This article was originally published in the January 2020 edition of ITMI Monthly.
Hannah and Peter are optometrists in Poznan, Poland. But for the last 10 years, they’ve done more than serve their patients well through ordinary careers.
The couple wanted to use their knowledge and resources to demonstrate the Lord’s heart for the impoverished, suffering and hurting.
Together they formed the “Bartimaeus Project”.
Fast forward to 2019, Project Bartimaeus has blessed thousands of people in four different countries who couldn’t afford an exam or glasses, with eye exams, prescription lenses, and clear vision.
Last year, Hannah and Peter, led a team of Polish optometrists to Moldova, where many are subsistence farmers and suffer extreme poverty, to bolster the ministry of Bread of Life Moldova and a local church by offering diagnostic exams and prescription lenses to those who can’t afford them.
They were met with great gratitude - some were too overwhelmed to express it in words, but their wide smiles and tears of joy said enough.
The team took the prescriptions back to Poland, where an optometry lab filled them free of charge. A smaller team of six returned to distribute the glasses.
Peter, Hannah and Richard were joined by three others. Reinier van den Berg, who is Bread of Life’s National Director, Radek, who is also an optometrist and Peter and Hannah’s pastor, Pastor Wiselka.
The 500 pairs of glasses were divided between the team members for the flight to Moldova. As the team was processing through customs, an official searched their baggage.
On finding the 500 pairs of prescription glasses, he had some bad news. They could each take four pairs of glasses, and the rest would be confiscated.
They would be able to get the rest back in 8 months after paying taxes and a fine.
The team tried to explain that impoverished Moldovans in four villages were waiting to be able to see clearly with the help of the lenses that were being confiscated. The problem went up the chain of command, but nothing changed.
The team left the airport without the glasses and was promised a visit from the highest Moldovan customs official the following day.
During his visit, it was determined that Bread of Life would have to pay taxes on the value of the glasses, plus a fine and Peter and Richard would have to sign statements of guilt.
Peter and Richard began to panic a little. The value of the 500 glasses was about $65,000.
But what happened next was an epic intervention.
To their surprise, the top customs official said, “You’ll pay $215.00.” A wave of relief washed over them as they collected the remaining glasses and were on their way praising God.
The team had to work doubly hard to distribute all 500 of the glasses before their return flights, but they did it.
We wish those of you who regularly and sacrificially support the Nungessers as they work tirelessly building His kingdom could have witnessed the smiles and tears of gratitude on the faces of those who can now see clearly - maybe for the first time, ever.
Because the gratitude they offered, it truly belongs to you, too.
About the Authors
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.