Mission

I wanted to take this opportunity to update our work overview and let you know exactly what we’re doing in the areas of ministry in I hope the length isn’t overwhelming!

As career missionaries to Cameroon W. Africa we are serving with the Baptist General Conference. We work in cooperation with the Cameroon Baptist Convention, along with two other mission-sending agencies, the North American Baptist Conference, and World Team.

The Cameroon Baptist Convention has many different areas of ministry, divided up between three boards, The Health Board, the Education Board, and the Evangelism Board.

The Evangelism Board oversees the churches, two seminaries, and various other ministries ranging from publishing, Theological education by extension and Christian broadcasting.

The Education board oversees over 100 schools that teach children from primary school through High school, in all fields of education. There are some 34,000 students within the CBC education system.

The Health Board oversees the medical aspect of the CBC ministries; these include the three main Hospitals, Banso Baptist Hospital, Mbingo Baptist Hospital (where we live), and Mutengene Baptist Hospital, and two smaller hospitals, one in Banyo in the Adamawa Province, and Dunger Baptist Hospital in a remote area called Mbem.

They also have 23 Health Centers, White Cross supply, and a Central Pharmacy that manufactures many medications, creams and ointments as well as IV fluids in their sterile production unit.

It is the mission of the Health Board to provide medical care to all who need it as an expression of Christ’s love, and to provide those who come for that care with an opportunity to hear the gospel.

Ellen and I serve in some capacity with all three of the CBC Boards but we are officially attached to the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board. We are stationed at Mbingo Baptist Hospital, a 270-bed hospital located in a rural area of beautiful Northwest Cameroon.

Mbingo Hospital began 54 years ago as a small bush clinic for leprosy patients, today it has grown into a full service hospital that still serves as a major leprosy treatment center but has grown to include an Eye department, Physical Therapy and prosthetics, x-ray and ultrasound and an operating theater that performs about 170 major operations each month and countless smaller procedures. There is an outpatient clinic 6 days per week as well as a complete maternity ward and maternity village where expecting mothers who live in remote areas can spend the final weeks of pregnancy, especially if difficulties may be expected. We also have a Community Based Rehabilitation program that assists persons with disabilities in developing skills that will enable them to provide for themselves.

The PAACS (Pan Africa Academy of Christian Surgeons) program has begun here recently that has resulted in the construction of housing that will be used for the surgical residents of this program. We have also developed new plans for an expanded and updated OR.

Here is a bit of an overview of some of our own activities, although not complete I’ll try to give a good picture. I (Thom) am involved with all phases of construction for the Cameroon Baptist Convention. From designing and overseeing projects, to teaching different aspects of building management and computer aided design. I am also involved in introducing appropriate technologies in the areas of waste management and maintenance. I also try to involve people from our supporting churches whenever possible in short term missions to contribute even more to aid the work here by training Health Board staff.

In June of 2009 we finished a water project that brought clean water to the village where our church plant is. Photosof the project are available on our website under “photo’s”.

I am also involved in the beginning stages of a new Christian vocational school that is being built near Bamenda; a large town about 20 miles from Mbingo.

Currently here at Mbingo hospital there as several construction projects underway, a Tuberculosis Observation Ward, a dormitory for the female deaf school students was recently completed. A duplex for administrative staff, a 30,000+ square foot medical services building that will soon house all of the outpatient services including ultrasound and X-ray, labs, pharmacy, as well as dialysis, new chaplains offices, and a 24 hour ward. It will also house the new Internal Medicine Residency program.

We will are also starting the construction of our new Deaf School building, up till now the school has been scattered throughout 3 different buildings and hasn’t had a building of their own. Money has been donated and we’re anxious to get going on that.

As a hospital that is large yet isolated we are more like a small town that just a hospital. We must be self sufficient in our methods of waste elimination, both medical waste and ordinary trash, we also have our own water supply and as the hospital grows so does the demand for water. Currently we have 2 new sites we are developing for water, one is a spring on the side of the hill above the hospital, and the other is an underground spring flowing just below the hospital.

Ellen is the Rest House supervisor for all the CBC Health Board rest houses of which there are five located in the Northwest, Southwest and Central Provinces of Cameroon. Her work in this area is to distribute White Cross supplies, give advice and have periodic seminars on subjects like proper food handling and preparation, and general house cleaning.

Here in Mbingo she has several areas of involvement. Since the deaf school here in Mbingo now has a large staff of Cameroonian teachers her direct involvement with that school has been more on a level of an advisor and works with the administrator of the school as needed.

Here in Mbingo we have our own primary school for hearing children as well.

This primary school all came about as a result of Ellen starting a small school at our house about five years ago. Many of the staff children that attended the local school were unable to read, even after class seven.

She began with just a couple of kids but her class soon grew to two classes with a total of 25 children, she had to turn away countless others.

After several months these children began to read quite well and it created a lot of excitement within the hospital staff community, as the education of their children was a huge concern for the parents who worked here in Mbingo. There are some local schools in the area but the quality of education is just not there.

So in a few months the idea was conceived to build a primary school here on the hospital property for the children of the hospital staff. A short term doctor and his wife were excited about the school and have raised a large amount of the support to build the school, others have contributed as well. Now although the school is still incomplete, it is serving over 220 children in classes 1 through 6, and now into the fifth year being open. Ellen is the administrator of the school…it is an extremely challenging and often discouraging position as the education system here in Cameroon has degraded over the years and many bad habits and low standards have developed and are now the norm.

The school got off to a pretty good start in the first two years it was open and the quality of education began to improve. But, when we left for home assignment between May of 2004 and Nov. of 2005, many changes took place in the school. Many compromises were made in the school policies that had been established and the staff became very lax. There are several reasons for this and not the least of which is the African culture. In this culture many compromises are made to keep people happy, even if it means the sacrifice of quality. The work ethic here among many people too is very lax because until very recently the society was governed by the rain and dry seasons, sunrise and sunset, as their lives revolved around farming and hunting. Even today the majority of the population lives this way.

So, when people try to get on precise schedules, well “it just isn’t the way we do it here”.

Change in any situation comes slowly but slowly we are seeing signs of improvement, large changes like those needed here will not come quickly! Recently the 3 teachers that seemed to be the most resistant to change have left the school and we anticipate continued improvement. We are in the process of getting a nice library set up that will provide some great resources for our teachers. Work is ongoing as we improve the school building and continue towards the goal of getting it finished.

Ellen and I are both on the school management committee and Ellen is the Administrator of the school, she also teaches remedial reading classes for children who have transferred in from other schools and cannot read even though they may be in any class from 2 to 6. Currently she has

Ellen continues to have a TEE class with a group of women that are growing in leaps and bounds spiritually which she is very excited to see.

She also advises in the embroidery room. This is a small enterprise that was started many years ago to provide an opportunity for former leprosy patients to provide for themselves. Her help in this area is primarily to help them with color schemes that will appeal to a Western clientele that make up the predominant customer base for the business, although the women also make badges for 3-H clubs and different items for women’s groups within the Cameroonian community.

Ellen has also been faithful in maintaining her own exercise program, doing aerobics following a large variety of different workouts she has on DVD’s. Several months ago she started a class open to anyone who was interested in joining her on Monday, Thursday, and Friday each week. There have been several women who have joined and been faithful in attending, many of these women have lost a lot of pounds and their clothes are getting loose! It is a great way to meet people and develop relationships.

About 6 years ago Ellen and I both have begun to get involved in a small church in a village called Baicham that is about seven miles into the bush from where we live. This small church was closed about 12 years ago when a church split took place in the area and since then there has been no other church in this village way down in the valley.

About a year prior to our involvement a young man from the village named Johnson Mbi began to meet with a couple of people as a prayer group and after a few months he asked the Fon (local chief) for permission to reenter the long vacated church building.

One day several years ago now, Ellen and I were visiting another small church that sits on the side of a mountain. From the back of the church I could just see a small cluster of mud brick homes way down below and asked someone what that was. They told me that was the village of Baicham; at that moment I had a desire to know more about that place.

It is interesting how God works as he brought Johnson and us together. We have been working with him and the small group of leaders in helping this church to develop a firm foundation for their faith through discipleship. Nominalism is a huge problem here in Cameroon and trying to help people learn the word of God and to grow in their faith is a big need. There is also lot’s of opportunity for evangelism in the church as many people have been led to believe that by following tradition and by works they can have eternal life.

Currently I am teaching Sunday School at the church to all of the people together including children and adults. I taught completely through the Old Testament using a Betty Lukens flannel graph.

The flannel graph is for pictures to give them a visual aid but the lessons are taken straight from scripture.

One of the biggest problems with the church in Cameroon is the lack of Bible knowledge, what God expects from us and what we can expect from God. As a result of this, the people have held on to many of their traditional beliefs in ancestor worship. Many people who have professed Christ as Savior still hang onto these traditional beliefs as well. Our prayer is that through the word of God, people will begin to grow in their knowledge and faith of the true and living God, they will then haven a deeper understanding of the word, and a stronger faith which will enable them to let go of their idol worship.

We hope that people will see the transformation in the lives of these people and they too will desire to know Jesus.

I have been learning the Kom language and as of December 2005 we have had the New Testament in the Kom language. It has been remarkable to see the difference in the level of practical understanding in the lives of people when they hear the Word in their heart language. Recently we finished an exhaustive study of the book of James and are now doing a topical study on Christian character. It is one of the highlights of the week!

Our lay pastor Johnson is now in Seminary. We have seen that he is truly called to be a pastor and now we want to have him sharpened! We look forward to his return to how God will continue to use him.

In the meantime, pray for us as Sunday School is the prime spiritual feeding these people have each week.

I am excited as each week God gives me wonderful insights to share at a practical level in the lives of these people.

In two weeks, we’ll head back out to Saicham for an “encouragement visit”, a smaller village about an hour’s walk from Baicham, we have been assisting in starting a church there. The man who was leading the worship in the village has left and the people are alone and scattered once again. Robert, Johnson’s brother and one of the men from Baicham has a desire to trek to Saicham each Sunday and lead the small group of believers there. The pastor from the hospital church is also the Mbingo Association of churches pastor, and has been providing some materials for Robert to use to teach the group at Saicham.

Along side the church work in Baicham we want to begin some community development work as well, small business loans and guidance to help people develop some sustainable sources of income as a means of outreach is one of our goals. As I mentioned before we have started a clean water supply for Baicham village. We believe that the future of missions in a country like Cameroon that has been saturated with nominal Christianity as well as plenty of “religion” will involve an agenda for a holistic approach to ministry. As a poor society, opportunities abound to show God’s love to people in a practical way.

These will also provide people in our churches in the US to partner with us on a person to person level here. In fact I am working on a way to provide opportunities for these relationships as well as a way to follow along closely via the internet. One of the “target” groups in Baicham is the younger generation in their 20’s. There is a lot of drinking and smoking marijuana by this group who I believe have a sense of hopelessness in life.

I have been studying the Kom language since we returned to Cameroon. The New Testament was dedicated in the Kom language in December 2005 and after seeing the people reactions when they heard the scriptures in their heart languages I knew it was the thing to do.

In the language class we are translating some materials for follow up to the Jesus Film that were published by Campus Crusade (by permission). We have also finished translating a video chronological presentation of the Bible called “God’s Story”. We are particularly excited about that project as it will be a tool that can be used almost immediately and we’ve been hearing some wonderful testimonies of how it has had a huge impact particularly among cultures that traditional have passed along history by way of story telling.

We are ready to begin recording the dialog so it can be sent back to the US to be choreographed to the video presentation. (pray for this as time always seems to be an issue!)

As a special project, money has been raised for the recording and may in the near future require some additional monies as we look into methods of distribution in areas where there is no power.

Since we came back to Cameroon as career missionaries we have found the challenges to be much greater. Our involvement with trying to see a church field split healed and to focus on Christian education I’m sure doesn’t please the enemy.

Please pray for us that God would keep the discouragements that pop up on a regular basis from overwhelming us!

Thanks for your faithful prayer and financial support!

Love,
Thom & Ellen