Ophthalmic technologist preaches, provides eye care NORTH LAUREL/SAVAGE


August 06, 1993|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Staff Writer

When Michael Henningsen travels around the world providing eye care to the poor, he gives his patients more than a pair of glasses. He also brings them Christianity.

Mr. Henningsen is president of Vision Care International Ministries Inc., a nonprofit missionary organization based in Savage that, along with other Christian groups, collects old eyeglasses, sorts them according to their strength and distributes them to the poor.

The Elkridge resident is an ophthalmic technologist and a minister in the Assemblies of God church. He believes that providing eye care is one way to show God's love.

"In Luke chapters 9 and 10, Jesus commissioned his disciples and told them to preach the gospel and heal the sick. That was the pattern Jesus set: to preach and heal. Once you have met physical needs, that opens the door for spiritual needs," he said.

On his most recent trip to Russia, he and a group of doctors, nurses and teen-age volunteers conducted medical seminars, provided equipment and supplies and passed out 350 pairs of glasses.

In a visit to a women's prison where they also conducted #F religious services, all 300 people attending became Christians.

"Ministry means meeting needs. Some are physical, some are emotional, some are spiritual. The glasses are going to break and the eye drops are going to run out, but if we've met their spiritual meeds through Jesus Christ, their lives are changed," he said.

Mr. Henningsen recalled some of those who have been helped.

"There was a soldier who came in drunk to the clinic one time. All he needed was reading glasses, and when I gave them to him, one of the first things I asked him to read was this pamphlet," he said, referring to a religious tract.

"He accepted Jesus Christ as his savior, and he's leading worship in his church now. He's not drunk anymore.

"Another woman in [the Republic of] Guinea had been blind for 11 years. Our surgeon did cataract surgery on her, and now she's walking to the market by herself. For 11 years, all she did was sit in her house. She couldn't even see her way out."

Mr. Henningsen has been traveling as a missionary since 1987, but that is only part of what Vision Care International Ministries does.

From his office in Savage Mill, Mr. Henningsen sells frames and fits eyeglasses for customers. Some of the money underwrites missionary trips, which last year cost an additional $1.15 for every $1 that was donated.

Since 1988, the business has also provided free eye screenings for children in a few nearby private schools, starting with Bethel Christian Academy, the Savage school associated with his church, Bethel Assembly of God.

"The manner that he deals with the children, his gentle nature, and the way he cares about people just exudes the love of Christ," said school secretary Frances Ryan.

Mr. Henningsen, 38, has plans to begin operating a mobile eye clinic soon from a school bus that was recently donated by his church.

"Our main thrust is to share the love of Jesus Christ through blindness prevention," Mr. Henningsen said. "Many of the things that cause blindness in this country are preventable. We're trying to provide help for those who need it."

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