EYEcenter’s Dr. John Coen reflects on his recent ministry trip, performing eye exams in Tijuana
EYEcenter’s Dr. John Coen has just returned from his annual trip with Amor Ministries to the Mexico Family Camp. This was the eighth year that Dr. Coen has joined families from across the U.S. on the mission trip. The primary goal of the ministry is to build homes for families in Tijuana during their visit--but a few years ago Dr. Coen and his wife (EYEcenter’s Dr. Brenda Coen) joined some other Sacramento area optometrists to offer a different kind of help to these native families.
“Our first year going as a family was 2009,” Dr. John Coen remembers. “My wife Brenda had started working with Auburn Family Optometry around that time. One of the optometrists from there had been going on this family camp mission trip for 12 years already and so she encouraged us to start going. And once we were all attending, we thought, we should do eye exams when we go. Then we started getting the traction of doing the eye clinics within the churches while on the trips.”
The church pastors in Tijuana arrange for locals who need their eyes examined to attend the clinics. Dr. Coen estimates they give between 600 and 800 exams during their trip, and relates the amount of fulfillment each exam can bring.
“Last year, the first day of the clinic, we had a kid who was about a minus nine, minus ten,” Dr. Coen remembers. “He didn’t have any glasses. And he was trying to ride his skateboard but he couldn’t see and he was getting made fun of by the other kids. We found him some glasses and he just started bawling. It was so hot in that church, he was sweaty and crying--and he just grabbed me and picked me up, hugged me and twirled me around. And he did the same with the other optometrist there. He was just so happy. We felt so fulfilled from that moment we almost could have gone home right then--our trip was made by that moment. ”
EYEcenter’s Dr. Randy Fuerst credits trips like this with their alignment to ECO mindset. “Dr. Gittins has gone to Nicaragua a number of times to give eye exams, and I’ve done Mexico (trips) a number of times, and China. John (Coen) absolutely has been (taking these trips) the longest, going to Mexico. My dad (ECO founder Dr. Fred Fuerst) used to go to Mexico a lot as well. It’s just part of the EYEcenter culture. We try to take care of people. We believe in giving back and making a better world.”
“You just see how these people’s eyes are just opened to the world,” said Dr. Coen. “Because they don’t know any different, they had never had the correction (of their vision) before. EYEcenter understands the importance of giving back. They endorse this trip and enable me to help these families. As we treat the Mexican people in Tijuana we want them to recognize that God has given us talents to share with all people! Whether we can speak the language or not - we are there to care for them!!”