For Bob Burlingame, it took a book, a sermon, and of course, a ballgame.This eye surgeon from the USA had always been interested in medical missions, exploring various opportunities in the past. But it was only when he retired from his busy practice in the states that hewas able to start figuring out what was truly next.
Years ago, Bob read a book by Don Stephens called Ships of Mercy, which left a lasting impression. Later on, he heard a sermon on Jonah which gave him a sense that he needed to do something more. But the final deal-sealer was an invitation to a ballgame.
It was from a friend he’d later learn was a Mercy Ships supporter. The other invitee seated next to him also happened to be a Mercy Ships supporter – Don Stephens: “I had a funder on one side and the founder on the other…so I called the next day and signedup!” Once on the Africa Mercy in Benin, Bob immediately got down to business performing pediatric cataract surgeries.
“Our goal is to restore sight in anyone we can,” says Bob, honored and excited to couple his skills with the ship’s resources. “On the Africa Mercy, we have not only first rate equipment and supplies that have been generously donated, but also a supportive infrastructure and people who have intentionally thought out every detail. When we deliver care, we make sure everything is right. That’s the way Mercy Ships works and it’s extremely gratifying as a surgeon to be able to do that.
”Watching patients receive their sight has made a significant impact on Bob. “I saw a little boy I had operated on that morning, sitting on his father’s lap. He was tracing out all the details of his father’s face because he hadn’t seen him in probably four or five years, if ever. And now, he was looking at the man he’d heard all these years, very intrigued with finding out – feeling, looking and seeing his father’s face for the first time.”
Bob has many more stories of how restoring sight also restores hope. “When you hear patients speak ofabout Mercy Ships and how it could give them hope and surgical correction of their problems, their eyeslight up, their hearts light up and their joy speaks….this is a great symbol of hope.”