Sunday, July 25, 2010

Back from the Jungle

I just had the most amazing three days, possibly in my whole life :) I spent some time at the Bongolo Hospital in the south of Gabon. There, I spent a lot of time with missionary nurses and doctors, helping put up essential mosquito screens in the maternity ward, sorting out $300,000 of donated medical equipment from various medical companies in Europe and the States, and... my favorite activities, talking to patients and observing surgeries! It was incredible how they let me get so close to patients during the surgeries- I was definitely not expecting being able to stand two feet away as a 16 yr old girl had a C-section! I also saw some tumors get removed from a woman's breast, and I saw a rod get drilled into a little girl's knee for traction for a broken femur. All the doctors here are Christians and they come from all over Africa to get training in General Surgery from American missionary surgeons, then they go back to their home countries to practice there. Dr JeanClaude from Congo performed the C -section and he is returning home in a year to be the only practicing surgeon in nearly 500 square km in Congo. If you would like to pray for him, his wife and his baby, as they prepare to serve the Congolese people, I know he would be very encouraged by that. Since the doctors here are practicing Christians they pray before each surgery- I really loved that. Anyways, it was so crazy to be able to stand there and watch all these surgeons in action! (Email me if you want photos or video- I'm not posting them because they're pretty graphic)

As far as other jungle adventures go, I only wish that I had some way other than writing to show you all what I experienced. We went spelunking (caving) in some of the most intense caves I have even been in. The tunnels went forever and they split and rejoined and split again like some crazy rat maze. We were down there for at least 2 hrs and we probably didn't even see half of it. Bats were flying right into our heads and I just had a little wind-up flashlight that only worked well if I was actively winding it... which I couldn't really do since I needed my hands to crawl! There was so much mud and water and we spent a lot of time inching through tiny tunnels on our stomachs- it was great!

Even better was the next day where we decided to hike through the jungle (no trail), past amazing HUGE bamboo trees and finally ending up a a cliff of dead jungle plant debris. Then we climbed down by jumping/ hanging onto vines and trees (watching out for driver ants and snakes), and got into a river... but not in a boat. I had been told that there were no alligators, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm in the jungle and there's gotta be some sort of creature in the water that could get me! Anyways, it was amazing and we pretty much swam ourselves through the most remote and gorgeous jungle river I have ever seen! I could only think about the Creator who made all this and I am so overwhelmed by His beauty and creativity in this place :) We finally ended up in a very fast current in a river about the width of a football pitch and there were rapids/waterfalls ahead, so we had to swim like crazy to the side of the river (but there was no bank), hang onto a log of rotting and spider-ridden wood, pull ourselves up and proceed to pull ourselves up another cliff of rotting jungle debris. I have so many scratches and bugbites on my legs, and I'm trying to keep the infections down with Neosporin.

I can think of so many friends and family I wish could do this again with me!

One last thing- starfruit are much better when you can eat a whole one off a tree than when you get a tiny sliver on your ice cream.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Into the Jungle!

Bienvenue à l'Hopital de Bongolo! A few day ago, we travelled from Libreville (north), down to the small town of Lebamba, which is about 5 minutes away from the hospital we're visiting. Bongolo was set up by the Christian and Missionary Alliance a long time ago and now it's one of the best hospitals in the country. The really cool thing about it is that they minister to their patients as well as treat their health disorders. There's a training program here for other doctors and nurses from all around Africa to come and get training from America-certified surgeons and nurses. They are also taught how to use ministry in medicine, which is even better. It's absolutely gorgeous too and I think I actually prefer it to Libreville because it's so wild and green out here :) I'm sitting here and I think I hear a monkey outside but I've never really heard one that I can remember, so I'm just going to keep believing that :)

The last couple of days in Libreville have been great too. I met a new girl at church (I now officially have three Gabonese facebook friends!), and she came over the next morning to visit. Her name's Tania, and I have to be honest that I was a little overwhelmed by her at first because she was basically telling me, "okay, I'm going to be in your neighbourhood tomorrow morning, and I'm coming over to visit you at 8am"-- I had known her for five minutes! And plus, I didn't know if that was okay with the missionaries I was living with, especially because it's their home! Anyways, Tania came over and we had a fantastic time together :) She wanted to braid my hair and so she did (she also said it was too "slippery"!) I've since taken it out because it was super super frizzy and it was falling out too.

One of the things that I loved the best about my time with Tania was that we read through part of 1 Corinthians and looked at the spiritual gifts in French together. She read it out to me and I could almost hear all the words in English :) Her Bible is totally falling apart- and there is writing ALL over it... the cover was torn and the binding had threads coming out all over the place. It was very humbling to see how well she knew the word, and yet with so little (i.e., a near- destroyed Bible, no books by Christian authors like Colson, Driscoll, Tozer, Yancy...etc), and here I am waiting to get back to the States to see if I can buy a wide margin ESV where the pages are not so thin that I can still use a pen... sometimes I really love wake up calls like this.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

One week in

The weather here has been amazing! I wish I could just take this back with me to AZ - about 30 degrees (mid 80's) and LOTS of clouds. It's bliss and I was expecting a lot more heat. So this past week I've been doing a lot of the same things as the first week (working at a mobile clinic- I get to take blood pressure readings which is pretty fun and then I feel kinda smart- lol) , and also playing with kids at the Hope House (home for abandoned kids). If you would like to pray for something, pray for the kids there. There are about 30 of them, all under 16 yrs and often there are no adults at home. The pastor who runs it (Pasteur Israel) and his wife are often out of the house doing other things and the kids have to take care of themselves. They are so much fun to play with and even the 7 yr olds can totally school me in football (soccer)! But they are so needy for attention and love as well.

I have been speaking French like a crazy person- literally, I sometimes sound like a crazy person when I speak because there are so many things to say and I just mix all my subjects and verb endings into one giant ball when I really get going :) It's getting a lot better though and I'm pretty much an unofficial translator at times.

My biggest blessing at the moment is that I have been able to get to know the girls who live behind our house. Their names are ChouChou and Poupette (Claudia and Daniella). They are 19 and 21 years old and they at from Ghana, but have lived here most their lives. They have no dad (he died about 4 years back), and they have three other siblings. I love hanging out with them, because we'll walk around the neighbourhood (the "quartier") and talk to their friends, the shopkeepers, and sometimes there will be a random visit to someone's home. This is really special for me because this is not typical for a foreigner with white skin to be integrated with the local Gabonais people (They call me "une blanche"- a white girl- and they are definitely not very PC over here (but I love it). They just shout out at me "Bounjour la blanche!" in the streets). Because I can speak the language, God had really blessed me in being able to connect with the people in ways that many of my american missionary find more difficult.

I think I might be going to the jungle next week to work with a hospital called Le Hopital du Bongolo , which was set up many years ago by the Christian and Missionary Alliance. It's now one of the best hospitals in the jungle regions of Gabon. I will also get to cross the Equator for this 12 hr road trip! It's not all that far away but the roads are horrendous, as I hear (and have experienced a bit in Libreville, but not so much). Also, I got a hold of some apples and oranges which was amazing because I had been eating carrots twice a day in desperate search of fruit/veggies.

be well and xo

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bienvenue au Gabon!

After traveling from Sunday morning to Monday evening, I finally arrived at the Libreville airport in Gabon, and was promptly accosted by French-speaking taxi drivers who had somehow managed to get into the pre-customs luggage area in the airport (security, apparently not really a focus). Total blessing was that Tim Brokopp (I’m staying at his and his wife Meredith’s house) was right outside the doors and was all up in their faces by the time I came through customs— big sigh of relief Grandma— Tim’s pretty hardcore too and yells at anyone who give us a hard time :)

I’m also staying with about ten other missionaries at Tim and Meredith’s place. We’re all here for the summer and are crammed into these great rooms with lots of bunkbeds :) I always seem to get stuck on the top bunk, and this time is no different—but I have a bed so I’m happy! I am actually eating pork because there is not much else to eat. And everyone loves baguettes as well. Not many vegetables, but I peel and eat carrots a couple of times a day. Yesterday, I befriended a little girl, Gypsy, at a food stall and she was selling peanuts (arichides), so if you know me, you can only guess what is on my mind now… peanut butter! I will let you know if this dream ever comes true.

Turns out that the French they speak here is actually pretty similar to what I know- the accent is a little different, but it’s a blessing to be able to communicate. People rarely speak English, so this is definitely helpful. Also, I am one of the few Americans here who can speak French, so I try to translate as much as possible. Road navigation is a sport in Libreville— I sort of remember driving in Tanzania when I was younger, but honestly, the driving here is like being in a video game. I have been in at least five near-crashes and today I went flying up against the back of the seat of the guy in front of me (because my own seat is broken, and sans seatbelt). There are about a million people and cars on the roads, and food stalls, and dogs and chickens and… well you get the point.

So far, I have experienced some great things in the ministries that are out here, but I need to save some of those details for later. What I can tell you about now is that I have spent a couple of days working at a home for abandoned children (Hope House), playing football with them and making clay toys from mud out of their backyard. The kids are great and I really love this one little guy, Christopher who just jumps on my back all sweaty and gross, and wants me to run around the yard with him. The other cool thing is that I have spent some time at a medical clinic and since I don’t have any decent medical skills to speak of, I just talk a lot with the local Gabonais people in the waiting room. I am praying that God helps give me insight as to how He wants me to use the skills I have. I haven’t met any disabled or language-impaired kids, which is amazing seeing as there are at least 30 orphaned kids at the Hope House, but this is also encouraging as I am praying freely for direction and vision in my areas of service; so far there are a couple of other opportunities that have risen up that I will tell you more about later. Love to you all xo