Dr. Jerold Beeve, a local ophthalmologist with over 40 years of experience, is not a churchgoer. However, his work and experiences in Fiji over the past 20 years has cemented his faith in God.
Beeve states as much in his book “Dear Lord, It’s Jerry Again,” a chronicling of the annual Beeve Foundation Eye and Health Care Mission to Fiji. Every year, Beeve and a team of medical volunteers travel to Fiji where they provide free eye exams and surgical procedures for those in need and, with little in terms of quality medical care, the need is great.
Beeve details in his book, “As of February 2009, we had corrected vision and restored sight for 25,213 Fijians, approximately 3% of Fiji’s known population.” In 1989, the initial year of the Fiji Mission, Beeve’s team was made up of just five volunteers and they were only able to treat seven patients. Those numbers have increased to regular teams of 22 volunteers that see 2000 to 2200 people including 200 major surgical patients per year. The team examines the Islanders, dispenses eyeglasses in addition to overseeing the major procedures.
Being able to successfully treat so many patients in some of the poor conditions Beeve and his team faced is part of what highlights the theme of divine intervention in the book. Beeve has no compunctions about describing these successes as “outright miracles.”
One story in particular that the doctor often recounts in person and in his book is of the lost microscope. Upon arrival in Fiji, Beeve was frustrated to discover the surgical microscope necessary for procedures was missing. After hours of fruitless searching, he turned to what was his only available source for aid: God. The microscope was eventually found behind a large collection of mattresses only to present Beeve and the team with another problem: the resistor connected to the fan motor was broken and the microscope was unusable unless the part was replaced. But with no time to order another part, Beeve found himself in another hole unless a miracle happened. Just then an islander named Pete appeared with the exact part needed to power the microscope.
As he says in the book, “Even though similar experiences had happened to me before in Fiji, I have never gotten used to the shock and tingling chills running up and down my spine as I suddenly realize something impossible has occurred – and that God, as usual, is in the middle of it all.”
At a March 9 book signing for “Dear Lord, It’s Jerry Again” at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse in La Cañada, Beeve displayed a slideshow of photographs of some of his Fijian patients. Many of them were “before and after” types of pictures, displaying some rather grotesque and unfortunate eye conditions, only to be followed by healthy, smiling patients. Despite the success, receiving the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, special recognition from Congress and commendations from former California governor Pete Wilson and former President Ronald Reagan, Beeve insists, “It’s the smiles that make us go back every year.”
The Beeve Foundation can be contacted at www.fijiforsight.org. The 20th annual Fiji Mission will take place from April 7 to April 17.