Saturday, December 25, 2010
"Merry Christmas," or if you're Cameroonian, "Happy Christmas!"
We hope that all of you reading this blog have and are enjoying your Christmas. Our Christmas is unique for us in that we don't have a Christmas tree, it was cool this morning but reached into the 80s, and our present pile was much less this year. Also, we just got back from a horseback ride up in the hills that re-defined finding horses for us. We have been blessed to spend last night and today with Rick Bardin. Christmas Eve started out early as we walked to chapel at 0620 in the morning. On the way we were to stop at the administration office where we were surprised with traditional costumes to where in the chapel and later in the morning at our going away ceremony. We all matched. After chapel, we went to the OR where I was given a nice shirt with hat. We then went home only to come back to the hospital for our going away ceremony at 0930. Everything is more formal than in the US with speeches, food, and pictures. We still are trying to get ready to go, but I must admit that Rebecca has been doing much of the packing while I'm trying to clean the rooms after she has packed. Last night we ate and then went through the Jesse tree that my parents gave us last year. We sang, roasted marshmellows, and had a long lecture from me to the girls about obedience and getting along. Yes, we have our good and bad moments. This morning after breakfast we opened some delightful gifts from "Santa" Bardins, opened our gifts from ourselves that we chose from a pottery "factory." We then found out that the horses that we were told were available weren't as the owner was in a town 9 hours away. Rebecca doesn't give up easily so we drove down the hill asking where another Fulani man lived that she knew had some horses. Up into the hills and some time later after a hike where we had to motivate the girls, we sat down for our picnic. A Fulani who didn't speak much English drove by on a motorbike. Rebecca tried to communicate our desires. Some time later another Fulani man came down invited us to his compound where we sat for ~1.5 hours while he had young boys go rustle up the horses. We originally had hoped for six, but 4 worked. While waiting Rick and I had rice and tripe. I had to concentrate a little to get it down. When we got back from our ride, the family, of course, wanted us all to have another meal with them. The girls escaped sharing some salty rice, and Rick and I had the rice and tripe again. (Rick had a second bowl (total three bowls if you're counting) as he graciously accepted their aggressive hospitality.) We are now back home 6 hours later resting and getting ready for a dessert at our neighbor missionaries tonight. We are very blessed and know that God is at work bringing His Kingdom near. May God bless you all richly, dasen
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
It is now 1153 pm so I guess I have only 7 minutes to write about my last day in the OR here in Cameroon. I wanted to share some thoughts and photos of today as it marks a transition point where we now turn fully towards leaving. Today started as many other days with Elle sleeping next to me. I had already cuddled with Hannah due to bad dreams about snakes at some point in the early morning. I hasn't rained for a few weeks now and the walk to work is getting dryer as there is less and less dew. Rounds went normally without any terrible morbidities to mull over. The only problem facing us was the 9 scheduled cases with the three added on - below knee amputations. The ENT surgeon, Dr Acha, had three tonsils scheduled after a TURP that one of the past residents who now works at a hospital ~4 hours away scheduled. (Mbingo has some endoscopic urology equipment.) That made for ~15 cases scheduled for three rooms. Unlike in the US, we only have two electrocautery units for three OR theaters. Therefore, cases have to be fit in as we do or don't need cautery. I have become much more comfortable not using cautery for such things as hernias or even hysterectomies. Don't get me wrong, I like cautery. Now, I spent all this time explaining one small issue that really isn't a big issue but daily affects the way surgery gets done. The anesthesia time is great if we get to use a spinal but for general cases the wake-up can be quite extended as we don't have some of the fast acting stuff like Propofol. The schedule got all bogged down as the TURP couldn't take a spinal due to his bad back anatomy and went to general. This was even worse when he was ready to be awoken but was noted to have a very distended abdomen and a perforated bladder. I wasn't involved in any of this but it put that room out of condition with a cautery unit until ~3pm. We managed as we could. During this time, Rebecca was back home hosting the Hamms who a nice SIL family. She was up for some medical care, and they stopped by for a goodbye visit. By the way, they haven't had water at their house for a week so they took a shower at our house. We had planned a dessert party for tonight putting some stress on Rebecca who was also trying to pack and homeschool. I spent some time around lunch with the family waiting for a case to turn over. I had talked to the plumbers about a leak in the bathroom that needed attention. We had noticed a flood but had cleaned it up and turned the water off to that bathroom. I got home as Hadiah was making sure there was evidence of a leak by turning the water back on. To our surprise, water started pouring from the ceiling. The plumbers hadn't come by 130 pm (once again in between cases) so I sat in their office and eventually was given the cell phone number for the manager. I went back to the OR and they finally came to fix the problem. I got home around 430 pm. We really got into full gear getting ready around 6pm as people would be coming around 7pm. Yes, we aren't early planners. The desserts were ready and a lady was coming to help serve. Rebecca pulled it off like she usually dose with a nativity play acted with the children, good food, a little talk by me, singing carols, and finally a dance contest with some residents, me and the chief of staff (ophthalmologist Dr Tambe). I helped drive some of them home. Helped clean some stuff, helped get the kids in bed, talked to Rebecca and walked next door where I sit now with a folding chair on their driveway typing away using their fast WiFi. We are very blessed to have this time here, and we hope that you are blessed this Christmas. dasen
Sunday, December 12, 2010
About 5 or 10 minutes later, the large wooden back door swung open with force and 2 tall people in dark clothes, sunglasses (at night) and hats, barged into our family and dining room. For a moment, I thought we had burglers. It took me a while to focus and realize that I actually knew these people, and for all the compartmentalizing our brains do in instanteous moments, I realized these people aren't part of my African mindset. What's going on here? There before us stood Rob and Heidi Clippard, our dear friends from Cincinnati. As Hadiah said later, "Mom, I almost cried when I realized it was them." It took me quite a while to get over my shock. I actually think it was the greatest surprise of my life. We exchanged hugs and tried to recount how this all came to be.
Rob and Heidi were on a business trip in Europe in Nov, and added on a trip to see us in Cameroon. The great thing though, is that they didn't tell us. The bad thing for them is that they had no help with transportation. Once they flew into Douala they somehow by God's grace made contact with a stranger who turned out to be a national football (soccer) hero who gave them a ride in town and set them in the right direction. After spending the night in Douala in a shady hotel, they took an overcrowded bus for about 7 or 8 hours north, this was after waiting a couple hours for the bus to fill- in the heat. Then they took a public van filled with 17 people another hour or so, until dark, when they reached our little community. They met security, and had them intercom us. That's when Dasen picked them up and they barged into our Thanksgiving meal.
What a joy!! How great to get to share some of these crazy nuainces of African life with dear friends from childhood. I've actually known Rob, by accident he says, for about 23 years. On the "mission field" kids often call adults in close fellowship "aunt and uncle." So Rob and Heidi inherited 4 nieces in their short time here. Heidi, Rob, Miriam and myself hiked about 4 or 5 hours to a gorgeous waterfall the next day. They helped me get ready for a big trip to the beach we had already planned, and we watched stars that night without all the North American light polution.
The following day we drove off with 10 of us in an SUV for 12 hours, with a broken window, tropical heat, a few snacks, pit stops in the bushes, and some crazy sights- like a couple large pigs tied on the back of a motorcycle, a school class with machetes all out cutting grass, and cockroaches found in the car. It was a great drive across part of Africa though as we were all in high spirits, albeit a bit crammed.
There's much more to stay about our trip, but Dasen already wrote about that. All in all, we had a great visit with friends and we're sure that God was smiling on us all. They are the most unconventional missionaries I've met, and I loved how God sent them here to meet our needs and show us and others His love. God used them to work out some major prayer requests, the largest of which was accompanying my mom home to Cincinnati.
Mom is doing fairly well now after getting over the initial fatigue of 36 hours of intercontinental travel. She is staying with my sister, Laura, until we get home. She went home for several reasons... she's been sick with her irritable bowel and in her memory loss I think she kept drinking water from the tap which led to traveler's diarrhea. Also, we had previously changed her ticket to fly straight home Dec 27th when we leave here. Originally we were all scheduled for a 3 week lay-over in Europe. My mom was not able to walk long distances, had her irritable bowel sypmtoms and hates the cold, so via our travel agent her ticket was changed with the idea that the next step was to get "an accompaniment" add-on. After the ticket was changed, we found there was no"accompaniment" ticket possible, and we knew mom couldn't travel and go through customs by herself. After trying all our options, Rob and Heidi came, and graciously took her home. Thank you Rob and Heidi and Thank you God for working out these crazy details of our lives.
Now we have 2 weeks remaining here. So much to do .... so little time. I love being here. I love serving God here. I love sharing His good news with girls over Christmas carols in the Children's Ward, or with the residents' wives as the Holy Spirit moved in us this past week, or with the nurse screener students before I give a lecture, or with a village woman in the local compound through which I pass. God has given us so many opportunities to plant seeds which belong to Him. We are sure God will continue His work here long after we are gone.
After we dropped Rob, Heidi, and my mom off at the Douala airpot we stayed in a mission rest house in town with a thatched veranda and a pool. It was such a quiet, idyllic place after all the busyness of the past few months. I had a wonderful quiet time with God, looking back on my life, over many years, and seeing how often I had been at difficult crossroads, fearing what would come, and even fearing what others would think. Yet at every unknown turn, He had led me. I am slowly learning how very good and yet how unpredictable He is at working out His plans in our lives. After my time with God, smiling on me, and me learning to trust Him yet again, I celebrated by jumping in the pool with my clothes on, to enjoy the refreshing freedom that comes from being His girl and being free to live by His definitions of what's right.
This next stage of our lives will be a tricky one. Dasen is job hunting and we're waiting to see how we will fare as we leave Africa, spend 3 weeks in England and France, and move back into our house in Middletown, OH, only to move somewhere else at an unknown time and place.
"Taste and see that the Lord is good." This is our ongoing prayer and enjoyment of Him.
Monday, December 6, 2010
His face is the Promise I seek.
I strain in the burden He is lifting,
The dappling of light and grey melting into greens.
Verdant life complete yet crusted.
Absorbing hope never enough.
Running wildly, skipping time,
Madness melting into waste-filled pleasantries.
Catching breath, wielding happiness,
Scents of peace wafting on moonbeams.
Azur, golden, blanched in the heat of shadows,
Incorruption climbing, stealy purposes appear.
Answers proverbily blowing breezily,
A sound of trumpet calls.
Pilgrimage pressing, alienation dividing,
The line is drawn, cold and strong.
Wild hearts beating, worldliness relieving,
Where in the hinterland is the song?
Rhythmic beating, ground vibrating,
Is it a storm or a deep anthem singing long?
So much mystery,
Never forsake me.
Truth is told
And He will last.
Blurring fields, hope flies on a dream,
Forever running, forever renewed.
Dangers darkening, confusion sweltering,
Dare the dilemma to propel one home.
Now the fever rising, sickness stifling,
Health born clear, carried sure.
Halleluiah ringing, adoration panting,
Worship is the way.
Time torn asunder, no longer a blunder.
Peace has found her renegade road.
Righteousness rising, inhaling while dividing,
Coming close to mark an inhospitable way.
Why so narrow, defining yet guiding?
Blooms in season, yet not always.
Dryness exclaiming, Choreographer crying,
"Delight yet, for pulsating wings shall rise."
Saturday, December 4, 2010
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden…Let your light shine before man, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5: 14,16
An American engineer on an evening exploration became enshrouded in a quickly moving, heavy fog. The Cameroonian mud sucked hungrily on his sandal until it was enveloped and lost. The darkness dressed the greens in grays and eventually blacks. The valley dismissed the Creator’s call to hospitality and her revolving entrance/exit door did not budge. Somewhere beyond the elephant grass and cassava leaves heavy with haze, a small light shone high in the distance. With one foot shod and the other bare, the engineer messily fought the hostile overgrowth, slowly making his way toward the enlarging light. Eventually the wayward ground began to ascend until the valley released her lock and the exit door swung open. The light eventually revealed a home on an escarpment overlooking the grand valley decorated with waterfalls as pearls. The weary engineer passed the house and trekked his way back to his group, thankful to have been shown the way, relieved to have escaped the binding darkness.
The mystery of Christ in His redemptive nature is this light on a hill. This mystery is magnified as the lamp does not measure the amps, or recognize the alteration in varying degrees of light. The mystery becomes marvelous as the bearers of the light recognize that the light has a power source beyond this world, not in oneself. The “on switch” is that of obedience but it is turned and powered by another. What sweet redemption comes from His glow through a life of grace-filled obedience.
That night, as the light of our house shown, most likely we were arguing over whose turn it was to do dishes, and wishing for an escape from the monotony of life within a one mile radius. We were probably struggling with contentment and purpose, even while yearning for the internet to work so we could try to get some work done as the family vied for attention. Yet even so, a weary traveler was guided by the light of our home.
Being where God wants us, when He wants us there has far greater implications then we can imagine. Doing great things for God, traveling the globe as medical evangelists, rescuing the sick and defending the poor are all pleasing and good, worthy endeavors, but it is through the strangely eternal incandescence of intimate obedience and relational love with a personal Divinity that any eternal difference can be made. The changes wrought only have clarity and truth in the midst of our Resurrected Savior breathing and moving through us. Within this entwining of grace from God, and a walk of weak obedience through faith, does the world see that the mystery of Christ has a brilliant radiance that shines through even us.
We've traveled a bit of Cameroonian roads this past week. We had planned a little of our trip, but the rest just comes with being us and having a God with an interesting input into our lives. Let me share a little now, and I'll return a little later for more of the story. On Wednesday last week, our family and fellow Westerners were between our main Thanksgiving meal and dessert when I received a call on the intercom. The security said that some strangers wanted to talk. A familiar yet strange voice asked whether I could go out for a drink. It was followed up with a warning not to act surprised but to come pick-up Rob and Heidi Clippard who had "dropped" in from Cincinnati. They had managed to arrive on the public transportation after flying from Europe. I went and picked them up having them walk in on the crew without warning. Rebecca took a few moments to figure out who was coming in the door but quickly overcame her surprise and enjoyed the shock. The short version of the rest of the story is that they then went with us to Kribi beach traveling 10 in an un air-conditioner SUV with a window that wouldn't go up. We believe that they were the answer to our prayer about someone accompanying Sarah back to Cincinnati so the tickets were changed and we drove to Douala on Sunday. They left; Elle's fever improved. We stayed at a guest house for two days until they didn't have any room. We drove to Limbe beach for two days where the car wouldn't start, but I perfected the art of popping the clutch. We then drove back to Mbingo with the engine kept on so that I wouldn't have to pop the clutch in an inopportune spot. I only made one mistake stopping the car on a slope near a gas station, but I failed to pop it well. The gas attendants helped push and then it started. Please pray for Sarah and family as I hope that we made the right decision, but it seems that things aren't going perfectly. We hope that things settle out and improve. She did travel well and arrived safely, though. dasen