Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Year and Some Change

Hello Everyone! 

A Year and Some Change.....

Hard to believe... but it's been a year and some change since I moved to Gabon!
What an adventure, a blessing and a learning experience it has been this first year.
I was taking some time to reflect on my first days here in the Jungle...

On the kitchen door- my friend who comes to say "hi" in the afternoons.

...the first time I made the rare find of lettuce in the market and had spent the better part of 20 minutes painstakingly completing the necessary bleaching, rinsing and drying of each leaf (due to the Gabonese interest in human fertilizer) and as I went to gather the leaves from the counter on which they were drying to make the special treat of a long-awaited salad, a lizard jumped right down from the wooden cupboards and tap danced his way right across every single one of my rare and freshly cleaned lettuce leaves! 

I ate the lettuce anyway. 

...or the first time I sliced an onion here and thought almost the entire thing was rotten, only to discover that's just how their onions are coloured here.
I couldn't even do a simple thing like slicing an onion without having questions!
I felt so dependent on those around me. 

...perfecting my ninja moves while sporting my crocs and rubber gloves, as I tried to skillfully turn off water in the shower that shocked me every time I used it for the first month after moving in.
Often I would get shocked through the water out of the shower head too....I took a lot of sponge baths. 
Using the kitchen sink was literally a shocking experience too.
I am still amazed that I have both running water and electricity in my house in the middle of the jungle.
They just don't always play well together.

(After a month they finally found a set of wires had been chewed away - I was getting shocked because there was live current bouncing back and forth between the 110 and 220 lines and was touching a water pipe- I could have had a decent fro I think).

Celebrating the Gabonese holiday, Women's Day, with the residents' wives

I remember having people over the first weekend I had moved into my new home.
It took me all day to prepare as I started learning to make everything from scratch.
The workmen were fervently trying to fix my electrifying water system and my house helper mama Germaine was helping keep up with the never ending residue from geckos, ants, wood bores and termites.
I had also just recently had an ape or some other unidentified jungle animal leap onto my side kitchen door a couple nights in a row from the mass of jungle bordering my house. We think he was injured or something, for it looked as though he had found solace in my attic for the last hours of his life and as his carcas quickly decayed in the equatorial heat, maggots proceeded to fall from my ceiling.

I had gotten used to heating my water for washing dishes and for bathing because there had been no hot water for the majority of the first month.
Then the cold water went on strike too.
Then the workers hit a water pipe and water was literally pouring through the ceiling from the attic into my kitchen.
I was still getting shocked at the sink, in the shower and while touching certain appliances.

So there I was that day in my sweaty kitchen, rolling out my first crack at homemade tortillas, getting shocked at random intervals, no running water, a waterfall pouring from the attic and maggots falling from the ceiling and company coming in under 2 hours.

By God's grace we ate more than canned sardines that night. 

Enjoying fellowship with some of the missionary ladies

Remembering going to the capital for the first time for the yearly grocery shop with my mentors Terry and Barry, and realizing even then, how much I had "gray scale vision." It was as if everything around me was a different shade of grey, in that everything seemed to look the same. There were no definitions in my mind. I remember driving with them down the road and Terry shouting and pointing excitedly, "look a plant nursery!" Barry pulled over so she could check out the trees and small budded plants for sale. "A nursery?!" I thought to myself. 
It looked just like all the other countless wood/tin/concrete block shacks we had passed the past 5 miles and were sure to pass for the following 5. 
How did she spot these things in the sea of seemingly non-purposed shacks? 
Colour vision. 
I was excited for the day when I would one day be granted colour vision.   

I remember what a relief it was at the beginning to visit Mbolo- the large french grocery store in the hub at the capital for our yearly shop- 9 hours from Bongolo. What fun to see Western foods and packaging, lots of fresh veggies, meat, yogurt, chips, cereal, even ice-cream (if you're willing to pay the price- 3 slices of ham was $12.99- I didn't get the ham : ) all in a nice clean store with no goat poop, no rat droppings, no checking your rice and pasta for creepy crawlers and no drunk men trying to grab you as you headed out the door. 

Out to dinner with Mom and Dad at one of the local restaurants in town

But I found myself back in the capital 6 months after living at Bongolo to see my parents off back to the States and we went to Mbolo again, but I was surprised at what I experienced. 
We had jumped into a taxi on the inner-city back roads where the missionary guest house was, filled with make shift shelters for stores and restaurants and headed to the large westernized grocery store.
We walked in - and immediately I felt overwhelmed.
It was big and bright and people were hustling and bustling around the place in their European fashions and the shelves were filled with so many choices! Oh were there choices!
The yogurt aisle alone- I almost could see the white pearly gates at the end of it.
I walked around in an amazed daze, trying to wake myself up every few minutes to make sure I wasn't actively drooling over the beautiful displays of fresh vegetables.
Everyone and everything seemed to be moving so much faster than I was.
I felt so out of place.
I felt like a jungle bumpkin. 
I felt out of my comfort zone.

We grabbed another taxi, carrying our groceries in our arms, and made our way back to our little street where the guest house was on.
The taxi left us off at the corner.
People were walking by in bright patterned cloth, head scarves and carrying babies on their backs.
Goats and stray mangy dogs trotted out of our way as we walked through potholes as wide as the street itself and dodged the plastic bags and trash that littered the street, out of a wooden shack we passed, floated the yummy aroma of “coupe coupe” chicken, kids ran past us laughing and playing with home made toys.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
I was in my comfort zone again.

I had found myself in a cultural pretzel.

A Year and Some Change.....

Change in how I perceive life, culture, what is norm.
Change and growth in deeper understanding of how I understand and know my God.
Change and growth in how I expect to relate to and love others.
Change in people's lives as we live life side by side, showing them what it means to be a follower of Christ.

 Visiting with my nursing students and their families at their homes. I try to visit them every Sunday evening. We'll sit, talk, eat food, they'll teach me their local dances, braid hair, play with their kids and just pass some time with them.  In the Gabonese culture, going to someone's house is more meaningful than inviting them over. Essentially, it is a cultural way in which I can wash their feet.

Helping out doing some anesthesia in the OR
Filling in the gaps... the last several months we've been short staffed in the OR and in the ICU/recovery room. I've been trying to fill in when I can in between teaching and doing clinicals with the students. Wednesdays I would be in the OR helping out with anesthesia and keeping an eye on Rea- our recovery room.
There were many days I would literally be running between the two, having to leave a patient in the OR because a patient was deteriorating in Rea.
Thankful to the Lord for keeping all the patients safe.
Also rejoicing because God has provided staff to fill these two critical needs!
I will still be filling in as needed but it won't be as often.
Thankful for God's provision of safer patient care! 

Small Group Bible study 
Each Friday the students divide up into their small groups for Bible study. This was my group of girls this past trimester. It has been exciting to see God stretch and develop their understanding (and my own) of who God is, as we studied the names of God together.
Several of these girls have been experiencing a lot of financial hardship, sometimes struggling to have enough food to eat.
We have seen God provide for their needs and how they have grown through that.
It has been an honor to disciple these young women.

Building bridges in LeBamba.
 This past year I've spent most Thursday afternoons in LeBamba learning to cook with some of the merchant women. LeBamba has become a hub for merchants from other African countries. It has been exciting to see the bridges the Father has been building as I grow in friendship with these women.
Please talk to the Father concerning them that our friendship would continue to grow and provide good opportunities through it.

Showing a student how to recover a new born from general anesthesia after a Spina Bifida repair

Most of the mornings are spent in clinicals with the Nursing students in the ICU/recovery room, Rea. It is a great opportunity to practice their nursing skills, but also to work with them side-by-side, showing them how to think critically in taking care of a variety of patients.  

Bible study with Eric
 Do you remember Eric? He was mentioned a couple posts ago as the young man who had become a quadriplegic after a construction accident and who had decided to follow Christ after arriving at Bongolo.
We have been doing a Bible study together several times a week since mid-December.
We have studied through John, Acts and Romans and have had some good discussions surrounding the doctrine we've read and how those truths affect Eric's current world view.
It has been exciting to see Eric grow in his faith these past 9 months.
We have often had other patients and family members in Rea who have joined us.
My joy was made complete in seeing Eric's discipleship come full circle-  God has given opportunities for Eric and I to tag-team sharing the Gospel to other patients and praying them to Christ. It is a joy to hear him share his testimony of how God has changed his life with others, to see him become passionate about introducing others to Christ.

An answer to prayer! -I have been able to pass this ministry on to Barry, one of my missionary colleagues. After several months of praying for the next steps for Eric and who could take the baton for his discipleship, God has clearly provided for that transition to take place and am very glad Eric will be able to study with a man of faith who will be able to take even deeper into Scripture.
Praise God for His perfect timing, provision and answer to prayer! 

Eric and his Mom
 Resident's wives Bible Study
 This past year I've had the privilege of taking part in the PAACS residents' wives Bible study. It has been a great way to build friendships with my fellow sisters in Christ and we have really enjoyed studying God's word together and the different experiences we all bring to admonish one another and help each other grow.
These past several months the women asked me if I would lead a study on the names of God. We have really enjoyed growing in our understanding of God's character together.
One thing I have been really praying for for these women, is for further leadership development and discipleship. These women, whose husbands are at Bongolo training to be surgeons, will be going back to their own villages and will be looked up to as Spiritual leaders. My prayer for them has been that God would begin developing in them the courage to begin leading their own Bible study.
Our prayers were answered!
By the time I went back to visit the States in August, almost every single one of these women had stepped up to lead a Bible study session on one of the names of God. 
They also began initiating their own fellowship time together as a small group.
It is a great growing experience for them and I am so excited to see them begin these next steps of discipleship in their lives!
God is at work!

Girls' Pizza Night 

Another way God is at work, is that the wives have asked to come with me as I spend time with the women in town.
There are few times I have really experienced the fullness of the Body of Christ like I have while driving to LeBamba with a car full of women from the Congo, Mali, Gabon, Madagascar and U.S. all praying together with one mind and one spirit, for the salvation of our unreached friends.
It has been exciting to see their passion for evangelism grow.

Cooking together in LeBamba

Vaccination Day! This village had no clinic so we set up in the local church.

Hearing the Gospel while waiting for vaccinations

Sugar makes anyone a captive audience- watching the children's version of the Jesus film at one of our village vaccination clinics.

Bringing in the Sheaves ~ prepping the pineapple and coconut harvest for freezing with my Mama
It was such a joy to have my parents visit Bongolo this past year! They arrived on Thanksgiving day and stayed through mid-December. They even brought a frozen turkey with them in their suitcase for our team's Thanksgiving dinner- it was such a treat!

Saving the heads to replant for next year!
One of the ways in which God has really blessed me this past year has been through my neighbors, Mama Jackie and Pastor Serge. Pastor Serge is the director of the hospital. They have very kindly adopted me as their daughter and have been taking care of me, from sending one of the boys over to kill my snakes, to helping me plant and harvest my first plantation.

Harvesting my first crop of corn with my Gabonese Mama.
Mama Jackie has been teaching me how to work the land here to plant a "plantation" (garden). She hired a local boy to burn a small plot of land for me during the dry season, then taught me how to plant once the wet season arrived. She's also taught me very important lessons- such as the many uses of a machete!
It is the only tool we used for planting, maintaining and harvesting. 

Maintaining the plantations
For Mama Jackie, this is her cultural way of "taking care of me" while I am far away from my family and not yet married. When my Mom and Dad came to visit, Mama Jackie was very quick to make sure they saw my plantation, to show them I had a source of food that was producing well and was being taken care of in their absence.
My parents were and still are very touched and grateful.

My Mom and Dad and my Gabonese Mama and Papa all in one place. Worlds collide... : )

Waiting for their Mom at the hospital

"Drive-in" car wash  : )

Little friends at the market : )
I often hear little ones like this see me in the market and whisper to each other excitedly, "Look! A CHINESE GIRL!"
Their mothers quickly shush them and correct them.

Being a redhead, I've been called many things while overseas.
This was definitely a first.  : )

My fav picture with my students- these guys are why I'm here ~ At the end of the School year, with God's help we all made it through the first year of school at Bongolo! Woohoo!

A Year and Some Change.....


So thankful for all that God has done!
Thank you for praying me through my first year here on the field.
It is a joy to serve our Father with you. 

Much Love from the Jungle,

P.S. I had an absolutely WONDERFUL time back in the States for the month of August for my brother's wedding! It was such a joyful month of vacation to spend time with family, friends, my church family, to enjoy good food and the fresh open space and air of my homeland. After 20 months overseas, it was great to be back in the land of peanut butter, pre-cleaned white eggs, sliced whole wheat bread, strawberries, fresh milk and smooth non-dirt roads.
 Thank you to all of you for your prayers, they were certainly answered and I have returned to the field refreshed and rejuvenated for the next stretch of my time in Gabon. 

New brothers and sisters ~ missing our brother Jonathan, who was not granted military leave to attend the wedding.

 FYI~If you ever wanna experience reverse culture shock, try abstaining from Walmart for 20 months. 
Choice overload! 
Look at those Oreo and marshmallow aisles! : )


  1. So glad to hear of your many adventures in Africa! Proud of you for being faithful to follow God's leading no matter where that might take you!

  2. You are really an inspiration! :) Continue with God's will for you!