TYLER (KYTX)- On the coast of West Africa, in the small country of Togo a ministry is growing. It's called Believe and See. The founder, Lewis Swann, calls Tyler home. By his own admission, running a ministry is not exactly what he expected to be doing only a few years ago.
"Five years ago I wouldn't even call myself a Christian," says Swann. "The only time I talked about Christ was while I was debating someone while I was drunk at the bar. I was that type of Christian that was drunk saying by-God I know God is real. But I lived everything the opposite."
Even so, Swann took a job with the Christian based ministry, Mercy Ships. It was during that time Swann says he began to confront the reality that he had no faith.
"All the while, I proclaimed God. I said this is what I'm doing for God," remembers Swann. "But when I got real with God... And I think God likes us to get real with Him, if we don't believe Him tell Him we don't believe him and I think that is where He can work. He says, okay that I can work with. That I am able... You've gotten real with Me so we'll get real with each other. And that was really the turning point to admit to God and to myself that I don't believe in Him. That I have no faith."
Getting "real" with God led Lewis on a 16 day trek across West Africa. Stopping at villages along the way and showing the "Jesus Film." Over time he would begin to find a new faith. One that he believed required him to give all he had at that moment. Primarily the van he purchased to travel across Togo. Ironically, you might say, he met a pastor named "Peter" who was working in the villages of West Africa helping provide cataract surgery to the hopelessly poor.
"And I went to Peter and said Peter I want to give you this vehicle. And I want to support you," says Swann" "I said this is a mission I'm doing indefinitely. Forever. And there is no end date. And you've done this without support how much could you do with support? But his response was what if God wants me to do this as a poor man?
That was almost two years ago. The start of the "Believe and See" Ministry. Together Swann and Pastor Peter have built a ministry that now has full approval of Togo's government. Today they have 7 full time staff. At clinics within the larger cities they find clinics with spare rooms and turn them into an operating theater. Then they go out into remote villages to bring the poor in for cataract surgery.
They also provide agricultural training at their 20 acre compound for members of the village to teach better and more productive ways to grow crops.
Meeting those needs, they hope, will ultimately allow them to share the gospel to people who before would never listen.
"And whenever we express our faith to such a level that people leave their country to come to their village and give them sight for free, cause we know they don't have the means, and then to show them this Gospel, but... It deems a new definition of Christ. When you surpass all that is natural in our world, as far as serving our brother it provides the ears to listen to a new definition of Christ," says Swann
And now Believe and See will go even a step further. ETMC in Tyler has donated an ambulance that has now been refurbished to be a mobile cataract clinic. The mobile clinic will allow the ministry to go deep into Togo to serve people they may have never reached. Another instance of allowing God to provide.
"95% of the ideas did not come from me," says Swann. "Most... We received an ambulance the other day as a donation that would be a mobile clinic. Our team asked me to start praying about a mobile clinic. I told them we absolutely can't afford one. But we submitted it to prayer and within days ETMC approached us with that need to be met."
There are plans to grow the ministry, especially at their compound. There are future plans to have a medical clinic and furnish housing for long and short term mission projects. Continuing to build on a ministry whose found its start, walking by faith.
"Believe and See is totally a ministry of faith. Its never really made a big explosive growth with us feeling strong. Its at our most broken moments that Believe and See has had its biggest turning points."