You cruise into your favorite parking spot each weekend. You settle into your favorite chair in your favorite row in the auditorium. Maybe you park yourself in a Life Group, too. And the moment you let out a comfortable sigh might be the exact moment God taps you on the shoulder and asks you to move. He nudges and encourages you to do the very thing you don’t want to do, the very thing that requires the most courage. All the while you might be thinking, “You’ve got the wrong guy.”
I was shy and withdrawn, uncomfortable as a new believer, and just a huge introvert.
Kevin Cornelius grew up following his mother’s footsteps to their small-town church on Sundays and that’s where he stopped for many years. It wasn’t until later in adulthood, when Kevin was baptized at Lake Pointe in 2004, that he began to walk in step with Christ, but quietly. “When people tried to get to know me in Life Group by asking my name or what I did for a living, I could barely answer them. I was shy and withdrawn, uncomfortable as a new believer, and just a huge introvert. I was comfortable on the sidelines and didn’t want to get involved.”
A friend of Kevin’s ministered to homeless in South Dallas and asked Kevin to join him. The specific area they visited is under a highway bridge and sometimes known as Tent City. At first, he wanted nothing to do with it. But as Christmas approached in 2005, his friend asked him to come under the bridge at midnight on Christmas Eve and Kevin’s compassionate side grabbed ahold of him. So he said yes.
It was just a group of friends dedicated to telling the same someone over and over again that they are loved.
That night wasn’t super impactful for Kevin, but it was interesting enough that he returned on a Saturday morning. The second visit was a different experience. “When we came back and I saw everything in the daylight, the view became much clearer. I was pained by it. I had no idea what was going on right here under our noses.” After that morning, he and his friends brought hamburgers, blankets or jackets under the bridge once a month. It wasn’t organized. It was just a group of friends dedicated to telling the same someone over and over again that they are loved.
Over the next several years, they made and kept many friends in the area. Some they played dominoes with in the street. For others they raised money for so they could hop on a bus and return home to their families. Gradually, the group expanded. What started with 3-4 guys visiting once a month turned into 3 teams from different areas visiting at various times. Just as Kevin sensed maybe God didn’t need him there anymore, another opportunity arose.
I knew God wanted to stretch me like the last time I said yes to Him, so I said yes again.
“One of our Lake Pointe pastors who knew about our time under the bridge near Cornerstone checked in on me regularly. When he asked me how things were going this last time, I told him I thought God was calling me away from it. That’s when he told me about the Eyeglass Ministry. He wanted to hold eyeglass clinics for those who couldn’t afford glasses and match the right pair of glasses with the right person. It was ready to go, but he needed a leader to take it on. I am not a spotlight person. I like to be behind the scenes and I’m glad when no one knows my name. So I thought he must have the wrong guy. Then I prayed about it and knew God wanted to stretch me like the last time I said yes to Him, so I said yes again.”
Kevin recruited one of his friends and they spent two months preparing for a trial run. Armed with a set of eyeglasses, a small apartment space with a fresh coat of paint and their training complete, they were almost ready to launch the Eyeglass Ministry. But Kevin’s extensive IT background inspired him to find even simpler and faster ways to serve people. He wanted a digital solution.
“At first, we had to take three different measurements in each eye, find the distance between the pupils, and then physically dig through boxes of glasses. If we continued with that system, it would take a long time for someone to learn how to find the right glasses for the right person. We wanted to serve as many people as quickly as we could. I knew there had to be something easier and quicker to use.”
We called that software the game changer.
Kevin tinkered with the idea of plugging all the measurements and prescriptions into spreadsheets, creating a database. As he searched the internet for examples, he found someone who already built the software which accomplished exactly what Kevin envisioned. When Kevin inquired about the software, asking if he would sell it to the ministry, the gentleman quickly agreed. He would sell it to Kevin for a minuscule cost of $50 because, as it turned out, he was an engineer with an optometry background and built the database for the exact missional purpose of fitting others with glasses.
“We called that software the game changer. Now, everything we had to know and learn to get us off the ground, the computer mostly did by itself and way faster than we could. It is easy to learn so anyone can plug in and participate in the ministry within minutes. That was huge for us.”
In January 2013, the Eyeglass Ministry launched a trial run in Dallas and helped 8 people in a 3 hour time span. Two weeks later on the actual launch, they saw 12 people in the same 3-hour window. Once the ministry was off the ground, Kevin and his team dug in and focused more on improving the process. The next clinic they doubled the amount of people they saw, and then they doubled it again. Soon, they were helping 50 people at a time with an inventory of 2,500 pairs of glasses. Then they doubled the number of eyeglasses in their inventory, too.
They can’t help connecting that moment with what it’s like the first time you lay eyes on or understand what Jesus has done for us.
“I didn’t need glasses until I was about 30. Some of the signs on the road were getting fuzzy so I decided to get my eyes checked out. When I walked outside that first time with glasses on, I looked around and thought, ‘Wow! Amazing! Look how sharp and beautiful that is!’ Now I’m on the other side watching people come in who can barely tell the chart is on the wall. When they get paired with eyeglasses, we get to watch their faces light up and say, ‘Wow!’ like I did that day. And they can’t help connecting that moment with what it’s like the first time they lay eyes on, or understand what Jesus has done for them. Whenever He takes all of our sin on Himself and washes us clean. I remember. Your whole world comes alive.”
In the past five years, the Eyeglass Ministry has expanded to serve thousands more than ever anticipated. After starting with a few boxes of eyeglasses in a 500 square foot apartment, they now have large inventories of glasses ready and waiting across the globe- 3,000 pairs of eyeglasses in Dallas, 3,500 in Mexico, 3,000 in Egypt, 2,700 in Vietnam, and are now building 2,500 for a trip to Haiti in July.
God used Kevin’s experience in peeling himself off the sidelines to encourage others to do the same.
Their last local clinic assisted 100 people, matched 64 with correct glasses, and about 90% improved their vision to 20/30 or better. When the ministry visits places like Mexico, they help almost 400 people per trip. Each time they give away hundreds of pairs, they must replenish the inventory and are continually grateful to groups of volunteers who step up and spread out their resources.
God used Kevin’s experience in peeling himself off the sidelines to encourage others to do the same, which is how the ministry was mobilized and continues to grow. Some of its volunteers visit Life Groups and local businesses gathering glasses, some meet weekly to clean glasses or measure lenses and enter them into the database, and others attend monthly training classes prior to mission trips or clinics. And they’re led by someone who never intended to lead.
I know God didn’t pick me because I was qualified. He picked me because I said yes.
“As I look back over the past 13 years, I never thought I’d be doing any of this. I never thought I would speak in front of Life Groups or at Huddle. I never thought I would be speaking to a church in Vietnam or leading groups to do eyeglass, wheelchair and dentistry ministries in Mexico, Egypt and Haiti. I often look at God and remind Him I think he’s got the wrong guy. But I know God didn’t pick me because I was qualified. He picked me because I said yes.
I see the more I say yes, He stretches me more and more. The fact that any of this is successful at all with me in the driver’s seat shows that God is involved. Because I never thought we would be where we are now. Originally, I focused on what God was trying to do through me. But now I see what God is trying to do to me as well. I said no for a long time. I’m so glad I said yes, because I have been able to watch where God has taken it and involved so many people in so many ways. I really believe I have been transformed more than anyone else we’ve ever served.”
His purpose in life shifted from fear of the unseen to full trust in God.
God lives in the unseen and now Kevin sees what can happen when you say yes to Him and choose sacrifice, change and temporary discomfort. His purpose in life shifted from fear of the unseen to full trust in it. He lives for the moments where others can see for the first time, whether it is through a tangible pair of lenses onto a sharp, new landscape or though God’s lenses onto a glimpse of themselves as He created them to be.
Written by Amanda Cunningham