Cameroon Medical Mission Trip 2018

Thank you for praying for my trip to Mbingo Hospital in Cameroon. I am deeply grateful and humbled by the prayers and support I received for the trip. Following through with the decision to go to Cameroon was not an easy one as I was informed of an incident of increased violence that erupted close to the hospital as the date of our trip approached. The missionaries at the hospital were consistent in their communication and stated that they felt safe and they were still welcoming visitors.

But when I first read the email about the internal conflict in Cameroon, fear erupted in me. I started to rationalize my fear and thought of excuses not to go, “Perhaps this is God’s way of showing me that I should not be going. After all, I bought a humanitarian refundable ticket, I can reschedule this trip for a future date.” I started to fret about what may happen to me in Cameroon, “What if we get kidnapped? What if me or the other doctors I’m going with get caught in the crossfire of the violence?” I share this with you because this incident taught me a great deal about the power of fear.

  1. It is quite easy to make decisions based on fear.
  2. Seek and you shall find, if you look for evidence to support your fears you will find it (Friends and family emailed me articles on the killing in Cameroon as I was making the decision to go on the trip.)

I am reminded of the story in Numbers 13-14, when the Lord sent men to spy out the land of Canaan. Ten of the twelve spies could only see their fears. Often times when we decide to serve in a developing country, rarely is there stability and full assurance that no harm will befall us. Although I did not welcome the conflict that erupted in Cameroon before my trip, the circumstances taught me important lessons. I learned not to make decisions based on fear but to gather information and present decisions before the Lord. The Lord allowed me and my teammates to speak to a doctor who recently returned to the United States from Cameroon who reassured us that travel to the hospital was safe and strongly urged us not to cancel our trip.

In addition, he prayed for us over the phone as we presented to him our hesitations to go to Africa. God answered and gave clarity and unity in the decision to go to Cameroon (I went with two other female physicians, an internist and a pediatric nephrologist). As I was preparing for the trip I thought of all the logistical details that go into a medical trip: making the flights, lost luggage, meeting our host in Cameroon, getting through customs, safety in country travel, avoiding illness, being a good witness to the locals and to my teammates. God graciously answered each of these individual prayers and showed me in countless ways how He is the good Shepherd and continues to shepherd me (Psalm 100).

In one sentence, this trip was exactly what I needed. I was in desperate need of rest and a reset in my perspective of my career and life- and the Lord met me in my point of need.  There was a number of visiting surgeons at the hospital that made our workload manageable which allowed me to have a good amount of free time in Cameroon. It took extricating me from my normal activities in Arlington, studying His word in which I was confronted with ungodly attitudes and pride in which I had to repent and ask God to enter in. I was able to have times of deep fellowship with my African brothers and sisters and reunite with my family from the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS).

The first night I arrived to the hospital, I arrived at the doorstep of my dear brother Marco, who is a recent PAACS graduate, performing his fellowship in otolaryngology. He and I met at a conference in Greece two years ago and we have kept in touch via email and texts. He welcomed me into his home and the first thing he said as I took a seat was, “Let us pray…” He thanked God for my safe travel and allowing us to reunite in Cameroon.

I rounded with the surgical residents and had the opportunity to work with a resident from Sudan named Deng. Deng had visa issues which delayed his arrival to Cameroon and the start of his surgical internship. I observed how he struggled with English as he presented a patient history to the team (Arabic is his primary language) during rounds.  My heart was filled with compassion as I saw him be challenged by the demands of surgical training in a foreign country.

He reminded me of when I was a surgical resident, life was hard! Deng shared his heart with me and I learned that where he trained for medical school in Sudan was extremely primitive.  Using a computer to make PowerPoint presentations or keeping a surgical list on Excel were new experiences for him, duties that all surgical residents are responsible for daily basis. He shared how he could not communicate well in English and he felt completely overwhelmed and defeated. Deng explained to me how he is humbled by his circumstances and that he is drawing closer to the Lord through his struggles. I thought, “That’s exactly where God wants this child to be.” We operated together where I saw that he had good surgical skills and thought to myself, “He’s gonna do just fine.”

Yesterday, I celebrated a Passover Seder and was reminded that life is a mixture of the bitter and the sweet, of sadness and joy.   It’s never just one or the other.  We have a compassionate and wise God who can bring sweetness in the most bitter of our circumstances.  Whatever struggle you may be going through, know that it will not always be that way and that God’s word is true, “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance to His purpose; because those whom He knew in advance, He also determined in advance would be conformed to the pattern of His Son.” (Romans 8:28-29)

Thank you once again for your prayers. If you would like to support Christian surgical residents like Deng in PAACS, which is a program that is purely supported by charitable giving, please check out the website, www.paacs.net

Thank you for reading this, below is a picture of me with the residents during rounds (Deng is standing directly behind me and is the one with a darker complexion).

Sincerely,

Rebekah

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