Tuesday Dec 12

History

The Lighthouse for Christ Mission in Kenya was founded by Dr. Bill Ghrist who grew up in California, U.S.A. He trained as a medical doctor and specialized as an ophthalmologist, later becoming an associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Southern California. Dr. Bill ran a very successful private practice in California and always had a desire to help others.

During this time, he became a student of the Bible and a strong follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself” pushed him to start short-term missions – first to Mexico and later to Africa.
In 1966, Dr. Bill decided to sell his medical practice and come to Kenya full time. His first call was at a bush hospital in Mwingi where he taught and trained general surgeons to do cataract surgery.

But in 1969, he moved to Mombasa where he opened an eye clinic where the current Lighthouse Eye Hospital now stands. There was only one other doctor, Dr. Ved, a very good personal friend of Dr. Bill’s.

His choice of the eye clinic had to meet three requirements – first, it had to be near a busy street and those days the old Nyali Bridge was just down the street. The second requirement was that the clinic had to be near a general hospital as he never wanted to have to deliver another baby or fix another broken arm as he had to do daily in Mwingi. So just 100 metres away was the Coast General Hospital. And third, he wanted to be near the ocean to enjoy a continuous breeze, so the place chosen overlooked the old harbour of Mombasa.

His next problem was where to do the surgeries, as he had no hospital. At that time, a visiting doctor suggested a new way of “outpatient surgery” where the patient had the surgery, waited in a recovery room for the day and was released that evening.

It was discovered that no complications were found when this was done along with being less expensive to the patient, and in fact staying in a hospital had its own risks of acquiring infections. The method has now become the standard for cataract surgery internationally.
So with that, Lighthouse was born with the clinic being housed in a large Swahili house with the clinic occupying the front part and Dr. Bill residing at the back of the house with his wife and four children.

He started with seeing general “low fee” patients three days a week and doing surgery on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and then seeing private patients on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. It soon became a busy clinic and people had to come before 6.00 am to get in the queue to be seen. Dr. Bill also began holding free eye camps in the surrounding outlaying communities to assist the people. All people were welcome regardless of their tribe or religious background and he showed the same loving care to all. He always enjoyed opening each day with a “good news” talk of how Jesus loved all men and women everywhere.

Dr. Bill was probably the first surgeon to place an interocular lens implant into a Kenyan eye in the year 1980, which has now become routine for all cataract surgery.
In 1983, after a short illness with cancer, Dr. Bill died and his son Tim Ghrist came to Kenya to assist with the overall administration of the clinic and shortly
thereafter Dr. Dean Larson came to be the second medical director of the Lighthouse.

Dr. Dean had a burning passion to reach and help the poor and did not only keep the Lighthouse clinic active locally but also started a very aggressive free eye camp schedule to assist the poor and the blind in many rural upcountry areas of Kenya.

His greatest joy was getting into the Land Rover and heading off to serve the poor in some remote free camp. So aggressive was Dr. Dean that he started using implants in all Lighthouse patients in the mid 1980s.

Dr. Dean also acquired a YAG laser in the early 1980s, probably the first eye laser to be used in Kenya. When he finally returned in 1999, he handed over the position of medical director to Dr. Dan Kiage who built and expanded the current facility.

Dr. Ibrahim Matende became the Medical Director in 2006. A satellite office is now open in Voi town.

The Lighthouse has continued to give the best possible care to all patients in its facility in Mombasa and at various free eye camps in the surrounding rural areas. Above all, the love of God is extended to all patients.


Working Hours


Monday - Friday: 8:00-4:30
Saturday, Sunday, & National Holidays: Closed

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