Team from Cape First helps give sight to children during mission trip to Africa

Saturday, September 6, 2008
Submitted photo Jan Fulton counsels a student during a recent mission trip in Africa.

After years of giving money to support overseas missions, twins Jean and Jan Fulton decided to join with others from their church, Cape First, and go on a mission trip.

The Fultons along with teacher Pat Hindman and Carol Lucy, one of the pastors at Cape First and team leader, went to Free State Province in South Africa to help children with severe vision problems and to spread the gospel among children in desperate need. They saw between 150 and 180 children daily.

"Fifty percent of the children there are HIV positive," Lucy said. "Another 30 percent have active TB and 60 percent are orphans because of the AIDS virus. We were working in a rural impoverished area. Many of the parents had passed away because of AIDS. And 70 percent of the women over the age of 12 had been raped. The greatest need in that country is hope."

For two weeks in August, Jean examined the eyes of children who needed glasses, and Jan worked with them in the clinic and "loved on them," as she said. Both helped with AIDS education through a 14-person team that included a group of missionaries from Des Moines, Iowa. A Des Moines physician, Dr. Jim Blessman, was there to provide the glasses for children who had the worst vision problems in the schools there.

"My sister and I have had laser surgery," Jean Fulton said. "We used to be very sight challenged. To see children who previously had vision as bad as or worse than mine see clearly for the first time in their lives, that had a major impact on me."

The trip was eye-opening in other ways. The Fulton sisters learned that although many of the children are orphans they have a strong support system through their teachers and through social workers and other missionaries. Many live with grandparents; for some reason, Lucy said, the AIDS virus has not affected most people there older than 55.

"It's not that they have no one," Jan Fulton said. "We got to share with them that Jesus loves them; they have someone."

Carol Lucy, one of the pastors of Cape First, on a mission trip to Africa.

Visiting missionaries are not encouraged to exchange personal information with the people they help, but the two women say they were touched personally by the people they met and did what they could do for them while they were in Africa. Jan Fulton said she spent some time helping an 18-year-old boy there who had served as their interpreter. He had just finished high school and wants to go to college and study to be an engineer. She helped him access Internet information about scholarships available through the government there.

"I prayed there would be no challenge, no hesitation, nothing to block his way of getting a scholarship or grant to go to college," she said.

The Fultons, 40, came back changed, they said. Jean Fulton, who is the director of Kids Kare at Cape First, said she is no longer bothered by small things.

"I'm more laid-back and more accepting of people's differences," she said.

Jan Fulton, a case worker for the state of Missouri, has felt her faith grow.

"When I don't think God can use us, I found that he can," she said. "We just have to trust him and rely on him in every aspect of life. Sometimes even the smallest gestures, a pat on the arm, can bring a smile to a child's face."

When Cape First announces its mission plan in January for the coming year, Jean and Jan Fulton will be looking for another opportunity to make another trip.

"I would encourage anybody to go on a mission trip," Jean Fulton said. Her sister agreed enthusiastically.

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