On my way to Ethiopia: The LLU team should be in Frankfurt by now and perhaps are presently winging their way back to the United States. They were outstanding guys, easy to travel with and perceptive in their evaluations. I appreciated them as brothers in Christ. We will now await their report. We will have to respond to the issues they identify and then work together on implementing the solutions. It will take months or years, I suspect, to completely see the end results of their work.
At the end of last week’s newsletter, we had just arrived in Mbingo Baptist Hospital in the Northwest Province of Cameroon and I was wheezing and coughing. Fortunately, that respiratory problem has improved markedly with both time and with the relocation southward to Gabon (out of the effects of the Harmattan).
After the brutal trip by car, two planes and again car from Soddo Hospital in the south of Ethiopia to Mbingo Baptist Hospital in the northwestern part of Cameroon, we were very willing to start this past week by relaxing a bit on Sunday morning, by worshipping with the believers there at the Baptist church and by having an excellent lunch. Later in the afternoon, I spent some time with Jim Brown and then the whole team joined me as we interviewed 4 residents that day (out of a total of 9). We then went to the Sparks for an evening of pizza and conversation. I particularly enjoyed meeting Keith Straitefeld, a retired Aussie anesthesiologist with a vast experience in Africa and a delightful sense of humor. He will be at Mbingo for two years and I was informed later out that the residents are having a good experience on the anesthesia rotation.
Monday was a busy day as we inspected the program at Mbingo Baptist Hospital. We made rounds, visited the OR, talked to almost everyone associated with PAACS including the remainder of the residents and Dennis Palmer (the internist who is training internists, house officers and nurse-practitioners there as well). We met the new hospital administrator who has been in place since August. The hospital is thriving with the PAACS program and I was told that the profits from this hospital are helping to support the rest of the Cameroonian Baptist Health program (clinics and hospitals). We saw some great things that were happening and identified some problems. We were glad when the day was over; supper and relaxation was welcome. I had finally gotten internet access so I spent the whole evening catching up on e-mail.
Tuesday morning, we slept in (all the way to 6:30 AM, slug-a-beds that we are). Drs. Reeves and Nicolay went and made rounds again with the surgery team. We then posed for the group photo and made some the last minute suggestions on a number of things. While waiting for our transportation to show up, we went to a small embroidery shop on the campus which features work done by the leprosy victims and their families. We did our best to support the local economy and we certainly ran out of local currency!
The drive back to Douala, Cameroon was almost two hours shorter than before – but still butt-numbingly long. We went to the Cameroonian Baptist Guesthouse in Douala for a rest from the road. We enjoyed sitting under the trees and loved the cool breeze off the river for a couple of hours before heading to the airport and our next flight to Gabon. The next morning, we squeezed enough clothing for three days into one small suitcase each and flew by Air Calvary’s Cessna 207 to Bongolo Hospital. It is a 10 hour trip by road so the 90 minute flight was wonderful. It was a smooth flight. It is amazing to see the untouched rain forest (one of the last left in all of Africa) which extends for mile after mile from horizon to horizon, with only a rare logging road or small village creating a gap in the canopy. We did fly over Albert Schweitzer’s hospital located on the north side of the river near the village of Lambarene. They will celebrate their centennial next year.
The heat and humidity and the biting no-see-ums were all things that were invisible but took their toll during our trip. Still, we faithfully repeated the now familiar pattern of interviewing everyone, looking at the records and touring the hospital. There has been some significant building going on since the last time I was here in Bongolo. Dave and Becki Thompson are going to leave Gabon for the last time in June and plan to move to Egypt to learn Arabic. They hope to prepare the ground for a new PAACS program at Harpur Memorial Hospital in Menouf. They will be missed here but Keir Thelander is doing a yeoman’s job as Program Director and the addition of two new career surgeons in May will undoubtedly change the flavor of the program here.
We were able to complete our work in just a day and a half, so we flew back to Libreville on Friday, a full day early. It gave everyone a chance to rest and recoup at the guesthouse there before the team flew out Saturday evening. God has been good – our flights have been timely, our luggage has made it with us each step and we have remained without serious illness. The team had their eyes opened and I think they will have some excellent advice on how we can move forward from this point onward. I praise God for their willingness to come on such a tough trip. They will have traveled over 23,000 miles (nearly the equivalent of traveling around the world) in just 19 days and it has taken its toll.
I am flying out today back to Ethiopia via Nairobi. I will get into bed about 2:00 AM and then in the morning, do a little shopping for food before going back to Soddo. I plan to take a few days to rest before plunging into the next set of projects that await me there. We will see how I do on the resting thing…. It is, after all, the thing I do best. That blatant untruth reminds of a saying my Grandmother Stock used to say to me, “You can go to hell for lying as well as for stealing!”
Praise and Prayer Requests:
1. Praise God for the traveling safety for the team and please pray for safety as I continue to travel until March 26.
2. Please pray for a time of rest in Ethiopia and for the work we must do to cement the relationship with Myungsung Christian Medical Center.
3. Please pray for God’s hand upon Micky and Sean while we are apart.
4. Please pray for the upcoming Christian Medical & Dental Association’s Continuing Medical and Dental Education conference to be held in Brackenhurst February 6 – 16th. We will be putting on a surgical education course in Nairobi on the 17th and 18th as well, then returning to Tenwek and Kijabe to do some beta-testing on a new resident appraisal tool
5. There were hopes for a major funding of a large project at Kijabe Hospital. It was turned down. Please pray that God will provide the funds necessary to build the housing required for the PAACS residents.
I am fully aware that the success of this inspection trip is largely, if not solely, due to the prayers of all of you on our behalf. Thank you so very much. You are helping to change the face of Africa.
Yours and His, for the peoples of Africa,
Bruce for Micky and Sean