A dedicated teacher in Southern Africa

I always go to Africa thinking that I am bringing him help, but always leave feeling as if he has helped my team and spiritually uplifted them so much more than anything that we ever bring to him. 

written by Dr. Brad Farris

Jono Pons is one of the most devout Christian men I have ever met.  He is a man who is not only a great ophthalmologist and surgeon, but also a great rancher, farmer, father, husband and friend.  In virtually everything that he does or says, he places honoring God and glorifying Him before anything else.  He is truly inspiring to be around.  I always go to Africa thinking that I am bringing him help, but always leave feeling as if he has helped my team and spiritually uplifted them so much more than anything that we ever bring to him.  He is a blessing to the Swazi people. 

I came to know “Jono” at an early COS meeting where he presented the overwhelming burden of HIV disease and it’s ophthalmic manifestations in Swaziland.  I asked him how I could help in any way, and he said to come and if nothing else, just provide him with someone to fellowship with, as well as discuss difficult cases.  In 2011, I went to Swaziland.  I was amazed at the burden of eyecare needed, and how Jono could possibly manage this for the entire country as the only ophthalmologist there at the time.  He was full of energy, bright, creative, multi-tasking, eager to teach to any that would listen, and above all loving and Kingdom oriented.   He shared a desire to learn as much as possible, so that patients could benefit from the latest technology or knowledge possible.  He taught us more than we were able to provide for him.  Jono is always teaching, whether it is with medical students or residents or fellows or anybody who wanted to learn.  He would show them what they needed to know.

One morning he asked me, “Brad, do you want to get up with me early and go to one of the local elementary schools?”   I wondered what is he doing there before we go to clinic?  And he loaded up the jeep with a bunch of boxes and we went out and we gave bibles to all these kids.  He presented a word of prayer and scripture to the group of students.

Jono sharing a word of prayer with the local elementary school children

Jono is always including everybody in.  He finds everybody who makes a difference in Swaziland or South Africa and he brings them all together.  He brings every single player in public health that would impact what he was trying to do in his conquest for treatable blindness in Swaziland.  He likes to take time before clinic and sit down with the team, medical students, residents and faculty and discuss what the team will be doing for that day, what questions they might have and go over how we’ll accomplish the goals for the day. 

Jono meeting with the team before clinic starts

During the height of the HIV crisis in Swaziland some years ago, I found out that he managed to employ more than 30 individuals on his farm doing various jobs, most of whom were struggling with the disease and had nowhere else to go.  The milk that his dairy cows produced went to the local maternal ward at the small Good Shepherd Hospital on a regular basis so that the new mothers could have fresh milk to drink.  I could go on and on about his desire to God’s will in ways that I never thought of.

Jono is an individual who reflects absolute excellence in everything he does, whether it be clinical or surgical medicine, snake bite toxicity to those susceptible in his community, providing fresh milk to the Labor and Delivery ward of his small hospital from his farm, providing employment to those with HIV on his farm who could find no other work, handing out hundreds of bibles to his local schools with a word of encouragement from scripture, to providing a sanctuary to traveling and far-reaching missionaries on his farm, supported by his wife.  He is a loyal and giving friend, counselor, and prayer partner.  In fact, he is a true renaissance man who is a “man for all seasons.”  He has given of himself to the indigenous people of northern Canada, South Africa, and of course to so many from Swaziland and Mozambique.

These are some of the many reasons that my team keeps going back to Eswatini each year…to be near and work with such a Godly man that does so much good for so many people in so many ways.