encourage you to also be a missionary where you are. Go out and love somebody in the name of Jesus. It may be cheesy, but is that not what we are here for???
Here are some pictures from our latest cataract surgery outreach in Angola.

Cautery with Fire
Teaching Angolans
Making lasting friends

As we leave, we want to continue to help develop Angolan leaders. One major issue that we see with the developing world is a lack of education.  We know so many good young people with no means of higher education. In order to help them receive an education we have decided to start a scholarship fund. The Committee that will help choose our students has now been established. And our project leader is also the pastor of our local church. This year we have already sent three students to University. 

First is Paulo, he is enrolled in nursing school, and off to a good start. He is a regular member in our church, but when we met him, he was always just in the corner and kept to himself. We found out that his father has nearly nothing. Absolutely no means to send him to school, not to mention his 7 brothers and sisters! So ever since he was chosen for the scholarship, he seems so much more confident and outgoing. He is so proud that he has a promising future.
Next is Levi, one of our pastors 9 kids. He also had given up an an education for financial reasons, at least for the next few years. We chose him because he already had a clear vision of what he wants with his life. He would like to work in the oil industry, a promising field here in Angola.

Our final student for the year is Maria, I know her because her father is in our blind association. He was sharing one day about his stresses in life and that his wonderful daughter will not get to study because he has no means to pay for school. When I met her, I saw a capable young woman with a passion for psychology and a desire to study in the field. She started studying in February thanks to the scholarship fund.
All of our students are expected to keep good grades and will continue to receive the scholarship for 4 years, as that is how long the courses will take.

Philip is a student applying for the scholarship in the coming year. He suffered polio as a young child. Soon after his father left him and his mother and then his mother died. He has been "adopted" by the church leadership. Him and anther young man live on the church property. Because of the church leaders he is in school right now and nicely clothed and taken care of, but next year he would like to go to University. John and I have personally committed to get him through school. He works the sound board at our church and is always very respectful and faithful.
Lastly, I'll tell you about Cumi, a faithful leader in our church. He loves practicing his English with us, and is hoping to go to College next year. We have letters coming in now from students applying for the Scholarship. Exciting and intimidating. John and I will at least be able to have one student a year on our own. But if any of you out there are interested in joining us we will be putting 95 percent of the givings straight to the students and the other 5 will go to the Angolan leader of the project for his time and dedication to this scholarship. I will be posting pictures of hopeful recipients, so those giving can either choose a specific student to help, or just give to the whole scholarship.
One last important note, We are actually collecting old laptops for these students. If any of you have working laptops sitting around your house gathering dust, please make a point of getting it to Nebraska in the next two weeks. John will be able to take them back for these students. Amazingly enough, computers are a must in higher education, because books and resources are limited, the professors give out reading assignments on pin-drives. We have given two laptops and hope to collect many more! If you are at all interested, just e-mail and I will send you the address where we will be able to pick it up as John will be returning to Angola as he ties up loose ends with the hospital for the month of June.
Thanks again for reading, I hope you have been challenged.
With Love From Angola,

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Transition time

Life is difficult for the majority of Angolans. If you live in the capital, Luanda, and have money or at least a job, you have a chance of having a “normal” life. But, if you live out in the distant provinces and are born blind, life will be difficult. It is with this knowledge that the case of 3 siblings who showed up at Boa Vista caught my attention.
Josemara (12), Fernando (9) and Juliana (6) live in Lunda Norte, a 20 hour bus ride to get to the Boa Vista Eye Clinic. Their mother brought them all the way to Benguela with the hope that something could be done for her children. She had already taken them to several doctors in the north, all of whom said that the kids needed a surgery but had no way to provide it. When somebody at her church suggested that they be taken to Boa Vista in Benguela, she began saving and borrowing money to pay for the bus ride. This is no small task for a mother of 3 blind children. Once she finally buys the bus tickets, she must pray and hope that when she gets there the doctor will see her children, and be able to do something about their condition and won’t charge a huge bribe to accomplish it. A major leap of faith. The reality of most health centers is they only work for those who have money. The poor are unable to pay enough bribes to receive the “free” government healthcare.
Our team at Boa Vista was able to see the three kids, schedule and perform their surgeries all on the same day. Yesterday, I performed cataract surgeries on one eye for each child. We started with the oldest child, hoping that if he didn’t have any trouble with the local anesthesia he could tell his brother and sister that it was okay. Then the second boy also managed to cooperate and laid still during his intraocular surgery using only local anesthesia. Imagine that! But the youngest, a 6-year-old, was quite difficult, but with the bribery of chocolate she was able to manage. Is there no end to what chocolate can do for a woman?



Today we saw them after the patches were taken off. The family is very happy, but you have to be sneaky to get photos of people smiling here. All three of the kids are now walking without any assistance! No longer totally blind and with good expectations of visual recovery over the next few weeks. I am very grateful that we have been able to be a part of helping so many people here in Angola over the last 2 and a half years, the Boa Vista Project has done over 6,000 individual cataract surgeries since my arrival in late 2011. It is stories like these that I will remember with fondness from our new home in Portland, Oregon.
For those who have not heard, our family will be leaving Angola in May of this year. I accepted a position at the Casey Eye Institute of Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) in Portland, Oregon. I will be an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and work in the cornea division (cornea transplants).
We feel like OHSU is the next chapter for the Clements family.  At times I was not sure what was happening in my life or for our future, but we prayed about our families future at every step of the way and felt confident of the steps we were taking. When mentors told me that moving to Angola was a bad idea and I was throwing away my career, I confidently told them that I didn’t see it that way and God had a plan for our lives. Before that when I did not match into a cornea fellowship (my dream since college), and wondered what was happening with my life, God opened the door for me to go to Harvard. Imagine that, Harvard inexplicably had an open spot when I thought the doors to cornea fellowships were closed. Who does that? God does.

I plan on using this new post not to escape the fight against preventable blindness around the world, but to amplify the resources available for the fight. The Casey Eye Institute has a history of international service and has leaders with a global vision. Somebody once told me prior to our move to Angola “John, in the fight against preventable blindness you don’t want to be a foot soldier, you want to be a general”, meaning don’t go to Angola, and dirty your hands living in another country. I replied that I think the best generals were once foot soldiers. Now I have first hand experience treating blindness in Africa. I have insight into the factors that keep places like Angola poor: the craziness and injustices, the cultural practices and beliefs, financial strains, politics and corruption--I have that experience. These will help me in the future develop more effective strategies for blindness prevention in the developing world.
 I could not be happier about the move, but it will be difficult. We will be leaving part of our heart here with the Angolan people. We appreciate your support over these last 2 and a half years. Lori and I both always have received wonderful responses from you, our readers, through prayer, financial support, and projects sending supplies over. Thank you so much for being apart of our journey.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Out with one Project in with the New

Remember Rita's house project? Well, this week Rita and her family finally moved into there new huge house! We are so happy and thankful to all of you that contributed.

This is Rita and all of her kids, plus her niece and her daughter that live with Rita. Her niece stays home with her kids while Rita is working. despite their demeanor they are all super happy. Something weird happens in this culture when a camera surfaces. All faces go stoic. Anyway, we are firm believers in empowering and not just giving things away. So we built Rita's house until it was in a position where she could finish it herself and feel the accomplishment. So our part was done a few months before, and she had it wired for electricity in the event that the community receives electricity from the city. And she also built her own bathroom on the side of the house. I guess that would be called an outhouse, but that gives Americans a negative idea, but here any bathroom is a luxury. So not only is she the owner of a beautiful new house, but she is also the one who saw the project through. Rita is so relieved to have something to pass on to her children that I can see a weight has been lifted from her heart.
Thanks again for all of you who helped.
This is Silva Mocili.
He is a husband and father of two girls, pictured is the oldest girl. The baby went with the mother (Mocili's wife) to the market to sell vegetables to support her newly blind husband. Mocili was a brick layer until three years ago when he went blind. (Non doctor writing today, I don't know why he is blind, but John did confirm that there was no hope as of yet.)

Mocili built his own house a few years ago and then started on a family store which would have been attached to the house, pictured below.
When he went blind the store project went on hold. Last week I was just out visiting blind association members when I came across his story. My heart leapt with joy to know that the lord put him across my path, and I've been given the means to finish this project! So far, the initial estimate to finish the store and make it nice! will only be $1,000. So we are already running with this one. In two weeks, I hope to be filling his little store with things to sell. And now his wife and new born baby do not have to spend the days trying carry vegetables around in the hot sun to sell. She will be able to stay at home with her husband and still make a living.
I still don't believe how this next story works out, but it is working. Pictured below is Jose Pedro.
He and his wife are both blind from a childhood case of the Measles. They run this store together. (His wife was out making store purchases during my visit.) Pedro and his wife received a government loan to build his store, and is paying it back. Normally his 9-year-old nephew helps with counting money, but when he is at school, Pedro's 5-year-old son (peaking over the counter) is his parents only seeing help.
I have no words to write, I'm inspired by this couple. May you also be inspired.
Thanks for reading, From Angola with Love,

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pediatric surgery: the best and worst surgeries to do

One of the absolute most fun things I get to do is take pictures with kids after surgery. Usually this means that their surgery went well, so family and child are happy to oblige. The actual performing of the surgery on a child, I don't like so much, and every time in the middle of surgery I ask myself why I endure the mental anguish.  For anybody who has done pediatric cataract surgery you understand. The following photos and stories are the reason. We have done close to 100 pediatric cataract surgeries this year alone and I wanted to take a moment to share a few great stories from surgeries I did this week.
First, I'll share about this family of three boys. I was touched deeply since the kids were nearly identical in age to my 3 boys. The oldest Dionisio, middle Evaristo, and youngest Nelson were all born with congenital lens opacities. Their family lives about 16 hours away by car, and a 2-3 day bus journey. Unfortunately they had never had surgery before, so they all had nystagmus  (the eyes moved all the time signifying poor vision potential, amblyopia). BUT.... I just can't leave them that way when I think there might be a chance, so we did surgery on them all the same day and this photo is after the second eyes were done. Fortunately they all cooperated for local anesthesia.
Despite the nystagmus, the vision was definitely improved and all lenses were in the posterior chamber nicely secure. We will continue to observe them and I'm optimistic that vision will improve with time.  I'm so grateful we got to help these awesome family.
Below is Zeferina. She got hit in the right eye by a rock and was left with a large, white cataract. I am always cautious with traumatic cataracts as they can present challenges unique from standard cases. Upon completion of the rhexis, I noticed a forward pressure coming from the soft lens nucleus, a little hydrodissection confirmed the presence of vitreous as there was an almost perfectly oval defect in the posterior capsule with fibrosed margins. A complete anterior vitrectomy to remove cortical remains and a lens was placed in the capsular bag. Vision today was 20/80 uncorrected. Doesn't she look adorable? Ok, Ok I get it Angolans as a rule don't like to smile for pictures (if this is your first time reading the blog, it's a recurring theme).

Ernesto is 9 years old. He was born with congenital cataracts that grew over the last several years. He did not have nystagmus, and I was very optimistic about his vision chances. He however, did not agree with the local anesthesia as whenever he felt something ( drop of water on this eyelid, movement around his face from my hands, etc...) He flinched his head from side to side. Very difficult to work like that when you have sharp instruments inside the eye. Unfortunately, I only learned about his reaction after the eye was already opened, in fact during the capsulorhexis, which was not completed successfully; not a coincidence.  Gratefully, I had enough intact capsule to place a lens optic in the bag with haptics in the sulcus. His vision was 20/60 today and I only had to joke around with him a little bit to get this half smile. I love the tuxedo shirt.
Please keep Angola and the rest of the developing world in your prayers as there are thousands of needlessly blind children just like these waiting for their miracle. What can you do to be apart of the cure?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ladies Retreat 2013

Ladies Retreat Again! Two nights, lot's of singing, dancing and eating.
I'm dreaming of the day that a group of American women come over for a womens retreat. How fun would that be!! You are all invited.
We went out to this little village to visit a new church plant. Besides making lot's of joyfull noises we also went out to each house to meet the community and invite them to come meet the new pastor.
Thanks for watching,
From Angola with Love,

Monday, July 29, 2013

This is No Sacrifice

When John and I got married, we played a song called "This is no sacrifice, here's my life." And I loved those words but never really understood them until now.
There are some who have praised us for our "selfless" acts of selling our things to serve the blind in Angola. If I could convey our understanding of God and His Kingdom, and the amazing encounters we have had because we left our comfortable world; you would realize that we have sacrificed nothing. Instead, we have traded up in life. I have the privelege of being reminded  daily of our many blessings. Daily, we get to feel the reward of helping others in need without looking for them. Our children see, everyday, other kids who don't have it so good (although, they don't always sit content with the same "old" toys). I'm not bombarded with commercials for the latest and greatest gadgets telling me what I should be wasting my hard earned money on.
I've seen my children's prayers get answered. I've seen my husband grow in the Fruits of the Spirit. I've seen the Lord actively working in my life. Even when I thought I didn't have the kind of Spiritual Gifts that God needed in a Missionary, but I get to see Him use me! I can't hide behind all the "truely qualified" ministry people. I get to be that person. My life is so full! So blessed, so unified with my family.
I have made no sacrifice of true meaning, but I have traded up in the Kingdom of God; and want to hear no more of how amazing we are. If we were so amazing, God would have been able to teach us and use us in these ways right there in the U.S. But instead he had to send us way over here to get our attention. .
When I hear someone thanking me for coming here, I feel so humbled. It's like someone thanking me for eating a piece of chocolate cake. I just love my life.

From Angola With Love,

Note: The wording I used today, "traded up" was taken from the book "Love Does" by Bob Goff.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Proud to be an American

Happy 4th of July from Angola. It's the coldest time of year here, which means low 80s, brrrrrr. I'm loving it! I wore long sleeves all day today and didn't get hot, this is the life!
Anyway, our blog today will be a reflection on why we are proud to be Americans. I can honestly say, that before moving here, I was quite indifferent. Like many youngsters, I just didn't know how good I had it. But after living away from our precious land of Liberty for almost two years, the American pride is welling up inside me.
Let's start with road rules. You may not agree, but we are so very organized on the road in the U.S. and the people actually obey the rules, and cops only stop you when you break a rule, and not just when he is hungry. Thank you also for reliable street lights.
Customer service, when I walk into a store and I have to greet the staff first, I don't feel wanted, then they will be bothered that I had the audacity to bring in my children. My friend actually was asked to send her son outside to wait for her! And forget about exact change, if they owe me anything under 50 cents its totally acceptable to make up for it in candy. (My sons love that)
Thank you also America for paved roads! As we are driving back home from visiting a friend or a church outside of downtown, we all take an automatic sigh of relief as soon as we hit the pavement and the car goes silent and our ab muscles relax! Aaahh.
Thanks America for having enough teachers that our kids can all go to school at the same time in the mornings. Here, The even grades go in the morning, the odd grades go after lunch and many high schoolers go in the evenings. They have to share the buildings and the teachers. This goes for public and private schools.
Thank you America for having four seasons.
Thank you America for selling ground beef.
Thank you America for cleaning our tap water, thank you for tap water.
Thank you for vaccine options for our children.
Thank you for wonderful education options.
Thank you for Wal-Mart and coffee shops, and movie theaters.
Thank you for votes that count.
Thank you for water heaters!
Thank you for not having Malaria mosquitoes.
Thank you that we all have the option of electricity.
Oliver says, "Thank you for cartoons in English"
Zekie says, "Thank you for toys that don't break"
Romie says, "America?? Eu não quero ir no avião." (I don't want to go on the airplane.")
John misses green grass, baseball games, and steady electricity.

But living in Africa does have some perks. . .

like two wheeled school buses.

and walking boutiques.

massive termite mounds

nursing mommy's photo op
hunting exotic game



and giraffe

and of course my precious boys.
Happy Independence Day America, we miss you!

From Angola with Love,