People As Far As The Eye Can See
Craig von Buseck
CBN.com Contributing Writer
- Before sunrise, the people of Huejotzingo, Mexico, are
lined up on the street outside the Operation Blessing clinic --
eagerly awaiting the arrival of the medical team. As dawn breaks,
local police report to their posts. Shortly thereafter, two busses
filled with the clinic volunteers lumber down the long, narrow
street. One-by-one the doctors, nurses, dentists, opticians, and
staff exit the vehicles and slowly walk to the clinic entrance.
As they pass the burgeoning crowd, many of the people waiting
in line smile and wave. Children playing in the street stop and
shout, "Buenos Dias!" Elderly people huddle underneath colorful
Mexican blankets, struggling to fight the cold air wafting down
from the nearby volcanic mountains.
The atmosphere is charged with electricity -- many of these precious
people have waited through the night, sleeping on the cold concrete
sidewalk. Perhaps this would be the day they have been waiting
for. Many wonder if they will be fortunate enough to make it through
the large steel doors and into the labyrinth of examination rooms
and waiting stations inside the clinic.
a time of prayer, the medical team members go to their workstations.
The doors are opened and suddenly there is a pressing forward
of people with every possible type of medical ailment. Police
and security officers quickly take control of the situation, guiding
people to the right line and politely asking the crowd to be patient.
One-by-one, patients enter the facility and wait in yet another
line for registration. Once a staff member screens them, they
move down long hallways and sit in neatly ordered plastic chairs
that line the newly built walls.
The clinic is situated in a concrete warehouse in the small village
of Huejotzingo -- located nealy an hour south of Mexico City.
With the cooperation of the government, eight-foot walls were
erected to contain the different areas of medical specialty --
including a pharmacy, with shelves stocked full of prescription
medications, ointments, cremes and vitamins; a dental clinic equipped
with sophisticated equipment; and several examination rooms, buzzing
with activity from the moment the first patient enters the clinic.
the center of the building is a large room that is used by local
medical experts from the ministry of health to conduct training
seminars in health and nutrition. The room is also used as a counseling
center where doctors can sit and discuss medical options with
On the opposite side from the dental clinic are the optical exam
rooms. These cubicles have tables that are lined with eyeglasses
and various optical devices. On the wall are vision charts, and
staff members are armed with paddles to cover the patients eyes
during each exam. The final room on the optical wing houses the
grinder, which is a machine, used in preparing special prescription
glasses. Like a carpenter working on a lathe, Refracting Optician
Bill Wojtaszewski meticulously forms each lens to the correct
is a mild-mannered man whose parents narrowly escaped extermination
by the Nazis in Poland. He has been given much in life, and he
travels with Operation Blessing International to return some of
the grace that he has received. But on this day, Bill's face is
filled with sadness. After working all morning fitting people
with the glasses that will return to them the gift of clear vision,
Bill excuses himself from his post and walks out into the crowded
street. The line of patients waiting for eye care stretches beyond
into the distance -- well beyond what the eye can see.
He hangs his head as he speaks in his eastern European accent.
"On every mission, the longest lines are for optometry," he says
sadly. "Looking out at this line today, there are twelve to fourteen
hundred people -- and it's the same every day. We need more ophthalmologists
or optometrists to help me examine the people. On every trip we
are short of opticians. We average more than 300 patients every
day. The need is very great." With a heavy heart he turns and
makes his way through the sea of humanity.
Before he enters the clinic, Bill stops and speaks to one of
the security guards stationed at the door. Moments later, the
guard walks into the crowd and calls for their attention. "I think
it is important for you to know that there is a good chance you
won't be seen today for eye care," he shouts. An interpreter repeats
his words to the
disappointed people. "However, you may be seen tomorrow or the
"We're going to do our very best," the guard continues.
"Since we've been here last week we've seen more than 4,000
patients. I can't thank you enough for being orderly and very
patient with us. I know you've waited a long time, but I just
wanted to let you know that you may not be seen today." With a
wave the security guard said thank you to the crowd and backed
away towards the entrance. Despite their disappointment, the people
spontaneously broke into applause, many shouting, "Gracias,
this time, the mid-day sun is shining brightly above the throng
of people. Blankets and coats are discarded and a parade of colorful
umbrellas emerged to block the scorching rays. Inside the thick
concrete walls, the clinic staff flows in and out of their rooms
and workstations in a gracefully choreographed dance of compassion.
After several hours of diligent labor the day comes to an end
and the medical team leaves the clinic one-by-one, waving at the
precious Mexican people -- a people they have grown to admire
and love. Though many in the crowd are disappointed, they graciously
wave and smile at the OBI volunteers. "Buenas Noches,"
several people cry out. "Adios, amigos."
As the busses pull away from the clinic, several children sneak
out from behind their mammas and papas and cry out, "Hasta luego,"
which in Spanish means 'see you later.'
Learn more about Operation Blessing at the Web site, www.ob.org.
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