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Fresno church's medical mission to bring eyesight to refugees continues despite setback

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A month ago, volunteers at First Chinese Baptist Church set out on a mission to bring medical supplies and health care to a remote village in Myanmar and Thailand -- their sixth charitable trip in about a decade. (KFSN)

A Fresno church is finishing what it started to help refugees in Asia.

Sometimes charity work can be a tough grind, but for these volunteers at First Chinese Baptist Church, the grinding is the easy part.

A month ago, they set out on a mission to bring medical supplies and health care to a remote village in Myanmar and Thailand -- their sixth charitable trip in about a decade.

When customs officials rejected about 90 percent of their supplies, they carried out simplified clinics and came home with more work to do including the grind.

"I really think it's a miracle," Pastor Danny Jack said. "Such an easy thing to cut."

Jack is no professional optometrist, but he's grinding out lenses for glasses alongside other amateurs. They're part of an assembly line using a special process to build custom glasses to match prescriptions volunteers measured during their trip.

"That's what's the beauty of the system is that it just goes step-by-step and volunteers of all kinds can do something really special," he said.

Dr. Akira Tajiri invented the specialized process after another charity trip where he struggled to match used glasses to people with the closest prescriptions.

Now, the 90-year-old Reedley native can watch people using his invention to find a decent match.

"It makes me feel good because they're so happy to be able to see," he said. "One guy was running around saying 'I can see. I can see.'"

The batch will give better eyesight to Karen refugees on the Myanmar-Thailand border and delivers more than just vision.

"We are Christian by our love to go out there to take that time to be out there to show them they're cared for," Dr. Diana Lee explained. "They're in a place where nobody seems to care about them."

One of the group's contacts in Asia will pick up the glasses next month, and hopefully, the finished product will get through customs and reach the refugee camps and other villages.

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