February 2016 Update

Dear friends and family,

In a semi successful attempt to reduce the length we are sending this email version of a newsletter, if you’d like more detail or look at pictures you can click on the link at the end for a PDF version.
Hello again from dry season in Cameroon! This year has been a dry season of dry seasons, we cannot remember the air being so thick with dust and smoke since we’ve been here and one of our older Cameroonian friends says that he cannot remember one like this either. Hopefully there are only a few weeks left before the rains will begin and wash the dust off everything and start replenishing our springs.
We have a couple of weddings coming up, 2 of the girls that were in Ellen’s very first reading classes back in 2001 are getting married, Avine is marrying a guy from the Southwest and they will begin their life together living in the capital city of Yaoundé. Macciline is marrying the young pastor of the church at the bottom of the hill below the hospital, she is teaching at a private school in the capital now but will be moving up here to live with her husband. She told Ellen that she uses many of the fun methods she enjoyed in Ellen’s classes. When we first met these 2 women they were only 8 years old….we feel old!
Ellen continues to teach about 50 kids reading and has some older students from various backgrounds as well, she will begin working with an adult woman who wants to improve her education level. Her English and vocabulary skills need improvement as she has returned to secondary school as a mother of 3.
Ellen is also still hoping to get a vehicle so she can work with teacher training in one government school and one CBC school that is now being overseen by the church in that village. We’ve done some shopping around and found we can get something for about $8,000.00, we already have about $3,000.00 so If you’d like to help with that you can contribute here, https://www.converge.org/give/733096 .
We also have a shortfall in our personal support. I’m not actually sure what happened but I think that one of our supporting churches disbanded and the church building was sold do another congregation. The end result no matter what actually took place is that we lost a supporting church as well as some other decrease in support! We have a shortfall now of about $500.00 per month. If you feel led to help us in this need you can go online to: https://www.converge.org/give/147440, or send a check to Converge Worldwide, 2002 S. Arlington heights Rd., Arlington Heights, IL 60005. What we are really praying for is monthly commitments. If you can’t contribute financially, please hold this need up in prayer!
We are finally moving ahead on the hydroelectric project for Mbingo Baptist Hospital, we have done some survey work to mark out the planned waterline for the ponds that will be formed behind each of the 2 dams. We have hired a local engineering firm to do the environmental and social impact study that is required by the government. I actually did the survey of the pond area and am working closely with these guys to get this part of the project done before the rains begin.
I have had loads of great conversations relating to the formation of a group who desire to see godly influence in every area of life here in Cameroon. This has led to so many chance to share the Gospel and encourage many as to how godly living is the key to development and a thriving society. But the real hope is to develop leaders who will be lights in a dark and dying world. Pray for courage to stand up for righteousness in business, government jobs, in the community, and wherever people find themselves that people will see the truth of God in action by those who claim to follow Jesus.
One of the big challenges people have here is in trying to supplement their need for food by growing crops. In the rainy season things grow great and in some areas like Mbingo people can get 2 crops in each year. Some people try to grow things to sell as well as supplement their needs in dry season but at some point we need to stop people from watering so we have enough for running the hospital and living.
I have always had an interest in hydroponics and finding other ways of growing crops with as little water as possible. For this reason, I have been playing around in the evenings by trying out a couple of different methods to see if we can come up with something that others might be able to do next year so we can allow watering throughout if people would be willing to use the water conserving ideas.
Click the link below for an expanded version with pictures. http://www.schotanus.com/PDFFiles/February%202016%20Update.pdf
Thanks so much for your continued prayer and financial support!
With love from Mbingo, Thom & Ellen

December 2015 Update

Greetings from Cameroon,

As we’ve been back in Mbingo for a few months now we been settling back in to our home and assessing our ministries that we’ve been involved in for the past 14 years and the new opportunities the Lord has shown us and given us a passion for. We shared many of these things with you when we visited last spring, some past challenges that exposed deeper issues and new avenues in strengthening His church here in Cameroon. I (Thom) have had loads of opportunities to engage many people who love the Lord and are in positions of influence in conversation revolving around godliness and godlessness and how each impacts the world we live in and society here in Cameroon in particular. Yesterday at a wedding celebration I was reintroduced to a man I met a couple years ago who is a retired government administrator who currently serves as chairman on a committee that distributes government project funds, a huge area of abuse and corruption. He himself struggles to keep things honest in that position and when I shared my thoughts with him about the Integrity for Cameroon idea he was really excited and said “we need to talk more about this”. I have been sharing some books and other reading material to all of them and will soon be sitting down to have some discussion as to how we can begin to work together in the power of the Spirit and form a group that will be able to challenge, educate, and empower, more leaders in society who sit in churches on Sunday to become a godly influence in the places where God has placed them, serving others for the glory of God. Pray with us that this will take off in a mighty way, all the indicators are pointing in that direction!

At Mbingo hospital there is a lot happening as the hospital continues to grow. We are in the process of having Engineering Ministries International (EMI) design a waste water treatment system for the hospital. As the hospital grows this is such an important need!
We are doing some follow-up work for the engineers of the hydroelectric project as well, we will be digging some test pits along the proposed site of the large dam that will be used to divert water in the dry season. We’ve arranged for a local engineering firm to do the environmental and social impact study and management plan which we’re planning on getting underway after the first of the year. Pray for this project as we dive into the realm of government approvals!
Work is going on with our huge addition that will house labs, a new imaging department which will include x-ray, ultrasound, and in the not too distant future a CT scanner. However, voltage fluctuations and off and on power continue to wreak havoc on sensitive medical equipment. The hydro plant is really the only answer to stable power! I have come to the conclusion that one cannot totally protect equipment from irregular power, we can only do our best to minimize the risks.

Ellen hit the ground running with dozens of parents wanting her to teach their children how to read. In the 3 short years since she was pushed out of her role at the school by those who wanted to have the policies and laws broken for their convenience, the school’s quality has deteriorated to the point where almost every child in classes 4,5, and 6 cannot read. She has been having classes with the majority of these kids at the school and the classes are going well…. But… is that the answer? Unfortunate as it is in that respect, it is proof that bad behavior and bad choices lead to bad results, God has provided us with His word as how we are to live together and when we fail to follow that instruction no society can thrive.

This is a situation though that has actually provided a very real example that many are aware of here in Mbingo as to the consequences of bad behavior. Cognitive thinkers will quickly assent to this fact but many others still choose to believe it will somehow work itself out. What Ellen is doing is good, the children who she is directly teaching will enjoy the benefits of that but as we shared as we visited with you that what she is doing is basically giving Tylenol to the malaria patient, the parasite remains untouched. She wants to be used in producing transformational change with eternal value.

Even in the challenges there is much to learn and hopefully we can do that, additionally we always hear it said that when God closes a door He opens a window. Our take on this is that ministry, especially when working in situations that have well entrenched cultural challenges that require behavioral change to remedy will demand flexibility and creativity, but most importantly finding those people the Lord already has in place and ready to serve in the cultural setting and pouring yourself into them. We know it is possible because we find the challenge in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world (our bad cultural values), but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” It is important to note that culture isn’t all bad, there are many wonderful cultural expressions in every society but those elements that run contrary to God’s thinking are the things that should be transformed (reshaped) in our lives.

Because of the current situation at the Mbingo hospital school and the ensuing frustration of many of the parents that are not wealthy or having social status that live across the valley in the community of Mbingo II that were sending their kids here, the CBC church has decide to take over the oversight of the CBC Primary school in Mbingo II. They have seen the value of having order in a school will automatically begin to improve the quality of education but that, in and of itself doesn’t address all the issues. They have asked Ellen if she might be willing to work with the teachers in that school to help them learn some different teaching methods that have worked for her in teaching reading and English all these years as well as inspiring more creativity. Another invitation also came from the headmaster of the government primary school in Mejang, he was a former headmaster of the school at the hospital but had been absorbed by the government during the years when the government was hiring about 5,000 teachers. In his school there are only a couple of trained teachers with the others being what they call “PTA” teachers, professionally untrained people being paid with some small money paid by the parents to the school’s PTA fund. He was a good headmaster here and has taken what he learned with him and wants to keep improving the system, he is also very involved in serving as a lay leader at the church here at the hospital, wanting to honor God in all he does.

A need: As Ellen has these opportunities to serve the church in Mbingo II and the headmaster and teachers in Mejang, both are a moderate distance away. Mbingo II is a couple of miles and the school in Mejang is about 4 miles away, a bit too far to walk, especially in the rainy season. We have been approved for a project to raise funds for a vehicle for her to facilitate these opportunities and others that may arise. Vehicles here are expensive unfortunately and we are hoping to be able to get a Toyota RAV 4, a smaller 4 wheel drive SUV in the 2004 – 2008 range that can provide safe and dependable transportation for her on less than good roads. We’ve been sourcing for prices and found we should be able to get a good one for about $18,000.00. We have $3,000.00 already and praying we can raise the remainder. It will also serve us as safer transportation on the main roads in Cameroon, our truck that is now 21 years old is still strong and great for rough places where I do a lot of work but not very safe at higher speeds on paved roads. If you feel led to contribute to this project you can send it to:

Converge Worldwide
2002 S. Arlington Heights Rd.
Arlington Heights, IL 60005

Attention, project #733096

Have a Blessed Christmas and New Year!

With love from Mbingo, Thom & Ellen