" Cameroon "

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Church is fairly early in the morning, plus its in Fomban and Fombot, both of which are around an hour’s drive from Bandjoun. So we got up, ate breakfast, and soon were on our way. Joy and I did Sunday School in Fombot. I taught a lesson on the Good Shepherd, and Joy taught them songs and asked review questions. For church, Jordan preached and then they had communion. Joy and I also did children’s church/VBS. Joy continued our Genesis series by doing the Tower of Babel. She got some good questions about why our skin color and languages are different. In Fomban, Robert preached, Heather played a flute special and taught children’s church while Elly did the songs.

The Fombot group got back way before those in Fomban, so we went ahead and had lunch with the Bachmans. The other group still wasn’t back, so we took advantage of the kids’ Sunday afternoon naps to take our own. Sleep of any kind is rather precious at this point, so those naps felt amazing.

In the evening, all of the missionaries came over and we had a mini-service. Actually, it wasn’t that mini, because with all of the families, we probably had over 30 people. Of course, the majority of them were kids, but that’s ok. We sang some hymns and then listened to a recorded message from Dr. Minnick. It was a little strange to hear his voice here, but it also was nice to sit down and listen to a good, theological sermon. Because we are so involved in ministry, we don’t normally get the chance to hear the sermon. At the very least, we have to be very mentally involved to listen with a translator. So, it was refreshing to hear an American English, solid Bible message. After church, we had another team meeting to decide what the plan for the week was. We decided to extend the VBS since we were all here, and also to stay in the houses we were in for the time being. We have been having fun with the multitude of people everywhere, even if it is a little exhausting at times. Ellen’s household soon left, and our household sat down to dinner, followed by a mango-pineapple cobbler. Fruit will never be the same again. I mean, when your fruit is so fresh you buy it on the side of the road without getting out of your car, American pre-picked fruit just doesn’t hold the same appeal.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday started off with a lovely breakfast of baked oatmeal. Now, don’t knock it until you try it. I will eat oatmeal, but it is certainly not my pick for breakfast. But baked oatmeal on the other hand – I would eat it every morning if I could! The plan for the day was to continue the VBS in Fombot and then decide based on the situation with the bandits what to do next. It was really nice to have the guys with us for VBS because they took some of the older guys, played soccer, and shared a more in depth message of the gospel with them. Elly taught the women again, Heather taught the kids about the Fall, and Joy did songs.

After VBS, we went to Sun City, a chicken restaurant, for lunch around 2pm. However, as typical, we didn’t get our food until about 3 or later. We had spicy chicken and fried plantains, both of which were very good, but it wasn’t a lot of food and it was very late so we were very hungry. But, when we got back to the Bachmans around 4:30, they were about ready for a spaghetti dinner. At first they were sorry it was so early, but all of us were happy to have it then. After dinner we practiced special music for church the next morning. Jordan, Joy, and I were going to Fombot, and Heather, Elly, and Robert were going to Fomban.

We played games with the kids for a while after that. It’s even crazier in the house now – there are two pre-teen boys, three elementary school age girls, and two 5 year old girls. They enjoy having each other as playmates and having us to hang onto too. The kids eventually went to bed, and we stayed up and talked with the adults. We had a lot of fun conversing with the Bachmans and the Barillas late into the night and then we went to bed in preparation for an early morning of church.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday started off in an abrupt way. The girls woke up to the news that the Ms’ house had been raided by bandits in the night. The whole Fomban crew, including the Ms, Loeschers, Barillas, and the guys had been up since 2 am. The men were out with the head of the police chasing the bandits throughout the morning. At the same time, everyone else in Fomban was at the Loeschers’ house having an impromptu prayer meeting and song service through much of the morning. It looked like the bandits were the same people who had recently raided the Loeschers’ house as well, so it was pretty concerning. We decided collectively to try and maintain as normal of a schedule as possible. For the girls, that meant starting VBS in Fombot that morning. We went ahead with Ellen and ran a fairly standard VBS. Joy directed the games, Heather did the music, I taught the kids about creation, and Elly taught a Bible lesson to some of the women of the church.

It was decided to have a full team meeting with our team and all the families in the afternoon to plan out the best course of action. The girls ate a pizza lunch with the Barillas after VBS and played with their kids for the rest of the afternoon until the meeting at the Loeschers. By the time of the meeting, seven of the bandits had been caught. This was a huge praise, as the probability of thieves being caught in this part of the world is pretty low, and the police had already discovered the gang and their meeting place. We didn’t know how large the gang was though, so we decided it was best for everyone to migrate to Bandjoun at least for the immediate future. The guys were going to go out to a bush church for the weekend, but that plan was quickly abandoned in the desire for as many male adults around as possible. Our team and the Barillas moved in with the Bachmans and the Loeschers and Ms moved in with Ellen. Our team drove back first so we could get our stuff from Ellen’s house, but on the way, we encountered a huge thunderstorm. We slowly drove through driving rain and wind through the mountains until we finally got to Ellen’s house safely. Thankfully, the storm passed while we were packing so we didn’t have to load our luggage in the rain. We eventually got to the Bachmans’ house and evaluated our situation. One silver lining was that our whole team was back together! We had been separated by an hour’s drive for our whole time in Cameroon so far except for Mbingo. So after playing Signs with everyone, we had team devos and gratefully went to bed. After all, the guys had only been up since 2 am…

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday was our big hike day. Dr. Carol suggested hiking along the ridge of the mountain to a waterfall, and we were glad to comply. We started out after breakfast along the same road we had taken the previous two days. But we soon passed that point and started the real fun. We hiked through tall grass, up mountains, across the stream a couple of times (using our engineering skills the second time), and finally to an overlook of the waterfall. The scenery was simply amazing the entire time. Most of the hike was along the ridge of the mountains, so we could see the valleys on either side. I think I could try to describe the view for paragraphs and it still wouldn’t do it justice, so I’m not going to try since time is rather short anyway. I wish we had the internet speed to put up some pictures so you could at least get an idea, but since we don’t, I guess you’ll just have to find one of us when you get back if you would like to see it.

We got back to the guesthouse, packed up our stuff, ate a quick lunch, and were back on the road to Fomban. We dropped the guys off and they had a fun evening with the Ms playing Diminishing Rook. After we sadly separated our team again, the girls went to eat at the chwarma place before heading home to Bandjoun. We had a nice dinner, but the evening took an unexpected turn after that. As soon as we pulled out onto the road from the restaurant, a SUV backed out straight toward us. Ellen laid on her horn, but the guy didn’t slow down until right before hitting us. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and there was only minimal damage. The only problems were a large dent in the driver’s side door and the right mirror was knocked off. However, the missing mirror was a big problem. Ellen drives a truck with a covered back, so her rear-view mirror is already useless. Side mirrors are her only option for looking back, and believe me, you want to be able to see everything you can on African roads. The Lord took care of us though. Before dinner, we ran into Princess, Ellen’s former landlady, just down the street. So as soon as it happened, Ellen called her up to come help us deal with the man. He was insistent that it was equally our fault and his fault, when it obviously was completely his fault. We knew that calling the police was practically pointless, so Ellen and Princess stood outside and bargained with him for over an hour. Ellen had to get her mirror fixed before driving back to Bandjoun, so it was finally decided that they would go to a repair shop and the man would pay for the mirror. We could not get him to give us his real phone number (yes, he tried to give us a fake one) or any other contact information, so we knew that trying to find him again to pay for the door was pointless. But Ellen and Princess eventually got him to pay for the mirror that didn’t match the other one (but was cheaper than the real thing). While they were bargaining and then putting on the mirror, things were interesting for us girls inside. Accidents of course draw a crowd, and when it involves a white American woman, the crowd is even bigger. They were happy to take sides in the “who’s paying” argument, never mind that probably none of them had ever met Ellen or the man before. They also were happy to talk to all the white girls in Ellen’s truck. Of course, they were all talking in French, but somehow, a lot of those things are universal. We also had Lydia Loescher with us, and she kept us up to date with how many men had asked us to marry them so far. We have learned that the best strategy is not to make eye contact, so we had some interesting conversations in the car about anything and everything that required us to look at each other and not them. Joy even started to teach me some Hebrew as a distraction from the guy directly outside her window. We finally got the mirror on, paid for, and we headed to Bandjoun. When we finally reached there much later than we intended, we got our pitcher showers and headed straight to bed.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

During the hike yesterday it was decided that a sunrise hike and devotional time was practically mandatory. But, we determined that only the team wanted it enough to get up in time. So, we got up at 5am and grabbed some bread and peanut butter before we left at 5:30. I’m not sure what time the sunrise actually was, but it was sometime between 5:30 and 6am. But because of the mountains, we couldn’t actually see it come up on the horizon. Instead, we saw it come up behind a mountain ridge, and it was gorgeous! We decided to go to a slightly farther away and slightly higher mountain than the night before in order to see the sunrise better. When we got there, we discovered that there “just happened” to be several large rocks on top of this particular mountain that made for perfect chairs to sit and watch the sunrise. Having rocks on top of those mountains is unusual, since they’re mostly grass. So it seemed that God ordained for us to pick that mountain for us to watch Him paint the sunrise that morning. It was amazing to think that He did it each morning, but we miss most of them. We sang a few hymns together and then each had our own personal devotional time. Although it was fairly cloudy that morning, the sun peeked its head through a few times and it was so incredible to watch. I can’t imagine what it would look like on a clear morning. It was a wonderful start to the day.

Back at the house, we ate breakfast and then divided for the day. Dr. Carol, Ellen, Mrs. Barilla, Anna-Leisa, Joy, Jordan, and I went to the Baptist hospital in Mbingo, and the rest of the Loeschers, Elly, Heather, and Robert went to Camp Joy and the Needhams’ house. I’ll start with the hospital adventures.

We started out in the labor/delivery area, where we got to see two preemie babies in the African version of incubators. There was a doctor there from the USA who was helping out at the hospital for a couple of weeks who talked to us for quite a while. Almost all the doctors there are foreigners, and are only there on a short-term basis, from two weeks to two years. This particular lady was here with her surgeon husband, and they were about halfway through their stay at the hospital. She was very helpful and told us about some of the challenges they face particular to this hospital and this part of the world. It is actually a very nice hospital by African standards, but naturally different from the States.

After that, we moved on to surgery. Joy, Jordan, and Anna-Leisa got to observe a few different types of surgeries and Joy even got to scrub in for one of them! The doctor asked for someone to help, and Joy quickly volunteered. I stayed with Mrs. Barilla while she got a shot in her shoulder, and then we waited outside the operating room for the rest of them to finish up. We thought they were only going to be in there for 30-45 minutes, but they didn’t reemerge until more than 2 hours later. As a result, Mrs. Barilla and I decided we were going to lunch without them. The hospital had set up a lunch for us with the foreign doctors that were there at the moment. We ate lunch with the lady we met that morning, her husband, a lab tech, and the husband of the pediatric surgeon Joy was assisting at the moment. There were also a few others who drifted in and out, but those were the main ones we got to talk to. Because the hospital itself is Baptist, many of them were Christians. It was good to talk to them and hear their perspective on African medicine and Africa in general.

We all eventually joined up at lunch, and then headed over to pediatrics. The head nurse there took us down the ward, explaining each patient’s condition, and then Dr. Carol would tell us more about that particular malady. When we finished seeing all of them, we sang a few songs for the entire ward. They especially enjoyed “The Love of Jesus”. It was good to bring a smile to those faces.

After the children’s ward, we got to tour the lab. We had met the lab tech, Emily, at lunch, and she was glad to show us her work. She talked to us for a while about blood donation, malaria, and HIV. Blood donation is a big concern in Africa. The biggest problem is not HIV infection, as you might guess. Instead, it is simply the social stigma. Often, if you need blood, you either have to find a family member to give it, or even pay someone to donate blood for you. Emily was trying to organize a blood drive at the hospital, but even the staff there was resistant to donating their blood. The blood screening questions there were very different from those in the USA. They would ask their tribe, their religion, whether they were getting paid, and other really non-essential questions. The “blood bank” consisted of one partly full refrigerator with mostly reserved blood, and Emily said that was the fullest she had ever seen it. It was a sobering reality – if someone could not get blood, there is not enough extra for him to have the surgery.

As a continuation of our HIV discussion, we took a tour of the women’s ward and the tuberculosis ward. TB goes hand in hand with AIDS, and as Emily predicted, the emaciated AIDS patients were easy to tell. We did get an opportunity to talk and pray with some of the patients and their families, but it was a sad thing to see. We concluded our full day with a trip to the canteen for some drinks and made to order omelettes. Definitely think that should be on the menu at more places!

The Camp Joy people had a very different, but also good day. Elly, Heather, Robert, Pastor Walter, and the rest of the Loescher crew went out to Camp Joy and the Needhams’ house. Once again, the view at the Needhams’ house defied description, but they tried to take pictures anyways. At Camp Joy, the main project for the day was moving cinderblocks. In case you haven’t ever realized, those things are really heavy. But move them they did, and rewarded themselves at the end with a splendid water fight. Alliances and ambushes were encountered at every turn, but the cool water was actually very refreshing after a morning of heavy lifting.

Everyone joined back up at the guesthouse for dinner and some fellowship time. Once again, team devos was good and rewarding study in Colossians. We still had energy afterwards to play games with the kids, but it turned out they had all gone to bed during our meeting. So we decided to follow their example and hit the sack ourselves.