It was strange to celebrate Christmas when it was 70 degrees outside, but we had many opportunities to get into the Christmas spirit here in Cameroon. Giving gifts, singing carols, Christmas parties, and even grasshoppers are all part of the Christmas experience at Mbingo. Mostly though we were thankful for the time to reflect on God's gift to us through the birth of Jesus many years ago.
This is Denis Nkenji. He is a 7 year old boy who recently came to the pediatric clinic. Angela examined him and found him to be the size of a 3 year old and heard a loud murmur on the cardiac exam. The heart echo showed multiple congenital problems with his heart including a VSD (ventricular septal defect), aortic insufficiency (leaking aortic valve), and pulmonic stenosis (tight pulmonic valve). He was not growing normally due to these heart lesions and would not live many more years. We immediately felt that God was leading us to try to help this boy if we could. His mother is incredibly loving and this is her only child. Her husband left them when Denis was very young. We sent him to the Catholic cardiac hospital in Cameroon called Shisong. After making the 3 hour trip, they quickly returned to see Angela. The great news is that Shisong Hospital felt they could fix the defect without replacing any valves and we confirmed this with a phone call to the cardiologist there. The heart surgeries are generally done by European surgeons that travel to Cameroon every few months. This is a great service, but the problem becomes money. These surgeries are normally not possible for most Cameroonians because the typical cost is 7000 US dollars. Considering the invasive surgery that is being done, the price is fair and Shisong is certainly not making money off of this, but it is still far too much for most Cameroonians. When the mother found out that the surgery could be done, she said "I will work in the kitchen at Shisong for as many years as it takes to pay off the surgery". She would do anything for her child just as all of us would. The difference is that she would never be able to earn that much money. So, we have decided to help her and use money that many of you have donated to our project account to do so. We have part of the money that is needed, but if you feel led to give towards this, please see the side of our blog or email us to know how to give to our project account with Samaritan's Purse. If we end up with more than we need, we will look for the next person like Denis that could benefit from your generosity. Being able to tell Denis Nkenji and his mother that we would help them with the cost of the surgery was a great Christmas gift for them and a true joy for us.
This picture shows the local chapter of the Cameroonian Baptist Convention choir who came to our house just before Christmas and sang Christmas carols to us and some of the other missionaries. They were going house to house around Mbingo and singing to get people into the Christmas spirit.
On Christmas Eve, we went with some of the other missionaries from ward to ward and sang Christmas carols to the patients. We enjoyed it and the patients loved it. It is not easy to be in the hospital over a holiday, especially Christmas, and this made it just a little bit better.
In addition to singing carols, the pediatricians also had a Christmas party on the pediatric ward the weekend before Christmas. They served food, sang some songs, and gave out a bag of Christmas gifts to each child. Included were donated items (mostly from the US) like handmade blankets, coloring books, balls/toys, and handmade woven hats. This picture shows Angela with a child receiving her gift bag and wearing her new hat.
Just like in the US, eating with family and friends is a tradition on Christmas day. It is even better if you can serve chicken. This picture shows Cynthia (works at JR and Lindsay's house) and Helen (works at our house) with the chicken that we gave Helen. Cynthia also received one and they happily served the chicken on Christmas day in their homes. We raise chickens in our backyard so we ate one with some friends on Christmas day too!
The hospital also received a great gift just before Christmas. We have been waiting for the new digital xray unit to arrive from Samaritan's Purse in the US for months. The hospital purchased the unit and it was sent by ship. On arrival to Mbingo, each of the two containers was found to weigh 1700 pounds. This picture shows the crew unloading this fragile but heavy box by pulling a rope wrapped around the box and sliding it down some wooden planks. We have to admit that we were nervous about this, but they carried it out perfectly.
Christmas time here is also grasshopper season. Cameroonians love to fry and eat them. They catch them by the bucket full. Isaac and Cathen got into it too and were seeing how many they could catch in the backyard. They chose to give their grasshoppers away instead of eating them, but Chuck tried a fried one and it was really pretty tasty.
This is the photo that we used to make picture frame ornaments for the other missionaries at Mbingo. The kids helped paint the edges and otherwise decorate the frames. It was not easy to get these 3 crazy kids to smile at the same time, but it turned out to be a nice Christmas present. We kept one as well to put on our Christmas tree in the future.
We hope that each of you had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and are excited about what the new year holds.