Roberts helps bring sight to blind

Published 1:06 am Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dr. Ben Roberts has his eyes — as well as the eyes of his patients — set on the future for the people of Kenya.

Roberts has devoted his time to serving on a missionary trip as an ophthalmologist at the Temwek Eye Hospital. Roberts, his wife and three sons have lived in Africa for the last two years.

Wednesday, the Andalusia High School graduate spoke to the Andalusia Lions Club about his experiences in the country. Attending with him were his parents, John and Ruby Roberts, and his grandmother, Dot Lancaster.

Currently, Roberts serves in the Eye Unit of the African faith-based, Christian hospital whose mission statement is “Sharing the Light, Restoring the Vision.”

“The light our statement refers to is the light of Christ and the way that we treat and communicate with our patients,” he said. “I first came here in 1998 with my wife when I was still in medical school and we just felt that calling that this is where the Lord wanted us to be, that we had good things to accomplish here.”

It took eight years before Roberts could return to the county to undertake what he called his “mission from God.”

In his clinic, Roberts said the most common problems he sees are cataracts and glaucoma.

“Most of my time is spent inside surgery,” he said. “Whereas if I worked here that would be flip-flopped. The need there is so great.”

Roberts said a good majority of the things he is able to accomplish inside surgery and on other medical trips to nearby villages is credited to the support he has received in contributions in equipment and labor by people not only from Andalusia, but nationwide.

“Most of the equipment that’s in the clinic now has been donated through the support of people here back home, some drug companies and others who understand the importance of what we’re doing,” he said.

Roberts went on to tell the story of his 11-year-old patient Jacob, who had been born with a debilitating congenital disease that left him partially blind and stiff jointed. In a video, it showed Jacob groping and shuffling down a small hallway, aided by family members.

“One of the things about Jacob was his smile — it’s just indescribable,” he said. “He had lost the sight in both his eyes and was able to undergo corrective surgery. One turned out excellent. The feeling that God had touched him was amazing. I’m just thankful for the opportunity to help.”

Roberts and his family will continue to “help” for as long as they believe their help is needed, he said.

“Our plan is to take a year’s furlong in 2010 and come home for a while,” he said. “We have to use the gifts that God has given us. And it led us to Africa.”