Sight As Strong As My Faith

    “Sight As Strong As My Faith,” Ensign, Oct. 1990, 66–67

    Sight As Strong As My Faith

    On 10 February 1951, when I was eleven years old, a tragic accident occurred that could have caused me permanent blindness. Instead, it became a lifetime reminder that I have a Heavenly Father who deeply loves me and cares for each of his children.

    My sister Josephine and I were returning from a member-and-missionary picnic on the north end of the island of Hawaii in the back seat of the missionaries’ open-air jeep. My fishing spear was tied to the outside of the jeep in a horizontal position. As we bounced along on the rocky mountain road, the rope that secured the spear became loose. When the jeep hit a ditch, the pointed end of the spear dropped and struck the ground. The force caused the spear to bounce back up into the jeep, right where I sat. The blunt end of the spear entered my head above the right ear lobe at a 60-degree angle, instantly blinding me.

    Josephine pulled the spear from my head and pressed one of the elders’ handkerchiefs onto the wound. Though it was dangerous to drive with me in that condition, we had to get to the hospital at Kohala as soon as possible. Worried, Josephine asked me to pray. I asked Heavenly Father to let me live so that I could hold the priesthood and become a deacon, but added that it was okay if my time on earth was finished. Josephine realized that a friend lived along the road to the hospital; we decided to stop there and call an ambulance to take me the rest of the way. The bleeding from my wound had subsided, but as we waited it increased. The elders did not have their consecrated oil, but they prayed and commanded the bleeding to stop again, which it did.

    At the hospital the doctors could do nothing. I needed brain surgery at the better-equipped hospital on Oahu, but bad weather prevented us from flying there.

    For almost a week I lay in this remote country hospital, waiting to be transported. The injury to my brain caused me to sleep almost all the time. I remember speaking only once, when I awoke suddenly and told my mother that the body of John Mitchell, a ward member who was serving in the U.S. Army and who had been reported missing overseas, had been found. I told her that someone from the U.S. Army would visit his family the next day to tell them. This did happen.

    I was finally transported to Shriners Hospital in Honolulu, where the doctors said surgery might cause permanent blindness. While we were deciding whether or not to have the operation, Elder Matthew Cowley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, stopped in Hawaii on his way to the South Pacific. We were unaware of his visit, but somehow he heard about my plight, came to the hospital, and gave me a blessing. He said I would live to hold the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, that I would fill a mission among my people, that I would see again, that my sight would be as strong as my faith, and that I would attend a Church college in Hawaii.

    After the blessing, my family consented to the operation. In front of his colleagues, a distinguished brain surgeon knelt at my bedside before the surgery and prayed for guidance. During the operation, he discovered a foreign object which had lodged in my brain and had miraculously aided in restricting the bleeding. The spear had severed 90 percent of my right optic nerve and half of my left optic nerve. The doctor did not charge us for the operation because he felt the Lord had guided his hands as he performed the surgery.

    Other doctors told my mother that I should attend a school for the blind, but because of her faith in Elder Cowley’s blessing she refused. After I returned home, my sight gradually returned. I received the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods and served a full-time mission in New Zealand. Not only did I graduate from the Church College of Hawaii, but I also served on a building mission to help in its construction. My life with my wife and four children has been rich and fulfilling. I have served in many ward and stake positions, unhampered by my limited vision.

    • George Poliahu serves as ward mission leader in the Kaneohe Second Ward, Kaneohe Hawaii Stake.

    • Faith Kalaau Burgwinkel lives in the Kaneohe Fourth Ward, Kaneohe Hawaii Stake, where she serves as stake public communications director.