Monday I worked a very full day. The clinic was spilling over with people, but everything went well.
Tuesday I was invited by Patsy and Dave to the local arts and culture exhibition taking place in the nearby town of Maroua. It is an annual celebration held in a different locale every year. Apparently it is quite well known and the president himself came.
So, after finishing ward rounds we drove to the fair and took our time looking at beautiful textiles, paintings, woodwork and pottery. Our favorite part however, was a long line of homes made in the traditional style representing the largest tribes of the “Extreme North” of Cameroon.
A home constructed in the traditional "Musgoum" style. There are many members of this tribe who work at our hospital
After returning from the fair, we were able to participate in the tail end of gift distribution in Gorgoria, a neighboring leprosy village. The inhabitants there are no longer contagious, as they receive medications from the hospital, however it is the hospital's custom to purchase them gifts each Christmas. Bags containing tea, sugar, a bar of soap, vaseline and cooking oil were passed out to grateful recipients.
I was able to greet Moussa, the man featured in my previous blog entry. He was happy to see me, however he has another infection threatening his remaining leg. Please pray for him.
As I made my way around the crowd of women seated outside the church, they sometimes shyly, sometimes exuberantly offered me their greetings. They thrust out deformed hands with huge smiles and one member of the group even began to sing her thanks.
On our way back to Meskine, we passed a leprosy patient who was just returning to Gorgoria. Her daughter had already received a gift on her behalf, and when she heard we had come with presents, she began dancing right there on the side of the road!
The following day, after work, our group of missionaries got together to celebrate. Patsy and Dave hosted our dinner and their home was decorated with bona-fide tinsel and lights! The dinner was wonderful, we sang carols together and read the Christmas story. Afterwards we had a small gift exchange. In preparation for the get together, Patsy helped me to make my mom's traditional chocolate covered toffee, so we all indulged in the sweets:-)
Today was Christmas! I donned my new outfit and we headed off to church. After an excellent sermon by our talented pastor we returned to the hospital for another gift distribution. The week previous I received a huge box from Calvary Chapel Battle Creek which contained goodies for myself as well as toys and practical items for the patients at the hospital.
Me with my enormous box! I was so excited to get it!
Thank you so much Calvary Chapel of Battle Creek for the wonderful goodies!
So, after preparing baggies with multivitamins, snack crackers, little toys, candies, and crayons last week, I had the privilege of handing these out in the pediatrics ward as teams of my fellow missionaries handed out bags of tea, sugar, and soap in the men's and women's wards. Thanks to the generosity of CCBC I was also able to include toothbrushes, packages of tissues, and snack crackers to the men's and women's presents.
The bags made for the children contained multivitamins, a small toy, snack crackers and crayons. Each child also received two color pages apiece!
Getting ready to deliver the presents on Christmas day!
The reaction from the kids was precious. One sweet little girl could hardly believe that the present was for her. She was given a fluffy yellow stuffed chick along with her other goodies. When she saw it a huge smile illuminated her face as she glanced at me shyly, making sure she had not misunderstood. She was just so pleased.
I was particularly grateful to visit with another little girl who has truly been fighting for her life. After sustaining a broken leg, her family tried traditional treatment in the village. The treatment failed, the leg became necrotic and infected and she developed tetanus. Her leg was amputated and the incision subsequently became infected. The last time I saw her during prayer rounds about a month ago, she was suffering from uncontrollable and painful muscle spasms caused by the bacterial tetanus infection.
However, today, while still timid and a bit fearful, she is in much better health. Her smile upon receiving a miniature plastic kitten complete with decorative leash in her bag of goodies was a welcome relief to the pain I witnessed at my last visit. I was so grateful we were allowed to bring her a little bit of happiness.
Another room contained a toddler who has sustained significant burns to her thighs and lower belly. She was exhausted after a recent, painful dressing change, but perked up a little as we handed her a small stuffed piglet from “Winnie the Pooh”. Her mother and grandmother were so sweet, smiling perhaps for the first time since their arrival.
That afternoon after a lovely dinner with friends, a nice long nap and phone calls to my family back home, the “Christmas week extravaganza” rolled to a finish. I am so grateful to God, who has given me peace and contentment during my first holiday season so far from home. He has been so near to me, great is His faithfulness.
While the appreciative smiles, greetings, even singing and dancing of those receiving the gifts has been amazing, I remember that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) and I am humbled. It isn't Sarah, the rich benefactor coming from her country, forsaking family and comfort to give to the poor, but rather Sarah the broken, the sinner, who struggles on a daily basis, being used by a merciful God who loves her. I am more grateful for these experiences than I know how to express.