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Evangel graduate recognized by U.S. ambassador for medical work in Angola

March 19, 2013 | Ashli O'Connell

Dr. John Clements, a 2002 graduate of Evangel University, was recognized for his work as a medical missionary by the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Angola, Christopher McMullen, in a ceremony held on March 4, 2013.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Angola and the United States, the embassy’s “Good Citizen Award” was designed to recognize Americans who are working to help the citizens of Angola, a country devastated by poverty and disease.

Restoring physical and spiritual sight

After attending medical school on a Regents full-ride scholarship, specializing in ophthalmology and completing a fellowship in cornea transplantation and refractive surgery at The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at the Harvard School of Medicine in 2011, Dr. Clements could likely be practicing medicine anywhere in the United States and living a very comfortable life.

However, “comfortable” was not this EU graduate’s goal.

As an Evangel pre-med student, Clements had taken a two-week medical service trip with the Assemblies of God Health Care Ministries team to La Paz, Bolivia, where he experienced a powerful encounter one day in a clinic while fitting an elderly woman with a pair of glasses.

“The woman had never had glasses and as a result was unable to read,” he says. “After I put the glasses on her, she opened her Bible and read it aloud. She cried, praised God and gave me a great big hug.”

At that moment, Clements knew what he was meant to do. “I knew from that time on that I wanted to help restore the physical and spiritual sight of those who could not see,” he says.

In 2011, that calling led Clements, his wife, Lori (Dollar ’02) and their three small children to Benguela, Angola, where he now serves as a medical missionary performing cataract surgeries.

The great need for cataract surgery in Angola

Angola is a country with 20 million people where, due to poverty and lack of basic medical care, the rate of preventable blindness ranks among the highest in the world.

Cataract patients in Angola

A group of Dr. Clements’ patients sit at the clinic after their surgeries, awaiting the moment they can remove their bandages and see.

Through their clinic, which focuses on providing care for the poor, Clements performed more than 3,000 cataract surgeries in 2012.

He says the surgery is very inexpensive. “It costs less than $50 to do one of these surgeries and can transform a person’s life,” he says. “Patients enter our clinic being led by the hand, unable to walk independently because of blindness, and they leave dancing and singing because their vision has been restored.”

However, Clements does not just perform surgery. He says his true passion for the ministry is training Angolan doctors to do the procedure.

Today, the number of doctors who are able to provide cataract surgery in Angola is less than 10.

“The need is massive,” says Clements. “Imagine this: Angola has a rate of blindness that is 10 times higher than the United States, however the rate of cataract surgery in the U.S. is 65 times higher than Angola’s. I simply cannot put a dent in this level of cataract blindness by myself. However, by multiplication of cataract surgeons we can make a difference.”

This month, the Clements’ first trainee will graduate and return to his home in the north of Angola to provide cataract surgery in an underserved province.

Clements says the publicity the clinic has received through the Good Citizen Award will help him  further this work. “The best part about the award is that our clinic was featured on a national news program documenting the visit of the U.S. ambassador to our city. This was free and very positive advertising. Hopefully as a result more people will come to the clinic and have a chance to hear the gospel message.”

He is quick to point out that the success of the clinic is a result of the work of many others who work alongside him.

“I have a strong team that helps me do what I do, so I must give credit first for the team here in Angola,” he says. “Also my wife, Lori,  who is source of strength for me.”

Both John and Lori say their education at Evangel was fundamental in preparing them for the work they are doing today.

“The faith-based classes I had helped me to critically think about my faith and deeply personalize it,” he says. “I was surrounded by other believers studying the sciences, which helped keep me focused on the Creator and not simply the creation.”

Read more about the Clements’ ministry at their blog, From Angola with Love.

— By Ashli O’Connell, Web content developer and editor for Evangel University

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