J Lawton Smith Award Recipient

J Lawton Smith was one of the original founders of the COS.  He was globally well known as a neuroophthalmologist who was charismatic in practice and his faith!

The J Lawton Smith Award is given out each year at the COS Annual Meeting to an ophthalmologist who has shown a lifetime commmitment to serving the Lord through their personal practice of excellence in medicine, academic influence, and/or missionary dedication.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!




Award Year:

The simple things are the major things when it comes to medical missions.

Interview of Dr. Haney by Marybeth Seal – 2009

Dr. David G. Haney became a Christian on May 4, 1981 at the age of 50.  Only weeks thereafter, he attended his first Christian Ophthalmology Society meeting.

“I became acquainted with many physicians whom I love and admire.  I discovered a group of people who were sold out to Jesus Christ.  Their goal was to serve—not for their own personal gain.”

Shortly after that meeting he and his wife went to Mombasa, Kenya, where they served at the Lighthouse for Christ Mission.  Mombasa is located 4 degrees below the equator on the Indian Ocean off the coast of eastern Kenya.  The population on the coast at that time was 95% Muslim, 10% Christian, and then those of traditional African religion.  “We were a distinct minority,” he said.

“When you talk about a life verse, I guess I would have to say that I have read in Ecclesiastes chapter three where it talks about “time.”  For all the different times in my life, this has inspired me, and sustained me.  Another one is in Proverbs  1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

“It’s so overwhelming when I think about it.  Back then I was a babe in Christ.  When we were going to go Mombasa full time for two and a half years, I thought, “How can I do this? I’m out here alone?” Dr. Haney reminisced.  “At that time, there were five or six eye doctors for 36 million people.  “I was reminded of the verse in Philippians that says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

When we had to raise support, the verse I leaned on was Philipians, 4:18 “My God shall supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory.”

While living in Kenya, he was infected with malaria twice.  The second time he was much more ill than the first.  “My wife had typhoid and this was scarier than me being sick myself,” he recalled.

Once he almost “made friends with some elephants.”  “I’ve always liked hiking and being outdoors, but it’s not always a good thing when one is not accustomed to the different animals and such in a foreign country.  Like the tree snake.  It looks like a branch on a tree and is very venomous.  The black mambas like to coil up in the thatch above your head.  One time while on a trip to Kenya, we were staying in tents up in the trees.  We had parked our vehicles 10-15 yards from the camp.  I needed to go to my car to get something, so I did.  I could see the lights back at the camp but I couldn’t see the ground beneath my feet.  I heard what I thought was the wind blowing, but in reality it was a herd of elephants moving into our area and the wind in the palm trees.  They had come into our camp.  I couldn’t distinguish the elephants from the cars; so this was potentially dangerous!  “I almost made friends with an elephant!”

During the time of unrest in Somalia and Black Hawk Down, there were riots and killings in the area of the mission station.  One day Dr. Haney and some missionaries were in the city where there were twelve different mosques.  One of these mosques was where there was a particularly active and hostile group of people gathered.  Their religious service had just ended when they emerged into the city streets and recognized him and the others from the eye clinic.  They started spitting on them and throwing rocks at the missionaries’ car. 

  “For a young missionary, one of the hardships of serving abroad is the emotional aspect.  There is the “loneliness factor.”  Having nobody around and no one to talk to– can be extremely trying.  This can be especially difficult for the wife who may be there tending to children while the man is off doing whatever it is that God has called him too.  We would frequently remind each other that God is a constant companion to battle loneliness and isolation.” 

            “We served primarily abroad however we served with the “Flying Samaritans” into Baja to do eye clinics there.  You might laugh, but we also gave baby shots, performed well baby exams and saw pregnant ladies.  My job was to fit people with reading glasses.  The folks would walk for days and miles for reading glasses.  The simple things are the major things when it comes to medical missions.  We did tremendous good by giving reading glasses and eye drops for conjunctivitis.”

  “To you and me, it may not seem that important to get reading glasses when we can just go do to Walgreen’s and pick up a pair.  But to the poor, it is a major need we can meet and do them much good.”

            “The simple things are the major things when it comes to medical missions.”

  A word of wisdom from a humble servant of God.

Excerpt from Dr. Haney’s obituary:

David George Haney, M.D., of Lindale passed away peacefully at his home on Nov. 21, 2010, at the age of 79.

David was born in Duluth, Minn., to Harry and Ruth Haney. He graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1957, followed by an internship at Wayne County General Hospital in Eloise, Mich., and residency in ophthalmology at Tulane University EENT Hospital, New Orleans, La.

Dr. Haney served with his wife as a missionary at the Lighthouse for Christ Eye Center in Mombasa, Kenya, East Africa, from 1981 to 1995. In 1995 he was awarded the J. Lawton Smith Award for first-class medicine given in a spirit of love.

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