Final Days in Cameroon

08NOV2009 The photo below shows the Lutheran church in town, one week ago. It is a much smaller church than the one in Meskine that we usually attend. We did appreciate the service quite a bit, though it was a touch more formal than the other church.

Yesterday I took a bicycle ride from the hospital up to the mountains. This was done with Carsten and Scott. We took off at 6 am, rode for two hours, and went nearly 20 miles. It was over dirt road, and so mountain bikes were imperative.

I think the natives were more puzzled about us than we were about them. You can see their standard home structure, with a cluster of Boukarous and mud walls enclosing the village.
The Meskine missionaries invited a priest from the Anglican church to come to give meetings for four days.  He was heavily influenced by the teaching of the Toronto Blessing, which is a form of Pentecostalism. There were many “words from the Lord” and talk about healings. Some basic doctrines of the faith, such as the doctrines of Christology, were brought into question. My feeling was that though the missionaries wished for “revival”, a revival of emotions without a revival of the primacy of God’s word is doomed to failure, frustration, and a worse end than if nothing at all occurred. You are left momentarily with the haunting notion that maybe there is a form of Christian faith, a technique or belief structure, that will magically transform you into somebody that can heal on command, read minds, and hear God directly. Unfortunately, there is no magic, but there are the Scriptures, with God speaking about as plainly as imaginable. So, our doubts about missing a “higher blessing” are relieved by knowing that attendance to God’s word alone gives the highest blessing.
That evening everybody went out to dinner, and we had sauerkraut. It wasn’t the best sauerkraut that I’ve ever had.

Today, we attended the main church in Meskine, partially skipping out of the healings and words from the Lord. It is quite a dramatic event, and so I include a short portion of the video. The natives here are excellent musicians, and Betsy and I both enjoyed native African beats with Christian songs.
There is general singing, mostly in Fulfulde, but also in French. Then, various sub-groups will get up to sing in their particular dialect. When it came to the time for us Western folk to sing, it was just Carsten’s family and Betsy and I, so we had Betsy sing “Amazing Grace” as a solo. It was well-received. Sermons and more singing occurred. The entire service lasts 2.5-3 hours. As you can see, the worship is quite animated, and there is more body movement than in Western churches (except for the Pentecostals, of course!).
13NOV09 Time is quickly coming to an end. Having felt light-headed soon after arrival in Cameroon, I solved matters by cutting my blood pressure medicine in half. I am already on the lowest dose possible, so now I am just about taking naturopathic doses for the last 4 weeks. I measured my blood pressure during the stress of a busy surgical day, and it was 100/60. I am beginning to draw further conclusions as to the probable cause and treatment of my hypertension. I just wonder what my weight and cholesterol levels are doing. We are preparing for a trip to Roumsiki with the Kretzschmar family this weekend. It is a small resort town located on the Cameroun/Nigerian border. There are supposed to be some interesting volcanic formations, and it is known as one of the more beautiful parts of the country. Though it is only 80 miles at most away, it will take us about 4-5 hours to get there, since the road is anything but ideal. More on that later.
I showed up at the operating room this morning, and the techs invited me into their own room for brunch. They were sitting around a bowl of what they called “soup”, and sticks of French bread, which they would break off, dunk in the soup, and then eat. It was quite spicy and tasted great. I suddenly realized what had occurred at the Lord’s supper, as I joined into the common pot.

The brunch was served with Cameroon tea, which was quite sweet, and tasted just like lal cha from Bangladesh. That will be one of my more memorable experiences, and it really touched me that the techs would honor me like what they did, inviting me to join with them.
17NOV09 We have just returned with the Kretzschmars from Roumsiki, one of the few resort towns of Cameroon.

It actually was very nice. We stayed at a resort that is maintained by a Swiss man and a native Cameroonian lady. The resort has the comforts of a typical Western hotel, including a swimming pool.

The area is known for its volcanic granite rock formations, that are seen throughout the horizon.

We took a hike one day down into the valley enclosed by these formations, and actually entered Nigeria. The path, though steep, is heavily traveled by donkeys bearing large loads of goods from Nigeria, as well as ladies carrying massive volumes on their heads.

The donkeys are essentially the Cameroonian equivalent of large transport trucks. We were also able to step foot into Nigeria. Here is Betsy and I in Nigeria.

The next day, Carsten and I tried to climb Roum, which is the mountain around which the town is made. He did okay, but I was slipping too much from poor shoes, and decided to opt out of the very last few hundred feet. This the mountain to which the Kapsiki speaking people escaped to from the Muslim terrorists-I mean, invaders. You can see caves where they hid out.

We later went to visit a house of an animist. Each of his many wives has their own home, while he has the biggest, close to where the goats are kept.

Afterwards, we realized that Betsy was having a high temperature, and quickly realized that she was having a bout of malaria, so got her going on Co-Artem.

The ride home was a little difficult with sick Betsy and sick children, since, if you look at a map, it looks like a major thoroughfare, but in actuality, it is dirt road of the worst possible condition.

Diane, if you are reading right now, look closely, as it’s not a cow nor a horse, but a donkey.
Over the last few days in Meskine, the morning temperature has dropped as low as 73ºF, and many people, nationals and ex-pats alike, are wearing heavy jackets and wool hats. Babies are bundled in extra sets of thick clothing. It has become very cold for people accustomed to living in 110ºF weather.
Last night, I did prayer rounds with Martin, one of the evangelists at the hospital. 6/8 people we prayed for were Christian. It is amazing how many Christians are in this mostly Muslim area. The missionaries and many of the native Christians will make rounds on every hospital patient each Tuesday evening, and that has been an interesting way for me to see the patients in a totally different light from that as a physician. It is especially delightful to be able to spend time with the Natives. My pre-conceived conception of them as being a tad bit primitive, living in mud huts, etc., is entirely wrong, and I am amazed at their wit, intelligence, and awareness of world events. Most people have cell phones. Most Natives speak at least two languages, many as much as 4-5 languages fluently. It is not loin-cloth jungle savages barely commanding what lays a few yards beyond their existence.
23NOV09 We are finally home, with a moderate case of jet-lag. Yet, we are thankful to see family, and to touch base with our home and surroundings, while sustaining good health. I now have a laundry list of chores to do before I go back to work on 07DEC. Before then, I’ll probably publish some reflections on the past year, which will go unannounced by e-mail. So, stay in touch.